A deadly mudslide. A horrible Ebola virus that killed thousands. And a nation still in recovery from a civil war that killed more than 50,000 people. As Sierra Leoneans go to the polls on Wednesday, they hope to elect a leader who can help them overcome these tragedies. More than a dozen candidates are vying for votes in Wednesday’s election in what officials hope will be a peaceful democratic transition more than five decades since Sierra Leone gained independence. Though recent elections have been peaceful, several episodes of violence have occurred at political rallies this time, at least one death has been reported and several people have been seriously wounded. The Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the European Union have all issued statements calling for a peaceful election, as have many of the candidates.
President Ernest Bai Koroma is stepping down after serving a second, five-year term during a decade punctuated by tragedy. He led the recovery from both the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and from a mudslide last year that killed hundreds.
But Mr. Koroma’s administration has been dogged by allegations of corruption and constitutional violations. During the Ebola outbreak, which killed nearly 4,000 people in Sierra Leone, the country’s auditor general reported that more than $14 million meant to help fight the deadly virus went unaccounted for. In 2015, Mr. Koroma fired his vice president, an action that a regional court ruled was illegal.