The people of Sierra Leone went to the polls on Wednesday March 7, 2018 to elect a new leader, as President Earnest Bai Koroma is set to hand over power to a new leader after serving his second 5 years term.
About 3.17 million people registered to cast their ballots in 11,122 polling stations across Sierra Leone’s 16 Administration Districts. Sixteen candidates, including two women are vying to replace outgoing President Koroma.
More than 750 other candidates are contesting for the 144-seat in Parliament. This is the first time that Sierra Leone authorities are taking full charge of the electoral process following the departure of the UN Mission in 2014, and this is the fourth circle of election since the country’s civil war ended in 2002.
Sierra Leone, a country which shares recent history with Liberia in terms of a brutal civil war and a deadly Ebola virus outbreak, goes to the polls months after Liberia chose former soccer star, George Weah on December 26, 2017 to replace veteran politician and Africa’s first female President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
President Weah in a message to Sierra Leoneans on the eve of the crucial votes urged them to put their country first.
Mr. Weah was said to have made the call upon his arrival from Abuja, Nigeria following an official State visit to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He asked Sierra Leoneans to emulate Liberians who have chosen the path of peace to put their country first.
Observers from the regional grouping ECOWAS said on Wednesday that a slow start to the process was noticeable but the key point was that the process got off on a peaceful and orderly start.
“A slow start is noticeable, but the key point is that the process is peaceful and orderly,” said Prof. Amos Sawyer, Head of ECOWAS’ 65-member Observation Mission, after visiting several polling stations in Freetown’s Western Urban in company of the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affair, Peace and Security Gen. Francis Behanzin, leading the ECOWAS Commission’s Technical Support Team for the Mission.
Accroding to a dispatch from the ECOWAS observation mission, voting was scheduled officially from 7am to 5 pm, and by 6.45 am, when the ECOWAS Observation team arrived at the Lumley High School Polling Centre with 11 polling stations scores of voters were already on the queues waiting to cast their ballots.
Persons with disability, women and the elderly were not left out. Fifty-six-year-old Abdulai Koroma, a visually-challenged voter assisted by his friend Kamara, was among the early voters at the Lumley polling centre.
By Othello B. Garblah