By Gabriel Benjamin in Freetown, Ishmael Dumbuya in Kenema, Hassan G. Koroma in Bo, and Yusuf S. Bangura in Makeni
After a five-year wait, the highly anticipated electoral battle for the highest office in Sierra Leone, the presidency and commander in chief of the armed forces, is finally upon us.
Incumbent President Julius Maada Bio and his main challenger, Samura Matthew Kamara, are vying for the coveted position, while numerous parliamentary seats are also up for grabs.
Sierra Leoneans are eagerly preparing to exercise their democratic rights by turning out to vote on Saturday, 24th June.
The polling stations will open promptly at 6 am. The number of registered voters has seen a significant increase of approximately 200,000 individuals since the 2018 elections, including a current total of around 3.4 million Sierra Leoneans.
Out of the 13 candidates contending for the presidency, the frontrunners are Julius Maada Bio from the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Samura Matthew Kamara from the All People’s Congress (APC).
President Julius Maada Bio, under the banner of the “People’s Manifesto”, seeks to build upon the achievements of his administration, particularly in the areas of food security, human capital development, youth and women empowerment, public service, and technological advancement.
Samura Matthew Kamara, on the other hand, presents his “One Nation” manifesto, which focuses on fostering national unity, addressing economic challenges, and promoting sustainable development through a ten-pillar approach.
The voters, primarily concerned about economic issues and their solutions, will ultimately decide which candidate they believe can best address these concerns.
President Bio argues that the journey towards economic progress has already begun and should not be disrupted by an unreliable opposition. Samura Kamara, meanwhile, asserts that his expertise as an economist uniquely positions him to tackle the nation’s challenges effectively.
Several Observer Groups have already arrived in Sierra Leone to monitor the electoral process and ensure its fairness:
The Commonwealth has sent a 12-member Observer Group, led by the immediate past Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Obasanjo. They have called for peaceful elections that genuinely reflect the will of the people.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has deployed 95 election observers to Sierra Leone. Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, a former ECOWAS Commission President and former Head of the UN Office in West Africa and the Sahel, is leading the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission.
The European Union (EU) has established the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), comprising 10 election experts. Chief Observer Ms. Evin Incir leads this mission.
The West African Elders Forum has appointed Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former President of Nigeria and Chairman of the forum, to head their election monitoring team in Sierra Leone.
With the eyes of the nation and international observers focused on Sierra Leone, the electoral tussle between President Julius Maada Bio and his main challenger, Samura Matthew Kamara, promises to be a significant event in the country’s political landscape.
The people’s choice will determine the future leadership of Sierra Leone and the path the nation takes towards economic prosperity and sustainable development.