Calm in Sierra Leone despite contested election result

Supporters Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio celebrate on the streets following his re-election in Freetown [John Wessels/AFP]

Many people said they were relieved at the peaceful atmosphere after electoral tensions and fears of violence.

The streets of Sierra Leone’s capital were quiet a day after President Julius Maada Bio was sworn in for a second term following an election his main rival slammed as “not credible”.

Central Freetown on Wednesday was calm as people went about their business at the start of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, a public holiday.

Some women sold food at a market and motorcycle and tuk-tuk taxi drivers were out on rain-soaked streets scouting for customers.

Many people said they were relieved at the peaceful atmosphere after electoral tensions and fears of violence in a country with a long history of turbulence.

“I’m happy, not even because of the result, but I’m happy with the way everything came and went because our expectations were really high that it was going to be like a catastrophe,” said Amanda, 40, a hotel employee who did not want to give her last name.

‘Calm but tense’

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Freetown, said attention is now shifting to opposition supporters and how they will react.

“For now though, the streets remain calm, but tense,” he said. “And most people here just want to get on with their lives.”

Bio, 59, who leads the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), was sworn in on Tuesday immediately after the electoral commission announced he narrowly won an outright victory in the first round of voting, with 56.17 percent of the ballot.

Presidential candidates need 55 percent of the vote in the first round to avoid a run-off.

Since the end of Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war, no incumbent has failed to secure a victory in the first round. Sierra Leone has a two-term presidential limit.

Tense rematch

The vote on Saturday was a rematch of a 2018 race that saw Bio, a former coup leader who campaigned on progressive policies, edge out Samura Kamara of the All People’s Congress (APC).

But he took the helm just before the West African state was pummeled by the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by crippling levels of inflation.

European Union observers have denounced violence by security forces, which left one woman dead, at the APC headquarters in Freetown on Sunday night, in what the police said was an effort to disperse opposition supporters.

Kamara, an ex-minister and economist, does not appear to have conceded defeat.

“I categorically reject the outcome so announced by the electoral commission,” the candidate – who won 41.16 percent of the vote, according to the electoral commission – said on Twitter on Tuesday.




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