Sierra Leone goes to the polls


Koroma retains the presidency in “peaceful and orderly” elections, seen as a test of stability and a consolidation of the peace after the brutal civil war.                                      

High Poll Turnout                                                    

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on November 18th congratulated the people of Sierra Leone for the peaceful and orderly elections held on November 17th, the first one run entirely by the government since the end of the West African nation’s brutal civil war 10 years ago, in which around 50,000 people died.

The voter turnout was reportedly high for the four elections – presidential, parliamentary, local council and mayoral.

“The high voter turnout and the remarkable calm displayed by the country’s citizens as they cast their votes are a clear manifestation of their desire for peace, democracy and development,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

Mr. Ban also urged all sides to work together and uphold their commitment to the people of Sierra Leone to bolster stability and unity, the UN News Service reported.

The elections were the country’s third since the end of its civil war, and the second since the withdrawal of the peacekeeping operation known as the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in December 2005. The vote is seen as an indicator of progress towards recovery.

The Pan-african News Agency (PANA) reported  voters started queuing early, eager to prove to the world that democracy had come to stay in the country, and that they were ready to consolidate the peace.

Incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma, who won another five-year mandate, faced eight opposition candidates, the most prominent of whom was Julius Bio, a retired army general who once briefly served as the country’s head of state. To win outright and avoid a runoff, a candidate had to  garner 55% of the votes.

Though the election campaign had been largely devoid of violence, the authorities took no chances, as security was tightened across the country of 6m people.

The sub-regional bloc, ECOWAS, which played the lead role in restoring peace to the country, sent 150 observers to monitor the election, headed by former Ghanaian President John Kufuor

In its preliminary report on November 19th, ECOWAS hailed the elections as being free, fair and credible: “The vast majority of the qualified Sierra Leonean population, who wished to do so, were provided the required freedom and space to exercise their constitutional rights to vote or to be voted for.”

The mission however said there were ”a few isolated incidents that could have marred the smooth and peaceful conduct of the polls.”

A coalition of non-governmental organisations, National Election Watch, said the voting went well, with some delays in opening polling stations.

Presidential Election – National Results

After counting results from 97.6% (9,269) of all polling stations, excluding those that were invalidated, the average national turnout was 87.3%.

Total number of valid votes: 2,350,626

Total number of invalid votes: 108,898 (4.7%) 

Candidate Party Votes Percentage
Ernest Bai Koroma All People’s

Congress (APC)

    1 314 881 58.7%
Joshua Albert Carew Citizens Democratic

 Party (CDP)

         22 863 1.0%
Gibrilla  Kamara Peoples Democratic

Party (PDP)

           8 273 0.4%
Kandeh Baba Conteh Peoples Liberation

 Party (PLP)

             6 144 0.3%
Charles Francis Margai People’s Movement for

Democratic Change (PMDC)

          28 944 1.3%
Eldred Collins Revolutionary United

Front Party( RUFP)

          12 993 0.6%
Julius Maada Bio Sierra Leone Peoples

 Party (SLPP)

        837 517 37.4%
Mohamed Bangura United Democratic

Movement (UDM)

             5 069 0.2%
James Obai Fullah United National People’s

 Party (UNPP)

             5 044 0.2%

( 22/1l) 

Poor but with potential

The incoming government will be tasked with stewardship of a lucrative windfall from a boom in the country’s mining industry, notably iron-ore, and possible oil production.

Though still one of the world’s poorest countries, Sierra Leone is rich in mineral resources and massive iron-ore stores are expected to add 21% growth in 2012 to its US$2.2 bn gross domestic product, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates.

If well-managed, these resources could change the fortunes of a nation which has one of Africa’s lowest life expectancies at 47 years, according to the World Bank, and highest rates of maternal mortality. Youth unemployment levels hover at 60%.

Main contenders

Ernest Bai Koroma:  Aged 59, Koroma is a Temne, one of the two largest ethnic groups in Sierra Leone, born in northern Makeni in 1953. After graduating he taught briefly before going into the insurance business.

Having joined the APC as a student in 1974, Koroma was elected its leader in the run up to the 2002 presidential elections, which he lost against outgoing President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. His running mate is vice president Samuel Sam-Sumana.

Julius Maada Bio: Bio was born in 1964 in the Bonthe District. He is an ethnic Mende. He joined the army, graduating in 1987 and later served in the west African bloc ECOWAS Peacekeeping Force (ECOMOG) in neighbouring Liberia. After the 1992 coup he served as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.

Following the transition to democracy in 1996 he left the country and earned a masters degree from the School of International Service at the American University in Washington in the United States. Bio’s running mate is Dr Kadi Sesay, a university lecturer and rights campaigner.

Koroma sworn in

On November 23rd, the NEC and the African Elections Project announced that President Ernest Bai Koroma had won the presidential election outright, receiving almost 59% of the votes cast. Julius Maada Bio took 38% of the ballots with an average turnout of 87.3%.

This will be Koroma’s second and final term in office. His supporters flooded the streets of the capital as news of his comfortable win became known.  

In response, Bio denounced the election as riddled with fraud. “The process was fraudulent and the results do not reflect the will of Sierra Leoneans,” he said.

“The party has raised concerns about electoral irregularities including faked and unstamped reconciliation and results forms, pre-marked ballot papers, ballot stuffing and over-voting in Kono (diamond-rich east), the western area and the northern province. Bio did not indicate what his next move would be in challenging the results but urged his supporters to “remain calm and law abiding.”

International observers widely praised the poll as free, peaceful and well-conducted. They did however note some shortcomings in the voting process and said that Koroma enjoyed an unequal playing field given that he dominated media coverage and had used state resources for campaigning.

President Koroma was sworn in on the 23rd.  The government website reported his speech to the nation. He said: ‘Fellow Sierra Leoneans…This is my new contract with you, we will focus on creating jobs for the youths, and on training our youths to seize the immense employment opportunities we are creating in the construction, mining, agriculture and other sectors. We will continue with our infrastructural development programmes; we will continue to attract investment; we will continue to fight corruption; we will continue to protect and promote the rights of every woman, every man, youth, child, journalist, and civil society activist.

‘The time for politics is over, the moment for continuing the transformation has come. This is the time for all of us to embrace each other.’

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