Sierra Leone now has a president-elect, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio who scored 1,319, 406 valid vote casts, representing 51.81 percent in the March 31st runoff polls. His main contender, Dr. Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara, scored 1, 227, 171 votes, representing 48.19 percent of valid vote casts.  Abu Bakarr Sulaiman Tarawally has been following events in the capital Freetown as he reports.

He was sworn in shortly after the national returning officer and Chief Electoral Commissioner declared him winner at NEC’s Pent House, on Tower Hill in Freetown, having secured the highest number of votes cast in the runoff election.

Dr. Samura Kamara, the defeated All People’s Congress candidate cut the celebrations off with a statement on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation that his supporters should stay calm but he would contest the results in the court of law.

According to the NEC boss, Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh, none of the presidential contestants in the March 7 polls, scored the required 55 percent threshold the 1991 constitution dictated to declare a candidate winner in the presidential race.

In the first presidential elections leading to the runoff, Julius Maada Bio scored 1, 097, 482 total valid vote casts representing 43.3 percent up against Dr. Samura Kamara who scored 1,082, 748 total valid vote casts representing 42.7 percent in the final results as at 13th, March 2018, representing 100 percent of the 11, 122 polling stations across Sierra Leone.

139, 427 votes were invalid and 2, 537,122 valid votes were casted in the first round of multi-tier elections contested by 16 political parties. The results excluded 221 polling stations with evidence of over voting. NEC cited section 87 (2) of the public elections Act 2012 for the recourse action. NEC also did a recount in 154 polling stations, which results were included in the announced figures.

Maada Bio signing the executive order

Opposition figure, Julius Maada Bio secured his first term in office as a civilian president, Wednesday April 4, 2018, when he was declared the winner of a controversial presidential run-off.

Bio, a former soldier briefly led a military junta more than two decades ago. Cheers and songs erupted among thousands of Bio’s supporters who were gathered in the capital Freetown on Wednesday evening. Shortly after the announcement, Bio was sworn in as president, handed a symbolic command baton by the country’s top judge.

But hopes for a smooth transition were soon thrown into doubt after Dr Samura Kamara said he was rejecting the National Electoral Commission’s results.

« We dispute the results and we will take legal action to correct them, » Kamara said in a televised address, calling on his supporters to stay calm.

The results, he added, « do not reflect the party’s many concerns about massive ballot box stuffing, supernumerary votes, and other irregularities. »

The official results of the vote had been delayed by a dispute over the method of tallying. The campaign was characterised by ugly verbal exchanges and sporadic violence with Bio accusing the APC of using police intimidation against his party.

Police reported a string of attacks on candidates and supporters on both sides since the first round on March 7, which Bio narrowly won –after which Kamara declared that « the safety and security of Sierra Leone is in our hands ».

Bio, a straight-talking retired brigadier, has blasted the government’s closeness to China, while Dr. Samura Kamara had presented himself as a continuity candidate.

Although international observers reported some « issues » during the March 31 second round that saw heightened security measures, the monitors declared themselves « satisfied » with the overall conduct of the poll.

Earlier on Wednesday, Dr. Samura Kamara’s supporters marched in Freetown, tearing down Bio posters and alleging « foreign meddling » in the vote. Former president of Ghana John Dramani Mahama and British High Commissioner, Guy Warrington were singled out for personal attacks to which Julius Maada Bio has issued an apology, calling the offenders ‘uncivilized.’

Security forces erected a cordon around Bio’s SLPP party headquarters, where hundreds of supporters had already begun celebrating victory ahead of the expected official results.

A total of 3.1 million people were registered to vote in the first presidential poll. Political loyalties are often divided along ethnic lines and traumatic memories of the 1991-2002 civil war run deep.

Bio was in a group of young soldiers behind a 1992 coup that installed Valentine Strasser, as the youngest head of state in the world, at age 25.

He later took power but agreed to step aside in 1996 for an elected civilian leader, and his subsequent apologies for his role in the junta appear to have rehabilitated his image.

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Abu Bakarr Tarawally is a Journalist based in Freetown. He works for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer. He has once served as Editor for a few newspapers in Freetown, including Sierra Express Media, The Exclusive Newspaper and his own newspaper, the Daily Express Publications. He is a teacher trainer, and loves writing and reading a lot. Email: abstarawally@gmail.com. Call +232 88601277 or +2327661303.

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