Sierra Leoneans are going to the polls on Saturday to elect their leaders. Although 10 parties are slugging it out, the contest is between two prominent parties. Like most political contests in Africa, the election is already assuming frightening dimensions with attacks of political opponents, mudslinging, and breeding of fear, as reported by veteran journalist, Lindsay Barret. Reports coming out of Sierra Leone indicate that objective observers of that West African nation’s affairs are increasingly anxious over the course of what may eventually be regarded as the most important and closely fought of four elections held since its civil war ended a little over a decade ago.
Campaigning for the general election scheduled for November 17 has been intense but it is clear that the main contest will be a two-man race for the presidency between the incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma of the All Peoples Congress (APC) from the North, and the one-time military Head of State Brig.-Gen. Julius Maada Bio (rtd.), from the South-East, representing the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), the party credited with having led the nation to independence.
Maada Bio’s campaign has been energised by the fact that his running mate is a popular female former university lecturer and one-time Minister of Trade from the North, Dr. Kadi Sesay, the mother of the famous Cable News Newtwork (CNN) presenter Aisha Sesay. Evidence at rallies in recent weeks have shown that the pair are riding the crest of a wave of popularity among urban youth with substantial support in their party’s traditional strongholds in the south-east of the country as well as in the capital Freetown.
Although President Koroma has confidently promoted his party’s record in office, that record has been an open target for the opposition because of allegations about questionable actions by some key government figures.