Voters crowded Freetown booths on Saturday as Sierra Leone chose a parliament and president. The polls are the third since the nation emerged from civil war in 2002 and shed the image of "blood diamonds."
UN envoy Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen said the West African nation's vote was a "turning point" in lifting the former British colony's 5.5 million people out of poverty and "on the path to development."
This year, Sierra Leone experienced economic growth of 20 percent, spurred by iron ore exported by two British companies and oil extraction.
In both races, Sierra Leone's incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma and his ruling All People's Congress were challenged by Julius Maada Bio, a former junta leader and his Sierra Leone People's Party.
In the capital, Freetown, voters jostled to enter polling stations set up at schools and other public buildings.
Across the country, 14,000 police and military personnel were deployed and the government has banned private vehicles, with the exception of those belonging to registered observers.
Monitoring the poll were teams from the European Union, West Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS, the African Union and the US-based Carter Center.
During the country's 1991-2002 war, thousands of civilians had their limbs hacked off by bush fighters. At least 50,000 people were killed.
ipj/sej (dpa, Reuters)