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Victory of Sierra Leone President Was by Landslide Margin - 2002-05-19

Sierra Leone's president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, easily won re-election Sunday, in a landmark vote, the first after ten years of brutal civil war.

The head of the National Electoral Commission, Walter Nicol, announced that President Kabbah has been elected, winning 70.3% of the vote, far exceeding the 55 percent needed to give him victory in the first round of the presidential vote.

Mr. Kabbah, who has a mandate to rule for five years, headed immediately for the swearing in ceremony.

The news was met by an explosion of joy in Freetown, with supporters of his Sierra Leone Peoples' Party, dancing and shouting in the streets, and taxis blaring their horns.

Mr. Kabbah's closest rival, Ernest Koroma of the All People' Congress which once governed Sierra Leone, won 22.35 percent of the vote.

The result signals a sweeping rejection by the people of the former rebel Revolutionary United Front, which waged a ten-year campaign of violence to take control of government and the country's diamond fields.

The bloody civil war between the rebels and the government-loyal Kamajor Civil Defense Force, left tens of thousands dead. Countless more bear the scars of the militia's brutality, missing hands, arms and legs cut off by machetes.

With their leader, Foday Sankoh, in jail, the former rebels' candidate scored just 1.7 percent of the vote, out of a total of nine candidates.

The former rebels' party also failed to win a single one of the 112 parliamentary seats, in legislative elections also carried out on Tuesday.

Kabbah's SLPP party, won 83 seats, while Ernest Koroma's APC party received 27 seats.

The Peace and Liberation Party of former junta leader, Johnny Paul Koroma, who regularly switched sides from rebel to government during the war, won just two seats.

The presidential and parliamentary elections were the first since Sierra Leone officially declared an end to its war early this year.

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