SIERRA LEONE: Ruling party loses vote, opposition leader made president

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On 17 September, following what observers say were largely peaceful and fair elections, the former ruling party candidate Solomon Berewa conceded defeat and the former opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma was sworn in as president.

"I know how huge your expectations are," President Koroma of the All Peoples Congress (APC) said to Sierra Leoneans in his inaugural speech. ”You have suffered for too long.”

Five years after the end of a brutal decade-long civil war, the country is still one of the poorest in the world with low life expectancy, few basic human services and widespread corruption.

Koroma said he would lead the country into a new era. "My government - a government of national unity in which nobody should feel threatened - will adopt zero tolerance on corruption."

Jubilation erupted in the capital Freetown as soon as the final results were announced. The celebrations have so far been peaceful though police have been out in force.

“No incidence of violence has been reported across the country but it is early days yet,” police spokesman Chris Charley told IRIN.

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) chairwoman Christiana Thorpe said in a press conference on 17 September to announce the final results that it would not count results in 477 of the country’s 6,000 polling stations. Most of those not counted were in the former ruling party’s strongholds in Kailahun, Pujehun and Bo regions in the south and east of the country.

Thorpe said at the conference that the reason most of the results were cancelled because the number of votes counted at those polling station exceeded the number of voters registered there.

Two of the five NEC commissioners who both come from the areas where most of the results were cancelled announced that they rejected the NEC results and walked out of the press conference.

Thorpe defended her decision. “There is no longer a place for fraud and malpractice in the Sierra Leone electoral system,” she said. “The people of Sierra Leone deserve to exercise their rights in an atmosphere of freedom, fairness and transparency”.

The losing Sierra Leone People’s Party sought a court injunction to block the NEC from announcing the results on 17 September but failed.

Source: IRIN
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