Sierra Leone election: Julius Mata Bio sworn in as opposition rallying cry

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Julius Mata Bio, a retired army officer, was first elected in 2018

Incumbent Julius Mata Bio has been declared the winner of Sierra Leone’s presidential election, but opposition parties have disputed the count.

Official figures give Mr Bio 56% votes. His main rival, Samura Kamara, trailed behind with 41%.

A candidate needs more than 55% for complete success and avoid the second round.

After the first term results were released on Monday, Dr Kamara called the decision “daylight robbery”.

International election observers have highlighted problems with transparency in vote counting.

Saturday’s vote took place amid tension, but President Bio called on Sierra Leoneans to “keep calm”.

The 59-year-old, a former soldier, was sworn in for his second and final five-year term on Tuesday night.

The retired army brigadier took part in a military coup during the country’s civil war in 1992, toppling the junta in 1996 and paving the way for free elections that year.

Scenes of celebration were reported in the capital Freetown, with supporters of Mr Bio holding his banner and marching through the city’s wet streets.

The contest between him and 72-year-old Dr. Kamara went to the second consecutive round of the 2018 election.

Dr. Kamara, who was the candidate of the All Peoples Congress (APC) this time, has alleged that his electoral agents were not allowed to verify the vote count.

“We don’t believe that integrity was maintained throughout the election,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme, noting that seals on some ballot boxes had been broken before they were counted.

He, however, insisted that they had no evidence of fraud and that most of the electoral process went smoothly.

Ahead of the polls, ABC filed a complaint with the Election Commission. The Commission, however, insisted that it had mechanisms in place to ensure a fair vote.

The presidential, parliamentary and local council elections came at the end of a campaign marred by several incidents of violence.

Last week, the APC alleged that one of its supporters was shot dead by the police, which the police denied.

The party said one of its supporters was killed when security forces tried to break up a rally at its headquarters in Freetown on Sunday.

Members of Mr Bio’s party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), have said they were attacked by enemies during the campaign.

The campaign took place against the backdrop of a troubled economy, rising cost of living and concerns about national unity.

Mr Bio, who blamed the country’s woes on external factors such as the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, is now tasked with addressing these issues.

The election is the fifth since Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war officially ended in 2002. It was a brutal conflict, with an estimated 50,000 dead and thousands having their arms and legs amputated.

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