Accessibility links

Sierra Leone Presidential Candidates Pledge to Control Violence


The two parties in Sierra Leone's presidential runoff have said the only rally to be held in the capital before Saturday's vote will be a joint peace rally between the parties. This followed a police warning against gatherings in Freetown. Opposition leader Ernest Koroma and Vice President and candidate Solomon Berewa met with President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and pledged to reign in their supporters after recent renewed clashes left many injured. Kari Barber has more for VOA from Freetown.

Hundreds of young people gather for training at the opposition All People's Congress headquarters in Freetown, the party of candidate Ernest Koroma.

Party leaders explain that with recent clashes between their party and the rival Sierra Leone People's Party, they need to remind young followers to refrain from fights this week as they disperse throughout the country to monitor the election.

APC youth leader Bai Mahamoud Bangura says young people in the nation, whose wounds are still fresh from recent civil war, are especially vulnerable to fall back into violence.

"There is a saying that for any group of youths, violence is a father. Which means we are very simple to be used in order to ignite violence," said Bangura.

After fights broke out in the streets of Freetown Saturday President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah called a meeting with APC's Koroma and Vice President Berewa, of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, demanding they take control of their parties. The two candidates signed a pledge to combat violence in their ranks, including a promise to stop using ex-combatants and vigilante groups as security.

Sallieu Camara of civic society organization Network Movement for Justice and Development says that although the fighting has been sporadic, citizens are on high alert.

"It is a cause for concern because we are just coming from war, so we do not want to see a situation where our youths are branding weapons on the street and fighting each other because we do not know where that will take us," said Camara.

Camara says the first round of voting saw little violence because there were seven candidates competing, but now with the finish in sight, the candidates themselves are feeling the pressure.

"It is like everybody is desperate to be a leader and that desperation is trickling down to their supporters so you see them misbehaving," added Camara.

International observers deemed the first round mostly free and fair. Koroma led Vice President Berewa 44 percent to 38 percent and then received another boost when third-place candidate Charles Margai threw his support behind the opposition leader.

The first round presidential election, held August 11, was the first since thousands of U.N. troops withdrew in 2005.

XS
SM
MD
LG