Under the 1995 constitution Sierra Leone is a republic with an executive president, a multiparty democracy and a unicameral parliament. The president is head of state and government.

The president appoints a cabinet, together with a government, with the approval of the legislature (the House of Representatives). Executive power is vested in the government.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are held at least every five years, under universal adult suffrage and proportional representation.

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal and has jurisdiction in constitutional matters. It also has responsibility for the administration of the judicial system, which includes the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the magistrates’ courts. The most serious civil and criminal cases and appeals from the magistrates’ courts come before the High Court. Appeals from the High Court and from certain special courts are heard by the Court of Appeal.

The independence constitution was abrogated during the series of military coups which followed. The 1971 constitution allowed for a ceremonial president; an amendment later that year created an executive presidency. A new constitution in 1978 established a one-party state, with the All People’s Congress (APC) as the recognised party, and there was further constitutional amendment in 1985.

The 1991 constitution marked a return to a multiparty system, with many of the parliamentary features of the independence constitution, though the country was to remain a republic with an executive presidency. Implementation of this constitution was interrupted by an army coup. The National Provisional Ruling Council became the governing body, and rule was by decree.

These developments were in turn reversed by the implementation of the 1995 constitution, which (with amendments) restored the 1991 constitution.