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.
More than 17,000 foreign troops disarmed tens of thousands of rebels and militia fighters. The country now 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.
Politics: Sierra Leone is recovering from a 10-year civil war which ended in 2002; war centred around a power struggle and had a regional dimension
Economics: Substantial growth in recent years, but remains bottom of UN's league for human development
A UN-backed war crimes court has been set up to try those, from both sides, who bear the greatest responsibility for the brutalities
Sierra Leone has experienced substantial economic growth in recent years, although poverty and unemployment remain major challenges.
In June 2009, the UN said that despite some impressive gains in rebuilding since the end of the civil war, efforts to consolidate peace and prosperity in the country remained fragile.
Economic recovery has been slow partly because the reconstruction needs are so great. Around half of government revenue comes from donors.
The restoration of peace was expected to aid the the country's promotion as a tourist destination in the long term. Sierra Leone boasts miles of unspoilt beaches along its Atlantic coast, and hopes to emulate its neighbour Gambia in attracting tourists.
Sierra Leone is also rich in diamonds and other minerals. The trade in illicit gems, known as "blood diamonds" for their role in funding conflicts, perpetuated the civil war. The government has attempted to crack down on cross-border diamond trafficking.
Sierra Leone has a special significance in the history of the transatlantic slave trade. It was the departure point for thousands of west African captives. The capital, Freetown, was founded as a home for repatriated former slaves in 1787.
- Full name: Republic of Sierra Leone
- Population: 5.8 million (UN, 2010)
- 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: 48 years (men), 50 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: Leone
- Main exports: Diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish
- GNI per capita: US $340 (World Bank, 2009)
- Internet domain: .sl
- International dialling code: +232
President : Ernest Bai Koroma
Ernest Bai Koroma was sworn in as Sierra Leone's new president on 17 September 2007. He won 54.6% of the vote in a run-off with the incumbent vice-president Solomon Berewa.
President Koroma has pledged to fight corruption
Mr Koroma promised zero tolerance on corruption in his inaugural speech. He also said he'd fight against the mismanagement of state resources.
Addressing thousands of cheering supporters, Mr Koroma said: "We know how high your expectations are and that you have suffered for too long."
Mr Koroma's All People's Congress (APC) also won a majority in parliamentary elections held in August 2007.
He was born in northern Makeni in 1953, and is an insurance broker who says he wants to run Sierra Leone like a business concern.
His predecessor Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is credited with bringing in foreign help to rescue the country. Mr Kabbah stepped down in August 2007 after serving two terms in office.
Media freedom in Sierra Leone has its limits; media rights monitors say high-level corruption is a taboo topic, with officials using libel laws to target errant journalists.
Challenges facing broadcasters include unreliable power supplies, poor funding and low advertising revenues.
There are dozens of radio stations, most of them privately owned. The UN Mission in Sierra Leone, Unmasil, operates radio services. They carry information about human rights and UN activities, as well as music and news.
BBC World Service can be heard on FM in Freetown (94.3), Bo (94.5) and Kenema (95.3). Voice of America and Radio France Internationale broadcast on FM in Freetown.
Dozens of newspapers are published in Freetown, despite low literacy levels. Most of them are privately-run and are often critical of the government.
- Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) - terrestrial network with limited coverage
- ABC TV - private
- Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) - national broadcaster
- Radio Democracy 98.1 FM - Freetown station, once the voice of the exiled Kabbah government, regarded as pro-government
- Kiss FM - private station in Bo
- SKYY FM - private station in Freetown
- Radio Unamsil - UN radio network
- Capital Radio - private station in Freetown
- Believers Broadcasting Network - Freetown, Christian FM station
- Voice of the Handicapped - founded as FM station for disabled citizens, but attracts a wider audience
- Sierra Leone News Agency
- Cotton Tree News - news site operated by Fondation Hirondelle .