Third time lucky

From Baobab Fri Nov 16 2012, 18:49:19

A DECADE After the end of one of Africa's nastiest civil wars, an 11-year conflict that left around 50,000 dead and countless others mutilated by the amputations that became the hallmark of the conflict, Sierra Leone is going to the polls. The election on November 17th is the country's third since the end of the war. It will be a test of its post-war stability, but it will also determine who will manage major mineral revenues expected to come online in the next few years. In 2009 Sierra Leone struck oil offshore, though it is unclear whether quantities are commercial. Last year it began exporting iron ore for the first time since before the war.

The president, Ernest Bai Koroma, a former insurance executive who came to power in 2007, is bidding for a second term at the head of his All People's Congress (APC) party. His main opponent is Julius Maada Bio, presidential candidate for the Sierra Leone People's Party. Mr Bio, who briefly led the country in 1996, was a member of the National Provisional Ruling Council, a military junta that ruled Sierra Leone from 1992 to 1996 during the civil war.

Politics in Sierra Leone is largely drawn along ethnic lines. The ruling APC takes its support from the Temne and Limba tribes of the north, while the opposition SLPP is rooted in the Mende people of the south and east. Mr Koroma is the favourite but is unlikely to win an outright majority (55% of the vote) in the first round. Otherwise a run-off must be held within two weeks of the results being announced.

Mr Koroma has won praise for attracting foreign investment, and overseeing big infrastructure projects. In 2009 a hydroelectric dam at Bumbuna in the interior was finished after years of work. That has made Freetown's electricity somewhat, though not completely reliable. But his government has faced persistent criticism for its failure to clamp down on corruption. The president's erstwhile promise that there would be "no sacred cows" in his administration is looking increasingly ...

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