World Bulletin / News Desk
More than 3 million Sierra Leoneans will be voting on March 7 for their next president and members of parliament in tense polls.
The elections are crucial because current President Ernest Bai Koroma of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) is completing his second and final term.
His party has put forward former Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Samura Kamara to succeed him, but he is being challenged by two strong opposition candidates: former military junta leader Julius Maada Bio of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and former United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) chief Dr. Kandeh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition (NGC).
According to the ruling party’s spokesman Alhaji Alpha Kanu, the APC has brought electricity, good roads and infrastructural development to the country and therefore wants continuity towards sustaining those projects.
“When it comes to moving this country to another level, Dr. Samura Kamara is the right man with the requisite skills for the job,” Kanu added.
But opposition candidates have been pointing out the lapses of the ruling government, suggesting a change.
Former military strongman Bio of the SLPP says the government has failed to address the issues of unemployment, corruption and quality education for youths.
“Education, job creation and controlling corruption will be a key agenda in my administration. This government has failed in every aspect of them. That’s why we need to kick them out of power,” he told his jubilant supporters Monday in the opposition stronghold city of Bo.
Yumkella, on the other hand, believes Sierra Leone needs a change from the traditional old parties to create a brighter future.
He has become popular of late as his NGC party believes in positive change.
“I have the experience of a former UN diplomat to govern this country. I have helped countries and institutions to transform under my leadership. I also have the right international connections to attract more opportunities,” he told his supporters at the national stadium in Freetown recently.
The three parties are the main ones among the 14 parties contesting the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Violence has also been reported in some parts of the country since the campaign was declared.
About two weeks ago, the SLPP and APC accused each other of attacking their flag bearers in their strongholds.
On Monday, the APC also accused members of the NGC in Kambia district in northern Sierra Leone of attacking the country’s chief of staff while he was there to campaign.
The chief of staff’s convoy was allegedly attacked with stones, and his vehicle got into an accident due to roadblocks, forcing him to flee for his life, Bai Mamoud Bangura, the country’s youth minister, told Sierra Leone’s national broadcaster SLBC.
He is responding to treatment.
Meanwhile, opposition parties and the police are in disagreement over a regulation that aims at restricting vehicular movement on election day. Police say vehicles without proper accreditation will not be allowed to ply the streets to minimize potential violence.
But opposition parties think the law is one that is bent on restricting their supporter’s movement in favor of the ruling party.
Campaigning officially ended Monday, and the elections commission and observers are busy deploying their staff and volunteers ahead of the polls.