Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 March 2018:
Yesterday marked the official end of election campaigning in Sierra Leone, as voters and those contesting prepare for polling tomorrow – 7th March 2018. Over three million people are expected to vote, with turnout expected to be as high as 75%, if the ban on vehicle movement that has been announced by the police is lifted at the High Court hearing today.
After months of campaigning that has seen the entire country gripped by election fever, many Sierra Leoneans will now be hoping and praying that tomorrow’s polling will be conducted in a peaceful, free and fair manner. But many are suspicious of the police motive in wanting to ban vehicle movement across the country tomorrow.
Critics say that the ruling APC, with the help of the police, are planning to rig the elections, as well as disenfranchise thousands of voters who may not be able to get to their polling stations tomorrow, due to lack of transportation. But the police are denying this accusation. They say that public transport will be made available.
But it is the infringement of the right of citizens to free and unfettered movement that civil society groups, the country’s Bar Association, and opposition parties are fighting against, as they call for the police to rescind their ban.
Tomorrow’s polling is expected to be exciting and will end in a nail biting finish, as the four main presidential candidates and their parties make it to the finish line, possibly ending ten years of APC misrule and corruption
Lined up for the presidential contest are: Dr Samura and his ruling APC; Dr. Kandeh Yumkella and his NGC; Julius Maada Bio and his SLPP; and Sam Sumana and his C4C party.
Already it is being predicted that none of the candidates will win the required 55% majority to form a government. A runoff is likely to be held on the 14th or 15th of March, at least within ten days after tomorrow’s polling.
And when it comes, it is expected that Dr Yumkella will be the ‘king-maker’ – forcing the formation of a coalition government, if not the outright winner at the second round polling.
But what is becoming clear is that the ruling APC is struggling to retain power, and will find it extremely difficult to win outright at tomorrow’s polling. The party is fighting for its survival. This is the president’s younger brother – who has benefitted from millions of dollars of public contracts, caught here on video (without any regard for the law – drink driving) – desperate to hang on to power tomorrow with the help of China:
After ten years of poor governance, corruption and abuse of power, the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans are saying they have had enough of the ruling APC. They want change.
And these are just some of the reasons why they will not be voting APC tomorrow:
- Sierra Leone is still one of the poorest nations in the world, despite massive natural resources. A diamond sold few months ago, for almost $50 million remains unaccounted for.
- The country is bankrupt, government cannot pay salaries of public sector workers.
- The IMf has suspended its loan agreement with the government, after the government failed to meet revenue targets. IMF funds have been used for election campaigns by the ruling APC.
- Corruption in Sierra leone is at an alltime high – one of the highest in the world. $14 million meant for those suffering from Ebola was stolen by officials. Funds meant for mudslide victims have gone missing. Money meant for supporting those going to hajj pilgrimage were stolen by officials.
- Unemployment is rising and now stands at over 70%.
- Standard of education continues to lag behind other countries in the region. Only 37% of people in the country can read and write. Investors are staying away as the country cannot compete globally.
- Most people in the country will die before their 50th birthday, because of poverty, poor health and poor sanitation.
- Child and maternal mortality remains the highest in the world, with 30% of children dying before their fifth birthday.
- Inflation is running at 20%, with most households unable to afford three meals a day.
- The value of the Leone has dropped by over 20% in just three months and getting worse.
- 60% of people cannot get access to clean drinking water.
- only 12% of people have access to electricity.
Those supporting Dr Yumkella say that he is the best hope the country has today. Here he is delivering his final campaign message yesterday: