Sierra Leone, in West Africa, emerged from a decade of civil war in 2002, with the help of Britain, the former colonial power, and a large United Nations peacekeeping mission.
• Full name: Republic of Sierra Leone
• Population: 5.7 million (UN, 2009)
• Capital: Freetown
• Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq miles)
• Major languages: English, Krio (Creole language derived from English) and a range of African languages
• Major religions: Islam, Christianity
• Life expectancy: 46 years (men), 49 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: Leone
• Main exports: Diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish
• GNI per capita: US $320 (World Bank, 2008)
• Internet domain: .sl
• International dialling code: +232
More than 17,000 foreign troops disarmed tens of thousands of rebels and militia fighters. Several years on, the country still faces the challenge of reconstruction.
A lasting feature of the war, in which tens of thousands died, was the atrocities committed by the rebels, whose trademark was to hack off the hands or feet of their victims.
A UN-backed war crimes court was set up to try those, from both sides, who bear the greatest responsibility for the brutalities. It completed its work at the end of 2009. Its remaining case, the trial of Charles Taylor, continues in The Hague.BBC