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Polls open in Sierra Leone to elect successor to President Bai Koroma

Polls open in Sierra Leone to elect successor to President Bai Koroma

Prof. Amos Sawyer, Head of the ECOWAS' 55-member Election Observation Mission has appealed to Sierra Leone's political actors and stakeholders to cooperate and ensure that all outstanding political and legal issues are resolved peaceful so as not to jeopardize the smooth conduct of the country's crucial March 7 presidential, parliamentary and local council polls.

But his All People's Congress (APC) party is represented on the ballot by his hand-picked successor, Dr Samura Kamara, whose main challenger is Brig.

Still, whoever gains the presidency today will inherit a hard position.

"Sierra Leone has come a long way from its civil war and what is required is the collective efforts by the citizens, the government, security agencies, the judiciary, civil society and the media to take the country to the next level", declared the former Interim President of Liberia.

Sierra Leone runs a bi-cameral legislature of 124 lawmakers.

Immediately on the agenda will be addressing International Monetary Fund concerns, which last month delayed a $224 million payout to the country in response to taxation anomalies.

President Ernest Bai Koroma, who can not run again after consecutive five-year terms, has anointed former foreign minister Samura Kamara as his successor to the ruling All Peoples Party (APC). But it is the first the government is presiding over without total support from the global community.

Sierra Leone's economy is in a poor state following the twin shocks of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis and a drop in commodity prices on its highly export-dependent economy. "I need to sustain what he has achieved... and build on it". Gen Julius Maada Bio (rtd), noted that the presence of Jonathan and other "former African Presidents in Sierra Leone was an indication that democracy is on the rise on the continent". "We have been able to draw people from across the religious, ethnic and regional spectrum".

"They have huge resources compared to us but we have connected to the people better", Spencer added.

President Weah urged the people of Sierra Leone to emulate the good example of Liberia, who after almost 14 years of civil war realized peace is the true path to development.

The issue of corruption has dominated the campaign, as Bio is accused of stealing $18 million while heading a junta government in 1996 and Kamara is nicknamed "Mr 10 percent" for allegedly skimming his own fee off government contracts.

Meanwhile, outgoing president Koroma's increasing reliance on China for infrastructure, including a new airport and adjoining toll road, have raised concerns that Beijing is seeking to keep the APC in power.


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