Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sierra Leone parties launch election campaigns

Campaigning for Sierra Leone's August 11 legislative and presidential elections began Tuesday, with outgoing head of state Ahmad Tejan Kabbah calling for "violent-free" polls.

"Let me remind all that politics is a friendly contest and we should accept the outcome. Let us all sustain the level of peace now existing in the country," said Kabbah, who is stepping down after serving for the maximum allowed two terms.

"All Sierra Leoneans should ensure that the elections are violent-free," he added.

The polls on August 11 will be closely watched abroad for signs confirming that the unrest that fuelled Sierra Leone's 1991-2001 civil war has been definitively quelled.

The spokeswoman for the country's National Electoral Commission, Miatta French, said seven parties had registered for the elections.

"We will observe how the parties campaign from now on until August 9 (the end of the campaigning period) to ensure that they keep within the law and not be violent in their utterances," she said.

On the same day as the two elections, Sierra Leone's voters will also be asked to vote in a referendum on changing the constitution.

A special UN envoy to the country, Victor Angelo, said: "The start of the campaign is important as Sierra Leone advances on the road to democratic consolidation."

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