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Sierra Leone

Capital city: Freetown

Population: 8,141,343 (2021)

Land area: 71,620 km²

Official language: English

Legal system: A system of Common Law based on the British system and local customary law

Time zone: UTC +0

Currency: Sierra Leonean leone (SLL)

GDP: 4.42 (2021 est.)

Main industries: Diamonds mining, small-scale manufacturing (cigarettes, beverages, textiles, footwear), petroleum refining, commercial ship repair

Principal exports: Diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish

Sierra Leone lies on the southwest coast of Africa. It is bordered on the North and Northeast by the Republic of Guinea, on the West by the Atlantic Ocean and on the East by the Republic of Liberia. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savanna to rainforests, and from swamps to beaches. Freetown is the country’s capital and largest metropolis, with one of the world’s largest natural harbors lying within the region which allows the country to play a substantial role in international shipping. The country is split into five administrative regions, each of which is further divided into sixteen districts.

It is believed that people started inhabiting Sierra Leone thousands of years ago. European settlers first arrived in the 15th century and the country became a crown colony in 1808. On April 27, 1961, Sierra Leone declared independence from the United Kingdom, and Milton Margai became the country’s first Prime Minister. On May 27, 1962, Sierra Leone held its first general election as an independent country. Siaka Stevens, a strongman president, ruled Sierra Leone from 1968 to 1985. Sierra Leone was a one-party state from 1978 to 1985, with President Stevens’ political party, the All People’s Congress, being the only legitimate political party in the country. President Joseph Saidu Momoh, Stevens’ hand-picked nominee, re-adopted Sierra Leone’s multiparty democratic constitution in 1991.  Although internal conflicts later arose within the country in the late 20th century, the country started to stabilize in 2002 and has been experiencing economic growth ever since.

Sierra Leone is home to around sixteen ethnic groups, the Temne and Mende being the two largest and most powerful. Krios (or Creoles), descendants of liberated African American and West Indian slaves, make up about 2% of the country’s population but hold substantial influence over the country. Although English is the official language in schools, government offices and commerce, Krio is the most widely spoken language in Sierra Leone, with 97% of the people speaking the language. There are around 21 other living languages in the country including Temne and Mende, which spoken by the ethnic groups they are respectively named after.

Sierra Leone’s economy is that of a developing country, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of around US$4.10 billion in 2019. The economy has been on the rise since 2002, with a steady GDP growth rate ranging from 4 to 7%. In Sierra Leone, two-thirds of the population is directly involved in subsistence agriculture. The agriculture sector is the main contributor in the country, employing two-third of the labor force and contributing more than 60% to GDP. Rice is the most significant staple crop, with 85% of farmers growing the crop during rainy seasons and an annual intake of 76 kilograms per person. Fish, another commonly consumed food in Sierra Leone, mostly originate from the country’s rich fishing grounds, where a large variety of fish can be found, including bonga, butterfish, lobster and sole. The fisheries sector of Sierra Leone make up more than 10% of its GDP and provides employment to around 600,000 persons in total.

Apart from its agricultural industry, Sierra Leone has relied on mining, particularly diamonds, chromite and rutile, for its economic foundation. The country is one of the top 10 diamond-producing countries in the world due to its abundance of mineral resources. Mineral exports continue to be the main source of revenue, while mining as a whole contributes more than 20% of the country’s GDP. Moreover, Sierra Leone is a consistently prominent gem-quality diamond producer, producing over 600,000 carats of gem-quality diamonds in 2019.

Sierra Leone’s current legal system, which was formed under the 1991 Constitution, is mostly based on the presidential system, with the following branches of government:the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary. Each organ or branch of government is given its own scope of power, with no reference to the others. The Constitution, on the other hand, provides for checks and functional overlaps in the mechanism. The judiciary’s independence is protected under the constitution. The inferior courts, represented by the Magistrates courts and Local courts, and the superior courts, represented by the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court, are both headed by the Chief Justice of Sierra Leone. Each judicial district has a Magistrate’s Court, which has limited authority to perform what is legally required to decide on any civil and criminal matters that arise within the district. The Magistrate, who has been legally appointed to the court, has this authority. In all civil, criminal, and constitutional proceedings in Sierra Leone, the Supreme Court has final jurisdiction, and its judgements are not appealable. The Supreme Court has the exclusive constitutional authority to overrule lower court decisions within the jurisdiction. It also has exclusive original jurisdiction over cases relating to the enforcement or interpretation of any article of the constitution, as well as whether Parliament or any other body or person has acted outside of their constitutional powers. It ismade up of the Chief Justice and at least four more justices.

The country joined the Commonwealth in 1961, following independence from Britain as the 21st member state. Sierra Leone has competed in ten Commonwealth games, first attending in 1958 in the Cardiff Games, then again in 1966, 1970, and 1978 before returning to Auckland in 1990, after which the country has consistently taken part in the Games ever since. In Glasgow 2014 the country took part in eight sports.