Opposition leader Julius Maada Bio finished slightly ahead of the incumbent party's candidate in the first round of voting. He's pledged to end corruption and offer free education / Photo: JMB

Voters in Sierra Leone go to polls for presidential run-off

Voters in Sierra Leone flocked to the polls on Saturday to elect new president in a hotly contested run-off vote between opposition leader Julius Maada Bio and ruling party candidate Samura Kamara.

Bio, of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won a razor-thin victory in the first round of voting on March 7 with 43.3 per cent, while his rival Kamara received 42.7 per cent.

Kamara, 67, the candidate of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) promised continuity and economic recovery, while Bio pledged to end corruption and offer free education.

A run-off election was set for March 31 as no candidate reached the 55 per cent of votes needed to win outright.

Samura Kamara of the ruling All Peoples Congress’ (middle) is the annointed candidate of the outgoing President Koroma / Photo: SKF

Meanwhile, some 3.18 million Sierra Leoneans are eligible to vote.

President Ernest Bai Koroma is leaving office after serving two five-year terms, the constitutional limit, but inundated with claims of corruption and mismanagement from the opposition.

Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown was calm on Saturday, with few cars on the road and police outside polling stations to prevent any disruptions.

“Any government will come, the basic challenges (are) education, youth employment, medical, then they are looking into the affairs of the feeding (then there is food security) of this nation, the food affairs,” a potential voter said.

Another added, “It doesn’t matter who wins this election as a citizen of this country we want to see a very good government regardless of the APC or the SLPP of the NGC. We want to see our people, people like the Sierra Leoneans move forward in life in terms of education.”

“All we need is just peaceful elections and I hope in the name of God, everything is going to be calm and fine today so that we can go on with our normal activities,” Yainkain Kargbo, a trader and mother of four, said.

According to her, the people of Sierra Leone are tired of waiting for the election to be over.

Diamond-rich Sierra Leone was ravaged by years of brutal civil war in the 1990s, only to be hit hard by the deadly ebola virus in 2014. // Adira Kallo with agencies

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