Sierra Leone Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Sierra Leone is one of the most unique states in Africa with respect to ethnicity. Already incredibly diverse, the British then chose to free slaves to this region. As a result, ethnicity is multi-layered in the country.

An Experiment to End Slavery

Like many other countries during the late 1700s and early 1800s, the British had decided to start ending the institution of slavery. However, there was still the question of what to do with the slaves. One idea was to take them back to Africa. Thus Sierra Leone was born. However, there was a problem - there were already plenty of people living in Sierra Leone! In this lesson, we're going to take a look at the role ethnicity plays in Sierra Leone, ranging from the major ethnic groups to smaller ones, as well as how the government has tried to encourage overall unity.

Flag of Sierra Leone

Two Major Ethnic Groups

On the whole, Sierra Leone is dominated by its two largest ethnic groups. The Temne are the largest. They make up 35% of the population and tend to live in the northern part of the country. Overwhelmingly, they are Muslim, although a few Christian Temne exist. As the largest ethnic group, they are a crucial player in the politics of the country.

The next largest group, the Mende, make up 31% of the population. Like the Temne, they are politically active, and make up the largest opposition group in the Sierra Leonean government. While many are Muslim, there is also a large Christian minority among the Mende. While the Temne live in the north of the country, the Mende live further south.

Other Groups

The Krio are of particularly importance to Sierra Leone. While only around 3% of the population, they are among the most highly-educated. They tend to live around the capital, Freetown, and dominate administrative posts throughout the country, especially the judicial branch.

Freed slaves in Sierra Leone
Freed Slaves

The Limba are the third largest group in Sierra Leone. They make up less than 10% of the population, but closely align themselves with the Temne. They also rival the Krio for the number of administrative posts held in proportion to their size. Other groups include the Fula, which make up 6% of the population, and the Mandingo, who are about as numerous as the Fula. Both groups live throughout Sierra Leone.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account