A time of change: elections in Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone
Freetown from the air © David Hond

General elections are being held in Sierra Leone on 7 March 2018.  As well as electing a new parliament and local councils, the country will vote on who will succeed current President, Ernest Bai Koroma.

President Koroma

President Koroma, leader of the All People’s Congress (APC), has been in power in Sierra Leone since 2007.  He is ineligible to stand to be President again, having already served the maximum two terms of office, which are permitted under Sierra Leone constitutional law.  Koroma’s re-election success in 2012, represented the country’s first elections held without UN supervision since the end of the civil war in 2001.

So, who are the candidates most likely to succeed President Koroma?

Candidates

The successor to Ernest Bai Koroma at the All People’s Congress is Samura Kamara, who previously served as the foreign minister for the party.

The main opposition party is the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).  Their candidate is Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, former military Head of State in 1996.

The National Grand Coalition is a splinter group of the SLPP, and its candidate is Kandeh Yumkella.

Former Vice President of the APC, Samuel Sam-Sumana, is the candidate of the Coalition for Change party.

And the recently-formed Unity Party is represented by Femi Claudius Cole, who is bidding to become Sierra Leone’s first woman President.

Mamoud Idriss Tarawallie

Mamoud is a PhD candidate and Commonwealth scholar, and also a tutor on the Political Economy of Violence, Conflict and Development module at SOAS University of London.  He is also team leader of the DFID-funded project, The Standing Together for Free, Fair and Peaceful Election Project in Sierra Leone.

He gives his viewpoint on the current elections:

Can you outline your role in The Standing Together for Free, Fair and Peaceful Election Project in Sierra Leone?

“I am the Team Leader of the Standing Together for Democracy Consortium, a coalition of seven civil society (local and international) organisations supporting the electoral process in Sierra Leone.  As Team Leader, I am in charge of the management of all aspects of the Consortium and its elections project, including consortium management, planning and quality implementation of project activities, project team supervision, financial planning and oversight, reporting, plus internal and external coordination and management of electoral and donor relations.”

What is the aim of the Project?

“The overall objective of the project is to contribute to creating the conditions for free, fair and peaceful election in Sierra Leone.”

What changes in Sierra Leone have you witnessed during Ernest Bai Koroma’s presidency?

“This is a subjective question.  Assessment of Ernest Koroma’s presidency is actually dependent on who you talk to.  On a fair and honest note, infrastructural development will be seen as Ernest Bai Koroma’s greatest achievement.  Relative to 2007 when he came to office, energy supply has increased and the road network has improved significantly.”

Would you care to predict the winner of the general election?                     

“I cannot make predictions by virtue of my position.  However, with 16 presidential candidates, you would expect that this will be a hotly contested election.  But, judging solely from our voting patterns in the previous elections, the APC-SLPP divide will persist.  It is also possible that one party will win the elections on the first ballot.  Opinion and exit polls are not so strong in Sierra Leone.  So, let’s wait for the 3.1 million registered Sierra Leoneans to decide.”

Are you optimistic for Sierra Leone’s future direction?

“Very much optimistic. This is our 5th democratic elections since 1996 and our 4th post-war elections.  We have made massive progress since the end of the war, and considering that development is incremental, every successful political transition contributes to our development.”

Want to learn more?

SOAS University of London runs a postgraduate course on MSc African Politics, and modules on The State and Politics in Africa, International Relations of Africa, and African Political Thought on its undergraduate courses BA Politics and BA International Relations.

Find out more

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