African News: Sierra Leone prepares for 3rd general elections

InformAfrica – Sierra Leone is in preparations for its 3rd general election since the brutal 1991-2002 civil war, which killed more than 50,000 people, InformAfrica have gathered.

Supporters of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party
Supporters of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) hold a mass rally ahead of the general elections. (AAP)

Latest Africa news trending online today reports more than 2.5 million of the country’s six million citizens are expected to cast their vote for a new president, parliament and local councils.

Incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma, faces eight candidates, including ex-military leader Julius Maada Bio. Meanwhile, news report from BBC suggests the election will be closely monitored by several thousand local observers.

The results of the elections have to be declared within 10 days of voting taking place. The three main parties in the running are Mr. Koroma’s All People’s Congress (APC), Mr. Bio’s Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC). The leader of the PMDC, Charles Francis Margai, is the son of Sierra Leone’s second Prime Minister Albert Margai.

The political manifestation of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) is also contesting the polls. The RUF were accused of committing atrocities and employing child soldiers during the civil war.

The West African nation has come a long way since its devastating war in the 1990s.

The Sierra Leonean economy is growing fast – albeit from a very low base – and the elections are set to be held in a peaceful, democratic way, according to BBC reports. But despite significant advances, Sierra Leone remains one of the world’s poorest nations.

A large number of the country’s approximately six million people live on less than $1.25 (80p) a day.

CHILD SOLDIERS AND BLOOD DIAMONDS

It has been a decade since the end of the war which left the world with images of child soldiers and rebels funded by the sale of “blood diamonds” hacking off the limbs of their victims.

Starting from scratch, its infrastructure devastated in the conflict, Sierra Leone has come a long way in the past decade.

Koroma, 59, came to power in 2007. While that election was marked by several incidents of violence, they were followed by a peaceful transfer of power between the ousted Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the APC.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Friday of the importance of a peaceful election.

“Peaceful elections resulting in a credible outcome are critical for consolidating Sierra Leone’s hard-won peace and for demonstrating that the tremendous progress the country has made since the end of hostilities one decade ago is irreversible.”

The country’s 2.6 million voters were registered for the first time on a biometric system to prevent multiple voting and avoid electoral fraud.

According to the National Electoral Commission, 55 percent of the vote is needed to avoid a run-off, second round vote. Final results are expected by November 26 and a potential second round of voting is planned for December 8.

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