Sierra Leone has 16 different ethnic groups, each with a different language. The largest ethnic group is the Temne (35%), followed by the Mende (31%). The Temne are dominant in the Northern Sierra Leone and areas around the capital, while the Mende live mostly in the South-Eastern Sierra Leone and the Kono District.
The third-largest ethnic group is the Limba (8%), who are native to the area and live in Northern Sierra Leone. The fourth group are the Fula (7%), who are descendants of Fulani migrant settlers from the 17th and 18th century who came from Guinea.
Other major ethnic groups include the Mandingo (2%), who are descended from Guinea traders; the Kono (5%), who are also descended from Guinea migrants; and the Krio (2%) people, who are descendants of freed African American, West Indian and Liberated African slaves and make up 3% of the population.
Smaller ethnic groups include the Kuranko, who arrived in the area around 1600; the Loko (2%), who are native to Sierra Leone; the Kissi, and the Sherbro.
Sierra Leone has a young population with 42% of its population under 15, and a rural population with 62% of people living outside of the cities. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world that is facing many challenges. It has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in West Africa (60%), much of its drinking water is collected from polluted sources, one of the worst literacy rates in Africa and health problems that include HIV/AIDS, malaria, and yellow fever. About 81% of its population lives in poverty.
Sierra Leone Religion, Economy and Politics
There is no official religious affiliation in Sierra Leone, but nearly everyone living there is either Muslim or Christian. About 78% of the population are Muslims, while Christians make up 21% of the population. Although there isn't a state religion, it is common to find Christian prayers said during the beginning of political occasions. Within the Muslim population, almost all of them are of the Sunni denomination. Religious violence is rare, and Sierra Leone is known as one of the world's most religiously tolerant nations, with Christians and Muslims regularly working together peacefully. Any civil disputes in the country were never religiously motivated.
The economy in Sierra Leone has always been heavily reliant on mineral mining, and it has kept the economy from being able to flourish under the attitude that gold and diamonds are enough of a backbone for the economy of an entire nation. Consequently, the country is heavily reliant upon foreign aid. Agriculture is also an important part of the economy, accounting for 58% of the country's GDP, and employing 80% of the people living there. Rice is Sierra Leone's most common export.
Officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, the country has its government divided into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The country itself is broken down into 149 chiefdoms, small local units of government.
Sierra Leone Population History
Sierra Leone did not become independent, free from Britain, until 1961, and its population history is understandably pretty short. The country was declared a republic in 1971 and shortly after a constitution was written declaring the country a single-party state with the All People's Congress being the only legal party. As with many new countries, Sierra Leone experienced a period of civil war shortly after its formation in 1991 when Foday Sankoh, a former army corporal, rebelled against the president and began capturing towns on the border with Liberia. The civil war lasted several years but led to an amended constitution allowing for multiple parties.
An Ebola outbreak hit Sierra Leone in 2014, killing more than 700, forcing the country to declare a state of emergency, forcing people to stay indoors for three days. The World Health Organization declared that the emergency had cleared by 2016.