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You are in:  Nations > Africa > Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone*Sierra Leone flag
Basic facts
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The country 
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Capital: Freetown
Area: 71,740 sq km; 27,699 sq miles
Population: 5,509,263 (2000 Estimate).
Urbanisation: Urban 35 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 65 per cent (1998 Estimate)
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Economy

Exports: Rutile, bauxite, diamonds, coffee, cocoa, fish

Industry: Mining (diamonds, bauxite, rutile), small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear), petroleum refining

Agriculture: Cash crops: coffee, cacao, rice, cassava, peanuts, bananas, vegetables

Currency: 1 leone (Le), consisting of 100 cents

Natural resources: Diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite

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The people

Ethnic: Black Africans, including the Mende, Temne and Limba; Krio (Creoles); Lebanese

Language: English (official), Krio, Mende, Temne, other indigenous languages. English is the official language and is used in government, but is spoken only by educated Sierra Leoneans. Most people speak their local language and also Krio (a mixture of primarily English, Yoruba and African languages), although in remote villages only the local language is spoken. Mende dominates in the south and Temne in the North. French is taught in secondary schools because of the country's many French-speaking neighbours.

Religion: Indigenous beliefs 60 per cent, Muslim 30 per cent, Christian 8 per cent, Other 2 per cent. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the people are Sunni Muslim and 10 per cent are Christian. The estimates are vague because most Muslims and Christians also follow the traditional beliefs and practices of the rest of the population. Islam is the fastest growing religion. The Lebanese are Shi'ite Muslims.

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The history

Independence: 27 April 1961 (from the United Kingdom)

Government: From 1992 to 1996 Sierra Leone was governed by the military Supreme Council of State. In April 1993 the council stated that it intended to introduce multi-party democracy within three years. Political parties were legalised and on 26 and 27 February 1996 Sierra Leoneans voted for a new President and a new 80-seat parliament. A military junta regained control of the Government for a 10-month period in 1997 and 1998. The civilian Government has been restored to power in Freetown.

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