Photo- Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio [File: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]
Sierra Leone’s election commission has declared incumbent Julius Maada Bio the winner of the country’s tense presidential election, following a process disputed by the main opposition party.
Chief Electoral Commissioner Mohamed Kenewui Konneh said on Tuesday that Bio was re-elected with 56.17 percent of Saturday’s vote. His top challenger Samura Kamara, of the All People’s Congress (APC), came second with 41.16 percent.
“By the powers invested in me… I hereby certify that Bio Julius Maada… (is) duly elected president,” Konneh said.
Vote tallying had already been disputed by the APC, which condemned in a statement on Monday an alleged lack of inclusiveness, transparency and responsibility by the electoral commission.
The party pointed to the lack of information about which polling stations or districts the ballots were coming from.
It had said it “will not accept these fake and cooked up results”.
In a follow-up statement, it alleged “over-voting” in some areas and said the party “continues to reject” the “fabricated results” and “reaffirms our victory”.
During a Monday evening press conference, European Union observers said a lack of transparency and communication by the electoral authority had led to mistrust in the electoral process.
The monitors said they witnessed violence at seven polling stations during voting hours and at three others during the closing and counting stages.
Bio, a former coup leader in the 1990s, has championed education and women’s rights in his first civilian term that was, however, mired by growing frustration over economic hardship.
Rising prices spurred unusually violent protests last year, and the APC has been banking on the enduring cost-of-living crisis to win votes.
According to the World Bank, economic downturn has stalled hopes of recovery in Sierra Leone, where widespread underemployment persists and more than half of the population lives in poverty.
Bio has faced increasing criticism because of debilitating economic conditions that Kamara pledged to improve. Nearly 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s population of more than seven million are facing poverty, with youth unemployment being one of the highest in West Africa.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES