Opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio has won a narrow victory in a run-off election to become Sierra Leone’s new president.
The National Electoral Commission announced at 10pm local time that Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won 51.8 percent of a total of over 2.5 million ballots cast in the March 31 vote, beating the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) candidate Samura Kamara, who garnered 48.1 percent.
Kamara, a former foreign affairs minister, and Maada Bio, a retired brigadier who briefly ruled Sierra Leone as head of a military junta in 1996, vied to replace former President Ernest Bai Koroma, who could seek re-election due to term limits.
The swearing in of the president and his vice, Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, took place just before midnight at a hotel in the capital Freetown, by Chief Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm. Maado bio signed his oath and office and delivered a speech in which he promised to unite the country.
“(This is) the dawn of a new era. The people of this great nation have voted to take a new direction. We are honoured and privileged to serve the new government of Sierra Leone.
“We have only one country, Sierra Leone, and we are all one people (cheer). My government will promote national unity, national cohesion and disciplined leadership,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kamara has refused to congratulate the new president. The APC candidate on Thursday threatened to challenge the outcome of the presidential runoff.
He stated that the electoral commission failed to look into complaints made by his party regarding voting in the eastern part of the country, stronghold of the SLPP.
The new government faces the difficult task of rebuilding the West African nation’s economy that was dragged down by the world’s deadliest Ebola epidemic and a global slump in commodity prices. A deadly mudslide in the capital Freetown late last year deepened the country’s woes.
Adira Kallo with agency