Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sierra Leone poll peace rally snubbed

Rival candidates Ernest Koroma (L) and Solomon Berewa

The opposition candidate in Sierra Leone's presidential run-off on Saturday has refused to take part in a peace rally intended to ease tensions.

Ernest Koroma said his supporters were being harassed around the country, so he boycotted the rally in protest.

Vice-President Solomon Berewa addressed the rally and said he was disappointed at Mr Koroma's failure to attend.

The event was planned to ease tensions after clashes between rival supporters in recent weeks.

"I wish he were here so the two of us could demonstrate to the country that we are in for peace. Not politics but peace," Mr Berewa told the BBC.

Militias re-armed

Instead, Mr Koroma made a speech at the headquarters of his All People's Congress (APC), while his supporters chanted: "Ernest says no violence".

"Why should I go on a peace march when all is not well? I believe I have sent the right signal," Mr Koroma told the BBC. He complained his people were not allowed free access to certain areas of the country, including Kailahun in the south-east.

He accused Mr Berewa of rearming the civilian militia, known as the Kamajors.

"Let Berewa allow our people free access all over the country. He has armed people all over the country." But he said he was still committed to peace.

Sierra Leone is slowly recovering from a brutal, decade-long civil war.

The two rivals agreed a peace deal last weekend, following clashes between rival supporters in the capital, Freetown.

In the first round on 11 August, Mr Koroma took 44% of the vote to Mr Berewa's 38%.

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | S Leone poll peace rally snubbed