Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sierra Leoneans vote in run-off poll

Queue of voters in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 8 September 2007

Voters in Sierra Leone are going to the polls for the decisive second round of a closely-fought presidential election.

Tensions have been high following the first round last month, which did not produce a clear winner.

The ruling party's candidate, Solomon Berewa, and opposition candidate Ernest Koroma are in the run-off.

The first round was widely praised for being free and fair and a positive step forward for a country still recovering from a decade-long civil war.

The result of this presidential election is likely to be very close and that is one reason why the tension has increased recently in several areas of the country.

At times this has led to violence but only isolated cases. For most Sierra Leonians the number one priority is peace.

Tough job

The newly-formed electoral commission has been widely praised for the organisation of the polls. You could say Sierra Leone gave the rest of Africa a lesson in democracy.

Rival candidates Ernest Koroma (L) and Solomon Berewa

In the first round, Vice-President Solomon Berewa was given a wake-up call and trailed Ernest Koroma. The governing party also lost its majority in parliament.

With the stakes high it is not surprising that accusations of foul play have been tossed back and forth by the two candidates and their parties.

To cool things down civil society groups, including young musicians, have toured the country pushing a strong anti-violence message.

Sierra Leonians hope this message gets through as many are keen to see the back of the election and move on.

The winner will have a tough job - not only of rebuilding the country but also uniting it. This election has highlighted regional and ethnic divisions.

BBC NEWS | Africa | S Leoneans vote in run-off poll