President Julius Bio (left) takes his Oath of Office, administered by the Honourable Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards, for his second term on Wednesday/Photo: Sierra Leone Presidency

Sierra Leone: President re-elected in disputed polls

Incumbent Julius Maada Bio has won re-election in Sierra Leone’s tense presidential vote, but his main challenger was quick to reject the results.

The electoral commission said on Tuesday that Bio, 59, was re-elected with 56.17 percent at Saturday’s general election. His top rival Samura Kamara, of the All People’s Congress (APC), came second with 41.16 percent.

Dr Kamara (72) has called the result “daylight robbery”, alleging that his electoral agents were not allowed to verify the ballot counting. “These results are not credible and I categorically reject the outcome so announced by the electoral commission,” he said.

International election observers have also highlighted problems with transparency in the tallying process.

Saturday’s vote took place amid tension but President Bio had called on Sierra Leoneans to “keep the peace”. The retired army brigadier took part in a military coup during the country’s civil war in 1992, only to overthrow the military junta itself in 1996 and pave the way for free elections that year.

The rivalry between him and Kamara, a former foreign minister, was a repeat of the closely fought 2018 election, which went to a second round.

In the run-up to the 2023 vote, the APC had made complaints about the electoral commission. However, the commission insisted that it had mechanisms in place to ensure a fair vote.

The presidential, parliamentary and local council elections came at the end of a campaign marred by several violent incidents.

The campaign took place against a backdrop of a troubled economy, the rising cost of living and concerns about national unity. Nearly 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s population of more than seven million are facing poverty, with youth unemployment being one of the highest in West Africa.

At his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, President Bio said he would “pursue an accelerated national development agenda to improve the quality of life for the people of Sierra Leone” with a renewed zeal.

“The focus of my next administration shall be Food Security, consolidating gains in Human Capital Development, creating jobs for our youth, revamping the Public Service and developing technology and infrastructure, he added.

The election is the fifth since Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war officially ended in 2002. And since then the country has had a tradition of largely peaceful, free and credible elections.

Adira Kallo

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