Sierra Leone votes today to elect new President
President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma is stepping down after serving two five-year terms. His preferred candidate, Samura Kamara, is being challenged by 15 other candidates – many of them promising to tackle endemic corruption and poverty.
More than three million voters are expected to exercise their franchise in the voting process that started Wednesday, to choose a new president, parliament and local councillors.
BBC reports that in the capital, Freetown, long queues could be seen at polling stations even before dawn on Wednesday.
“Mr Kamara of the All Peoples Congress (APC) is one of three frontrunners – the others are Julius Maada Bio of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and former UN diplomat Kandeh Yumkella of the newly-formed National Grand Coalition (NGC).
One of the greatest challenges for the new leader will be to reconstruct a healthcare system following the huge Ebola outbreak in 2014 that killed nearly 4,000 people.
Only 200 doctors serve a country of seven million people”, said BBC
The Commonwealth’s chief election observer, former Ghanaian President John Mahama, told the BBC there were signs it would be peaceful.
“People are going about their business. They don’t have that anxiety or fear that there’s going to be any explosion taking place,” he said.
He added that if “everybody plays their part” they will be one step closer to “consolidating democracy in Sierra Leone”.
Mr Mahama said that candidates had signed a peace pledge in the run-up to the election.
Former Nigerian President and head of Electoral Institute for Sustainable Development in Africa (EISDA) tweeted this morning: “ Out early on election duty in Freetown this morning. My message to the people of Sierra Leone today is the same as my message to democracies all over the world-no one’s political ambition is worth the blood of any citizen. As such we must uphold the sanctity of one man, one vote, one woman, one vote, one youth, one vote today and for all times. GEJ.”