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Sierra Leone election: Julius Maada Bio sworn in as opposition cries foul

Incumbent Julius Maada Bio has been declared the winner of Sierra Leone's presidential election but the opposition has disputed the count.

Julius Maada Bio, a retired soldier, was first elected in 2018

By Yusuf Akinpelu

BBC News

Incumbent Julius Maada Bio has been declared the winner of Sierra Leone’s presidential election but the opposition has disputed the count.

Official figures give Mr Bio 56% of the vote. His main rival, Samura Kamara, trailed far behind with 41%.

A candidate needs more than 55% for outright victory and avoid a second round.

After the first tranche of results were released on Monday, Dr Kamara called the outcome “daylight robbery”.

International election observers have highlighted problems with transparency in the tallying process.

Saturday’s vote took place amid tension but President Bio had called on Sierra Leoneans to “keep the peace”.

The 59-year-old, a former soldier, was sworn in for his second and final five-year term later on Tuesday night.

The retired army brigadier took part in a military coup during the country’s civil war in 1992, only to overthrow the military junta itself in 1996 and pave the way for free elections that year.

Scenes of celebration have been reported in the capital, Freetown, with Mr Bio’s supporters hoisting his banner and marching across the wet streets of the city.

The rivalry between him and Dr Kamara, 72, was a repeat of the closely fought 2018 election, which went to a second round.

This time Dr Kamara, who was the candidate for the All People’s Congress (APC), has alleged that his electoral agents were not allowed to verify the ballot counting.

Cameron Hume, head of the US-based Carter Center’s election observer team, told the BBC they had questions about how some votes were counted.

“We are not convinced that the integrity was maintained throughout the elections,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme, noting that the seals had been broken on some ballot boxes before they were counted.

However, he stressed they did not have any evidence that fraud had been committed and that much of the election process had gone well.

In the run-up to the vote, the APC had made complaints about the electoral commission. However, the commission insisted that it had mechanisms in place to ensure a fair vote.

The presidential, parliamentary and local council elections came at the end of a campaign marred by several violent incidents.

Last week, the APC alleged that one of its supporters was shot dead by police, which the police denied.

The party has said that another one of its backers was killed when security forces tried to break up the crowd at its headquarters in Freetown on Sunday.

Members of Mr Bio’s party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), have said they were attacked by opponents during campaigning.

The campaign took place against a backdrop of a troubled economy, the rising cost of living and concerns about national unity.

Mr Bio, who blamed the country’s woes on external factors such as the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, now has the task of solving these problems.

The election is the fifth since Sierra Leone’s 11-year 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.

But since then the country has had a tradition of largely peaceful, free and credible elections, according to Marcella Samba Sesay, chairperson of the non-governmental organisation National Elections Watch.

BBC News

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