News / Africa

    Sierra Leone Vote Counting Proceeds

    A woman carrying a baby on her back votes at a polling station in Freetown on November 17, 2012.
    A woman carrying a baby on her back votes at a polling station in Freetown on November 17, 2012.
    Anne Look
    Vote counting is underway in the West African nation of Sierra Leone after a calm, but enthusiastic, day of polling for presidential, parliamentary and local elections.

    Polling stations opened more or less on time to long lines of voters in the capital, Freetown, Saturday.

    Voters said peace and progress were on their minds.

    "I've got to be here to put things right. To put things right here, we have to vote for the right person in the right place and I've got to be a part of that," said a voter who gave her name as Fona.
     
    "We are looking for progress in our country. That is my main purpose of coming here to vote. I am quite sure this vote is going to be peaceful and we are hoping nothing like chaos will happen here," said voter John Camara.
     
    A third voter, Peter Beckley, expressed hope for a brighter future for Sierra Leone.
     
    "I believe this is the only way I can express what I wish for this country, a better life for everybody especially the fact that we have actually lagged behind as far as education is concerned," he said. "There are a lot of unemployed youths on the streets. People don't have the basic necessities that they really deserve to get life going."
     
    The election is a key test for Sierra Leone as it tries to prove its democratic credentials and shake off a violent past, now ten years since the end of a brutal decade long civil war.
     
    The European Union's chief election observer, Richard Howitt, said that turnout looked high. He said he had talked to voters who had gotten in line as early as 2 a.m.

    "Huge enthusiasm, a good atmosphere," Howitt noted. "If there's any ill-temper, than it's really just people being impatient for waiting quite long times to exercise their [right to] vote."
     
    Violence has erupted during previous elections. Police and military manned roadblocks in the capital and were positioned throughout polling stations on Saturday.
     
    Civil society groups set up a "Citizen's Situation Room" to monitor the voting environment in real time via text messages from 9,493 observers, one for each polling station.
     
    A child street vendor stands in front of a poster for Sierra Leone's ruling party presidential candidate Ernest Bai Koroma, Freetown, Nov. 16, 2012.A child street vendor stands in front of a poster for Sierra Leone's ruling party presidential candidate Ernest Bai Koroma, Freetown, Nov. 16, 2012.
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    A child street vendor stands in front of a poster for Sierra Leone's ruling party presidential candidate Ernest Bai Koroma, Freetown, Nov. 16, 2012.
    A child street vendor stands in front of a poster for Sierra Leone's ruling party presidential candidate Ernest Bai Koroma, Freetown, Nov. 16, 2012.
    Incumbent president Ernest Bai Koroma is running for a second five-year term in office under the banner of the All People's Congress, or APC. He voted amid cheers from supporters at a polling station in Freetown.
     
    Koroma told reporters that he is pleased by the "huge turnout" and the peaceful process up to this moment that he hopes will continue. He says this is a democratic process and "when the people speak we have to listen."
     
    Koroma's top competition is opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People's Party or SLPP. Bio is a former military leader who stepped down just months after a 1996 coup. He also cast his ballot in the capital, Freetown.
     
    "I have said always that we want a clean election, an election whose results all of us can afford to live with, one that is not controversial, one that is transparent, one that is free of violence … Definitely, I am ready to live with a result that represents the wish and aspirations of the majority of people of this nation," he said.
     
    There is concern that disputes over results, in particular unofficial partial results released by the media and political parties, could spark violence. The National Election Commission has 10 days to announce final results. 
     
    If none of the nine presidential candidates wins 55 percent of the vote, a run-off is planned for December 8.

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    Comments
         
    by: Gibrilla from: China
    November 21, 2012 4:28 AM
    Bravo Sierra Leoneans for conducting another free, fair and peaceful election. We indeed position our sweet mama Salone as a true model of Democracy in Africa. We are getting their fellow Sierra leoneans. Let us all join hands together with who so ever is declared as the winner and move our country from where it is. Almighty God will expose and punish who so ever is planning any evil and unrest in our beloved land. We only have one Sierra Leone.

    by: Claudia Cline-Cole from: Freetown
    November 19, 2012 11:59 AM
    I want to applaud the people of Sierra Leone in maintaining peace during the election. It was FREE from VIOLENCE!!! However, according to the NEC chairperson, Dr Christiana Thorpe, there was huge irregularities which included ballot stuffing, over voting etc. Sierra Leoneans are waiting patiently to see what happens next as the same situation (irregularities) happened in 2007 and results from 477 polling stations were cancelled. Dr Thorpe your credibility is at stake and we expect you to cancel any polling station(s) that defaulted.


    by: rosaline freetown from: freetown
    November 19, 2012 9:28 AM
    Ample evidence of vote rigging and other irregularities witnessed and have been partly confirmed by the NEC itself and finally reports in international media.

    Sierra leone braces for poll results amid fraud claims http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g1S5zK7yurSwT1zBLUezhkO9 DAEg?docId=CNG.c5c524bbb5ef74aa7cee6bd1d1e2e2fb.521

    by: Demba Marah from: Boston, USA
    November 18, 2012 11:02 PM
    I here by shower my brothers and sisters with an enormous praise for the good loyalty they have shown to their beloved country, Sierra Leone during election day. We the Sierra leoneans had set a pace for other states to follow our example. I hope we have good governance in the entire country and God bless mother Sierra leone. Thanks.

    by: Mo Bangura from: Reading UK
    November 18, 2012 12:55 PM
    What a great turnout and what a peaceful elections!!! Sierra Leoneans can do anything if they so wish, we will show the world that we are intelligent people with a stronger bond than ever. God bless this country and people. We did it before and we are doing it again. Thank you all for exercising your citizenship right.
    MMBB in UK

    by: Anonymous
    November 18, 2012 7:05 AM
    We all continue to pray for our beloved Sierra Leone. We are hoping for a change for the better . My plea to all contestants is, you all cannot rule the country at the same Time, so, give chance to whoever is declared winner. Sierra Leone used to be the Athens of Africa for education, but we have lagged behind. Let's push now my people
    In Response

    by: Abdul Pumagoi from: United States
    November 18, 2012 8:59 PM
    Absolutely, and our prayers will not go in vain. It is time for our beloved country to emerge from the decades of oblivion, and to fully embrace the wind of change modernization brings. I would like to admonish our next president to stir the ship of our country with compassion.
    In Response

    by: SAS from: Boston, MA
    November 18, 2012 2:36 PM
    I'm impressed by the Election's non-violence strategy. Sierra Leone election on a peaceful process up to election day is a bravo to the organizers, advisers and contestants. Keep it up.
    Yes it's quiet true that Education is the backone of developmet, and let who ever wins address this issue to the highest degree. This is for the benefit of all all. Thank you.

    by: Kassim from: United States
    November 17, 2012 11:56 PM
    A common misconception: "ten years since the end of a brutal decade long civil war." The conflict in sierra leone was not a civil war but rather unorganized banditry. There were no leaders but rather groups of armed youths, drawn into the conflict by drugs and desperation. The government was so weak that it could provide no protection, none the less organization. It was a chaotic anarchistic time period, when rebels and bandits reigned in a lawless society, killing each other just at they killed the citizens of freetown.

    by: joxua88 from: Burlington
    November 17, 2012 4:21 PM
    I'd be a leader for Sierra Leone, if granted the privilege to aspire the community of Freetown. I'm pretty inspired here in America!

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