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Fear grips Sierra Leone capital after pre-poll clash

President Julius Maada Bio is seeking re-election for a second and final term in office.

Photo- Officers fire rubber bullets and teargas at supporters of the opposition party, All People’s Congress (APC) in Freetown, Sierra Leone – 21 June 2023

AFPCopyright: AFP

Yūsuf Akínpẹ̀lú

BBC News

People are rushing to markets in Sierra Leone’s capital to stock up on food ahead of elections on Saturday, residents in Freetown have told the BBC.

It follows a stand-off on Wednesday between the security forces and supporters of the main opposition party that reportedly left at least one person dead.

Businesses shut down briefly amid the chaos and there is now a palpable fear that there could be further violence after Saturday’s poll.

Sidi Yahya Tunis, spokesperson for the opposition All People’s Congress (APC), told the Reuters news agency that one of the party’s supporters had been killed by the police.

An unverified video of the chaos showed an unconscious man who appeared to have been shot in the neck.

Police director of operations Mohamed Braima Jah said no shots had been fired by officers, accusing the protesters of firing the shots: “Two from a pistol and three from an AK-47.”

The police deny firing live ammunition

Local media say about 66 people have been arrested.

The trouble started after the APC called for a demonstration over allegations that the election commission’s electoral roll was incorrect. Around 3.4 million people are registered to vote.

Hundreds of supporters of the opposition party, All People’s Congress (APC), hold up signs calling for the Chief electoral Commissioner, Mohamed Konneh, to step down after allegations of electoral fraud, at a protest in Freetown – 21 June 2023

Opposition APC supporters do not trust the electoral commissionImage caption: Opposition APC supporters do not trust the electoral commission

The election is the fifth since Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war officially ended in 2002. It was a particularly brutal conflict, with 50,000 deaths and thousands of people estimated to have had their arms and limbs amputated.

President Julius Maada Bio is seeking re-election for a second and final term in office.

His main challenger is the APC’s Samura Kamara, who came a close second in the last election in 2018.

One of the biggest campaign issues has been about soaring prices – inflation reached about 43% in April.

BBC News

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