The Mende people are the largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone. The Mende make up 31% of Sierra Leone's total population or 1,932,015 members. The Southern and Eastern Provinces of Sierra Leone, (collectively known as the South-East or South-Eastern Sierra Leone) is largely populated by the Mende people, with the exception of Kono District (a cosmopolitan settlement, but primarily inhabited by the Kono people).
The Mende belong to a larger group of Mande peoples who live throughout West Africa. The Mende are mostly farmers and hunters. The Mende are divided into two groups: The halemo are members of the hale or secret societies, and kpowa are people who have never been initiated into the hale. The Mende believe that all humanistic and scientific power is passed down through the secret societies.
The Mende speak the Mende language among each other, and is spoken both the Mende people and by other Sierra Leonean ethnic groups as a regional lingua franca in southern Sierra Leone and in neighboring Liberia. Their language is spoken by around 46% of Sierra Leone's population. From the 16th through the 18th century, hundreds of thousands of Mende were captured and transported to the Americas as slaves.
Sierra Leone's politics have been dominated by the Mende, along with the Limba. The Mende overwhelmingly support the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), which ruled the country as recently as 2007. This has led to ethnic tensions in the country, particularly with the other major ethnic group, the Temne, who traditionally support the current ruling party, the All People's Congress (APC).
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