Friday, August 03, 2007

Sierra Leone secure enough to hold elections: army

FREETOWN, Aug 2, 2007 (AFP) - The Sierra Leone military on Thursday declared the war-scarred country peaceful enough to hold credible elections despite outbreaks of campaign violence in the run up to the August 11 vote.

"The security situation is relatively calm and peaceful and we look forward to an election that is peaceful, credible and violence-free," army spokesman Brigadier-General Arthur Nelson-Williams told journalists.

The army had vowed to back police in cracking down on rising violence at the start of campaigning for the crunch presidential and legislative elections.

Nelson-Williams also sought to allay fears that the military was taking sides in the election campaign after scores of army vehicles were seen deploying across the country in recent days.

"Sierra Leone's army is now democratic. The army will never intervene in the politics of the country," he said.

He said the army has loaned 80 vehicles to the National Electoral Commission to assist with logistics.

"But we are not interfering in their electoral work."

"The temporary deployment of our vehicles and military drivers is in the interest of the state and not to any political party," he said, adding some drivers had come under verbal abuse and physical threat.

He has said the army is also assisting police in securing the capital's water supply dam, hospitals, oil depots and borders in the run up to polling.

Outbreaks of campaign violence in parts of the country have raised fears that the nation's chances of definitively turning its back on a brutal 10-year conflict which ended in 2001 could be undermined.

News: West Africa, Sierra Leone secure enough to hold elections: army