A spokesman for the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) says the people would elect incumbent Vice President Solomon Berewa in the September 8 run-off election because he helped end Sierra Leone’s civil war and played a leading role in the country’s post-war development effort.
After speaking with opposition candidate Ernest Koroma on Monday, VOA had hoped to speak with Vice President Berewa, but the party said he was busy with other pressing party matters.
However, spokesman Victor Reider of the SLPP told VOA Sierra Leoneans would elect Vice President Berewa on September 8 because the incumbent government helped entrenched democracy in the country.
“I believe that the people of Sierra Leone will be electing the vice president because of his track record. He has been eminent and very successful, erudite lawyer. He came into politics at the time when this country begged for people who were experienced enough to end the rebel war which previous regimes were not able to put an end to. And as a vice president, he has been in the center of all our development projects,” he said.
In an interview with VOA Monday, opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People’s Congress (APC) party described Sierra Leone’s economy under the incumbent government as characterized by low productivity, high youth unemployment, and non-performance infrastructure.
On the contrary, Reider said the SLPP government has done a lot to revive an economy ravaged by years of civil war.
“When we took over the state in 1996, our GDP was minus 17 percent. From 2003 we’ve been experiencing a growth rate of an average of six point five to seven percent. We have been able to stabilize the exchange rate for the last four years. We have also been able to revitalize key economic sectors such mining, construction, and industry,” he said
Reider said the ills in the economy, which Koroma referred to were inherited from two dozen years of APC rule.
“We accept the situation which we inherited which was one of massive unemployment...but like I said these malaise were inherited mainly from the 24 years of APC misrule that was characterized by institutionalized corruption, mass unemployment, mass illiteracy, lack of power in terms of electricity and water were scarce necessities,” Reider said
He said Vice President Berewa coming second in the first round of the presidential election was not because the people did not approve of the government’s management of the economy but rather it was a sign that democracy was flourishing in Sierra Leone.
“It shows the extent to which democracy has been encouraged by the current regime. We have been able to allow freedom of speech and the press. It would interest you to know that for a small nation of four, five million people, we have over 45 local newspapers, we have over 40 private radio stations, and we have two television stations, one private and one public. We have raised the awareness level of our people to an extent where the results, though surprising to a large extent, could be credited to our commitment to a free, fair, and transparent election,” he said.
In what appears to be the first revelation of its kind by the government, Reider said the opposition APC committed irregularities in the August 11 election.
“Let me inform you that when you take all the 12 districts votes into consideration, Mr. Berewa defeated Mr. Koroma by almost 20,000 votes. It was only in the capital where Mr. Koroma made some inroads that were completely questionable. But we still are doing our investigation. We have forwarded our petition to the National Electoral Commission requesting an investigation into some irregularities, which we have noticed. So it is not that the people of Sierra Leone did not vote Mr. Berewa, they voted Mr. Berewa but the elections were to certain extent in some areas marred by irregularities, especially in the north and the western areas,” Reider said.
On Monday, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah threatened to declare a state of emergency because of election-related violence. Reider said the violence could be blamed on the opposition APC.
“Without hesitation, I will tell you the violence has been perpetrated by the APC opposition party. You see, the APC has a strategy of diverting people’s attention to whatever unscrupulous act they want to commit. They kept intimidating and harassing our people all over this place,” Reider said.