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Sierra Leone re-elects Maada Bio, opposition rejects results

By The Africa Report, AFP

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Posted on June 28, 2023 11:22

Supporters of the President of Sierra Leone and Leader of Sierra Leone People’s party (SLPP), Julius Maada Bio, celebrate in the streets following his re-election in Freetown in June 27, 2023.
Supporters of the President of Sierra Leone and Leader of Sierra Leone People’s party (SLPP), Julius Maada Bio, celebrate in the streets following his re-election in Freetown in June 27, 2023. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio was sworn in Tuesday after he was declared the victor of an election that his main rival slammed as “not credible”.

Bio, 59, returns for a second term at the helm of the West African nation, which has been pummelled by multiple challenges since the end of a 1991-2002 civil war, including an Ebola epidemic and now a crippling economic crisis.

The electoral commission announced he had won 56% of the vote, while his main challenger Samura Kamara came second with 41%.

“I categorically reject the outcome so announced by the electoral commission,” he said on Twitter.

Vote tallying had already been disputed by Kamara’s All People’s Congress (APC), which condemned in a statement Monday an alleged lack of inclusiveness, transparency and responsibility by the electoral commission.

The party pointed to the lack of information about which polling stations or districts the ballots were coming from.

It had said it “will not accept these fake and cooked up results“.

In a later statement, the party alleged “overvoting” in some areas and said it “continues to reject” the “fabricated results” and “reaffirms our victory”.

However, Bio’s supporters welcomed the result. “I’m happy Bio won, we want him to fix the economy and create jobs,” Susan Myers, 34, says.

Abdulrahim Bah, 30, says: “Maada Bio has provided for us the free quality education, he’s constructed so many bridges for us and he is fighting the corruption in the country.”

At a press conference Monday, EU observers said a lack of transparency and communication by the electoral authority had led to mistrust in the electoral process.

The monitors said they witnessed violence at seven polling stations during voting hours and at three others during the closing and counting stages.

‘I need justice’

They also said they received reports of violent incidents in six regions, including the use of live ammunition in three districts.

About 3.4 million people were registered to vote in Saturday’s election. Turnout was 83%, the commission said Tuesday.

Bio, a former coup leader in the 1990s, championed education and women’s rights in his first civilian term.

Kamara, 72, a former foreign and finance minister, had assailed the electoral commission throughout the campaign period over alleged irregularities and delays.

He is currently on trial for embezzling public funds while he was foreign minister, a case he said is politically motivated.

Sierra Leoneans also voted in parliamentary and municipal elections Saturday.

EU observers denounced violence by security forces at the APC headquarters in Freetown on Sunday night, in what the police said was an effort to disperse opposition supporters, which left one woman dead.

I need justice… I just want to know who killed my mother

Sidie Yahya Tunis, a spokesman for the APC, says the woman was a nurse who was working in a medical unit on the building’s ground floor.

Ibrahim Conteh, a 25-year-old law student who identifies himself as the woman’s son, says he identified his mother’s body at the morgue.

“I need justice… I just want to know” who killed my mother, he says in tears.

Second term blues?

The president’s second term won’t be plain sailing. He will need to adopt a bolder stance towards pressing economic and social ills to placate alienated Kamara’s voters and ensure social cohesion, argues Maja Bovcon, senior Africa analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft.

“Bio will need to scale back his populist and resource nationalism policies to attract more foreign investment,” says Bovcon. “His revocation of mining licences and the adoption of new land and mining legislation that makes the development of large-scale projects more challenging have soured investor sentiment and contributed to the economic downturn.”

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