Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bishops in Sierra Leone condemn violence before presidential runoff

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (CNS) -- Catholic bishops in Sierra Leone have condemned the violence leading up to the presidential runoff election.
"We condemn all persons who by their acts or conduct foment sentiments of tribalism and regionalism as a means of gaining political power," the bishops said.
They said the elections were a testing ground to see how much the nation had cultivated a culture of peace, nonviolence and respect for the law.
"Riotous acts of indiscipline, retaliation, destruction, violence and disrespect for the rule of law are sinful and inadmissible practices," they added.
The bishops urged the people of Sierra Leone to "submit to God," strive for unity, show respect for each others' rights and disregard divisive ethnic sentiments. They called on people to pray for a "God-fearing president and Parliament."
Catholic institutions around the country, including Radio Maria and the national Commission for Peace and Justice, have been educating voters.
Of seven political parties in the Aug. 11 elections, two emerged with the highest votes. Since no candidate got at least 55 percent of the vote as required by law, a runoff was scheduled for Sept. 8. The All People's Congress, led by Ernest Koroma, pulled in the most votes, and the Sierra Leone People's Party, led by Vice President Solomon Berewa, finished second.
This time, a candidate needs a simple majority to win.
Violence has ensued between supporters of the two political parties. Houses were burned in Rotifunk, in southern Sierra Leone, and some houses were damaged in Kono, in the country's east. Violent clashes occurred Sept. 2 in the capital, Freetown.
Several people have been injured, although no one has been reported dead from the violence.

CNS STORY: Bishops in Sierra Leone condemn violence before presidential runoff