AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - President Bio confirmed in office: Second term marked by numerous challenges and protests from the opposition

Thursday, 13 July 2023

Freetown (Agenzia Fides) - Among the 13 candidates, 12 men and 1 woman, who presented themselves for the presidential elections held on June 24, Julius Maada Bio was re-elected and confirmed in office by the People's Party (SLPP). Bio, who first took office as President in 2018, is now in his second and final term.
"We have proven once again that, despite differences in language, tribe and political beliefs, we are united in our desire to see the country we love prosper", President-elect Maada Bio said on his Twitter account shortly after his re-election. The opposition party All People's Congress, led by Samura Kamara (see Fides, 23/6/2023), who is awaiting a criminal trial on charges of embezzlement to be held in July 2023, has meanwhile challenged the re-election. According to local media, "It will not be a peaceful five-year term for President Bio". Despite the progress made since the decades-long bloody conflict ended in 2002, there are still numerous unresolved critical issues. These include inflation, one of the highest unemployment rates in West Africa, frozen wages and general insecurity. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries on the continent, where more than 60% of the 8.5 million inhabitants live below the poverty line, with a large economic and social divide between the different ethnic groups and repressive measures by the security forces. This was the case last year when in August residents of the capital Freetown, Makeni in the north and Kamakwie in the north-west held street demonstrations to protest the high cost of living, killing several civilians and police officers. Meanwhile, Sierra Leone is also the eighth largest producer of oil, minerals and especially diamonds in the world. However, many of the mines are in the hands of foreign companies, while others feed an illegal market (of so-called blood diamonds) where even children have historically been employed as slaves, forced by their families' economic needs. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 13/7/2023)