Sierra Leone, officially English Republic of Sierra Leone [r ɪ p ʌ bl ɪ k əv s ɪ erə l ɪ ə ʊ n (ɪ)], German Republic of Sierra Leone country in West Africa on the Atlantic Ocean, with (2019) 7.8 million residents – see threergroup; The capital is Freetown.
Since 1961, an independent state within the Commonwealth, Sierra Leone is a republic. According to the 1991 Constitution, executive power rests with the President of the Republic, elected by direct suffrage; legislative power is exercised by a national assembly. The judicial system is divided into the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, which has competences in civil and criminal matters and accepts the appeals of the High Court, which also has unlimited competences. The courts of first instance and local courts, on the other hand, deal respectively with minor criminal matters and with questions that arise among indigenous people and which are not within the competence of the other courts. The death penalty is in effect. In the aftermath of the civil war, the country’s armed forces underwent a major reorganization. Primary education lasts 6 years, starting from 6 years of age. Secondary school also has the same duration. The weight of confessional education is very important in the country, imparted by the numerous Christian missions present in the area. The illiteracy rate is particularly high and amounts to 61.9% (2007). Higher education is entrusted to the University of Sierra Leone (1967) based in Freetown.
Sierra Leone has a marginal tropical climate with a rainy season from June to September / October. Precipitation decreases from the coast to the north and inland: on the Sierra Leone peninsula, annual precipitation over 5 500 mm (second highest values in Africa, after the Cameroon Mountain), on the northern border by 2 000 mm. The daily and seasonal temperature differences increase from the coast to the interior. In the north, the harmattan from the Sahara can be felt.
Despite high amounts of rain, the northern inland has savannah vegetation due to the pronounced dry season (4–5 arid months). 37.2% of the country’s area is covered by sparse forests. The originally tropical rainforest in the south and on the coast has disappeared except for protected remains (around 5% of the total area). In the coastal area there are extensive mangrove swamps that merge into grassy swamps to the east.
The school system has been severely weakened by the civil war (1991–2002). The school system is divided into a six-year basic level, followed by two three-year secondary levels and a four-year higher education. The language of instruction is English. The University of Sierra Leone in Freetown (founded 1967) are assigned under the unified university system: the agricultural college in Njala, the college of medicine and general health sciences in Freetown and the oldest college in the country, the Fourah Bay College in Freetown (1827 as a training facility established for teachers, ministers and missionaries).
A railroad no longer exists. The road network (around 11,300 km, around 900 km of which is paved) is inadequate and often consists of only dirt and gravel roads. The most important connections are the routes between Freetown and Makeni, from Freetown via Bo and Kenema to Liberia and via Port Loko to Guinea. Ferries run between Freetown and the mainland. The main ports are Freetown (one of the largest natural harbors) and Pepel (ore export). Lungi International Airport is 19 miles north of Freetown. Smaller airports and squares serve domestic traffic.
The once lush vegetation has been largely destroyed by human intervention. The equatorial forest is now reduced to a few strips in the coastal strip, linked to heavy rainfall and rich in precious essences (teak, ebony, etc.); it crosses shrubby and arborate savannahs (acacias, baobabs) towards the interior, where the gallery forest stretches along the rivers. On the coast, near the river mouths, immense mangrove swamps dominate. Fauna, like flora, has undergone a strong decimation of the species of animals that once inhabited these lands: specimens of buffaloes, giraffes, elephants, lions, chimpanzees, monkeys and, along the rivers, hippos and crocodiles remain. Uncontrolled deforestation to obtain fuel and new agricultural land with a consequent increase in soil erosion and the increase in population pressure are among the environmental problems that most afflict the country. Many natural habitats have been irreparably destroyed; 3.6% of the land is officially protected; there are six national parks.
Bo, town in Sierra Leone, in the savannah hill country on the Freetown – Pendembu railway, (2015) 174 400 residents.
Administrative seat of the southern province; Teacher training; Center of an agricultural area, oil mill, furniture factory; Airport.
Kenema, market town in the southeast of Sierra Leone, (2015) 200 400 residents.
Administrative seat of the eastern region, catholic bishopric; Furniture and wood industry; Center of diamond mining; Train station, airport.