Bio Maada wins Sierra Leone Presidential Election
Sierra Leone’s opposition challenger Julius Maada Bio secured his first term in office as a civilian after he was declared the winner of a controversial presidential run-off.
Bio, a former soldier who briefly led a military junta more than two decades ago, won 51.81 percent of ballots in last month’s election, according to official results.
He beat incumbent Samura Kamara, who secured 48.19 percent of the vote, to bring an end to a decade in power for Kamara’s All Peoples’ Congress (APC) in the West African nation.
Bio was in a group of young soldiers behind a 1992 coup that would install their leader, Valentine Strasser, as the youngest head of state in the world, at age 25.
He later took power but agreed to step aside in 1996 for an elected civilian leader, and his subsequent apologies for his role in the junta appear to have rehabilitated his image.
Shortly after the announcement, Bio was sworn in as president, handed a symbolic command baton by the country’s top judge amid cheers and songs from thousands of his supporters who were gathered in the capital Freetown on Wednesday evening.
But hopes for a smooth transition were soon thrown into doubt after Kamara said he was rejecting the National Election Commission’s results.
“We dispute the results and we will take legal action to correct them,” Kamara said in a televised address, calling on his supporters to stay calm.
The results, he added, “do not reflect the party’s many concerns about massive ballot box stuffing, supernumerary votes, and other irregularities.”
The official results of the vote had been delayed by a dispute over the method of tallying that left ballot papers from 11,000 polling stations uncounted.
The campaign was marred by ugly verbal exchanges and sporadic violence with Bio accusing the APC of using police intimidation against his party.
Earlier Wednesday, Kamara supporters marched in Freetown, tearing down Bio posters and alleging “foreign meddling” in the vote, AFP writes.
A total of 3.1 million people were registered to vote in the first presidential poll since a 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak that killed 4,000 people.
One of the world’s poorest nations despite huge mineral and diamond deposits, Sierra Leone is recovering only gradually from war and disease, while its economy remains fragile.
Political loyalties are often divided along ethnic lines and traumatic memories of the 1991-2002 civil war run deep.
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