politics

Former Civil War Leader Wins Tight Presidential Race in Sierra Leone

Updated on
  • SLPP’s Julius Maada Bio obtained 51.81 percent of votes
  • Maada Bio ruled briefly in the 1990s as head of junta

Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party speaks to media on March 31, in Freetown. 

Photographer: Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images

Sierra Leone elected as president an opposition politician who briefly ruled the West African nation as head of a junta during the civil war in the 1990s.

Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party was declared the winner on Wednesday of a tight presidential run-off by the electoral commission after receiving 51.81 percent of ballots cast against 48.19 percent for his opponent, Samura Kamara, of the All People’s Congress.

Maada Bio, 53, was sworn in almost immediately after the results were announced. He will face the tough challenge of reviving an economy that’s struggling to recover from the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola and an iron-ore slump. Kamara said Thursday on state TV he will challenge the outcome, alleging ballot-stuffing. The second round of the election was delayed by days after a member of the APC laid a complaint of fraud in the first round.

During his campaign, Maada Bio pledged to fight corruption and create jobs. The vote was the second time Maada Bio ran for the presidency as head of the main opposition SLPP. As a young soldier in 1992, he helped topple the then-ruling APC in a bloodless coup before overthrowing his friend and military leader Valentine Strasser four years later. His junta handed over power following democratic elections that year.

Even as Maada Bio won the presidency, the APC obtained a majority of seats in parliament during the first round of the voting on March 7.

Sierra Leone has experienced many upheavals since independence from Britain in 1961, most notably its 1991-2002 civil war. In 2012, the country was sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing economy as iron ore took over from diamonds as its biggest export. But the double shock of a commodity price slump and the Ebola epidemic the following year triggered a sharp downturn.

The government’s also dealing with the aftermath of a huge mudslide in Freetown last year that killed about 1,100 people.

(Updates with Kamara protest in third paragraph.)
    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE