Sierra Leone is a constitutional democracy in Western Africa, which borders the North Atlantic Ocean, Liberia and Guinea. Its political process is largely based on the multi-party system of Britain. Pedro de Sintra, a Portuguese explorer, named the country in 1462 after he traveled West Africa’s coast. Though the nation is quite poor and still suffers the aftereffects of a long civil war, its mineral, agricultural and fishing resources give it potential for economic growth.

Demographics

Sierra Leone’s population was estimated at 5.6 million in July 2013. English is the official language, but Mende is spoken in the south and Temne in the north. Krio, the language of the Kriole, descendants of freed Jamaican slaves, is also spoken. 60 percent of the nation is Muslim, 10 percent is Christian and 30 percent follow indigenous beliefs.

Political System History

In 1896. Sierra Leone became a protectorate and later a colony of Britain. After achieving political independence in 1961, Sierra Leone was led by a civilian government until it was overthrown by a military coup in 1967. The nation returned to civilian rule one year later. Sierra Leone proclaimed itself a republic on April 19, 1971. The nation suffered through a brutal civil war from 1991 to 2002 that displaced two million people and claimed the lives of tens of thousands. Since then, democracy has returned to the nation.

Current Political Systems

The nation’s formal name is Republic of Sierra Leone and its capital is still Freetown. Sierra Leone is divided into three provinces: Eastern, Northern, and Southern, and one area: Western. Its constitution was formalized on October 1, 1991 and has been amended several times since then. Sierra Leone’s legal system is a hybrid of English common law and customary law. The citizens of Sierra Leone enjoy universal suffrage once they attain 18 years of age. Sierra Leone’s presidents are elected to five-year terms by popular vote and are term limited to two consecutive terms in office. The legislative branch is made up of a unicameral parliament with 124 seats, 112 of which are chosen by popular vote. The other 12 are paramount chiefs are selected by separate elections. All 124 legislators are elected to five-year terms.

Sierra Leone’s Political Parties

Sierra Leone has a multi-party system with a multitude of political parties representing various interests. The most significant parties are the All People’s Congress, the Peace and Liberation Party, the People’s Movement for Democratic Change and the Sierra Leone People’s Party. Trade unions and student unions are influential in Sierra Leone’s political system. In 2012, Ernest Bai Koroma was reelected to a second term as the president of Sierra Leone. His political party, the All People’s Congress, won 69 legislative seats, more than any other party. The Sierra Leone People’s Party came in second place with 43 legislative seats.