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Sierra Leone: Kamara to challenge Bio's presidential win

April 5, 2018

Samura Kamara, the losing All People's Congress presidential candidate, will dispute the Sierra Leone election results. Kamara narrowly lost the presidency to Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People's Party.

Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio Präsidentschaftskandidat
Image: Getty Images/AFP/I. Sanogo

Sierra Leone's ruling All People's Congress presidential candidate, Samura Kamara, on Thursday said he would contest the results of the recent presidential election, after the electoral commission declared opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio the winner.

Kamara said on national television that the result of the March 31 run-off was distorted due to "massive ballot stuffing, over-voting and fraudulent voter registers."

Sierra Leonean electoral law allows an election outcome to be challenged up to seven days after the results have been announced.

A narrow win

Bio, of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), claimed almost 52 percent of votes, narrowly defeating Kamara who won slightly more than 48 percent. He was sworn in on Thursday.

"Today is a new dawn. The dawn of a new era," Bio said after chief justice Abdullai Cham swore him into office at the Radisson Blu Mamy Yoko hotel in the capital, Freetown. "I will be president for every Sierra Leonean, whether you voted for me or not."

Read more: Sierra Leone: Voting for change or more of the same?  

Just over 2.5 million people, or around 81 percent of eligible registered voters, cast their ballots in the presidential vote.

Interview with Goodluck Jonathan on Sierra Leone elections

Bio, a former soldier who briefly led a military junta in 1996, is set to be sworn in as Sierra Leone's new president shortly following the announcement. He replaces outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma, who cannot seek re-election due to term limits.

This was Bio's second bid for the presidency, having lost in 2012.

SLPP supporters jubilant

SLPP voters had already began celebrating in the streets of the capital, Freetown, on Wednesday evening, in anticipation of the election results. The party has not held the presidency since 2007.

SLPP officials urged supporters to remain calm. "Celebrate responsibly. Do not disturb your neighbor. Victory for all men, not victory for some. Everyone in, no one out," the party's campaign manager Ali Kabba told Bio supporters gathered at a Freetown hotel.

Read more: Waiting for benefits from Sierra Leone's giant 'peace diamond'

Challenges ahead for Bio

Bio will enter office with a mandate to continue rebuilding the poverty-stricken country. Despite enjoying a wealth of mineral and diamond deposits, Sierra Leone remains one of the world's poorest nations, having only gradually recovered from a long and deadly civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002. More than 15 years later, political loyalties divided along ethnic lines continue to run deep among the country's 7 million inhabitants.

Sierra Leone's economy also remains particularly volatile following a slump in commodity prices in 2015, which coincided with an Ebola epidemic that killed some 4,000 people.

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law,dm/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)