Africa

Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea in the north, Liberia in the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) and has a population estimated at 6.4 million. The country is a constitutional republic comprising three provinces and the Western Area, which are further divided into fourteen districts.

The country has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests. Freetown is the capital, largest city and economic center. English is the official language, spoken at schools, government administration and by the media. However, the Krio language (a language derived from English and several African languages and native to the Sierra Leone Krio people) is the most widely spoken language in virtually all parts of the country. The Krio language is spoken by 97% of the country's population and unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other. Despite its common use throughout the country, the Krio language has no official status. In December 2002, Sierra Leone’s President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah named Bengali as an "official language" in recognition of the work of 5,300 troops from Bangladesh in the peace-keeping force.

The Sierra Leone government officially recognizes fifteen ethnic groups, each with its own language and customs. The two largest and most influential are the Mende and Temne peoples, with each comprising 30% of the population.

Sierra Leone is very rich in minerals and has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the top 10 diamond producing nations in the world, and mineral exports remain the main foreign currency earner. Sierra Leone also claims to be home to the third largest natural harbour in the world, the Queen Elizabeth II Quay (also known as the QE II Quay and locally as the Deep Water Quay or Government Wharf).