Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Sierra Leone - Who Might Lead the Country to Stability?

Elections in Sierra Leone will have an impact on the future role the UN will play in the country, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Until recently the country had the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world and still hosts a substantial UN support office. The elections will "help define an exit strategy" for the UN the Secretary General said in a May report.

Of the seven candidates for president, three are considered strong contenders:

The man to beat

Solomon Berewa (SLPP)

The current vice president, Berewa is President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah's chosen successor. The 69-year-old lawyer, commonly called 'Solo B', is known as a shrewd operator and considered by many to have been in control from behind the scenes for years. In the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) manifesto, President Kabbah calls Berewa "the best foreman to guide this country as we embark on the next phase of the construction."

Berewa is a Mende, the ethnic group that dominates the south and east of the country. However he is said to have lost support amongst many Mende. One reason, according to the International Crisis Group, is that he was justice minister at the creation of the Special Court for Sierra Leone which indicted Hinga Norman, who headed the militia that backed the government against rebels in the

Mr Clean

Ernest Bai Koroma (APC)

Ernest Bai Koroma is "the least politically experienced", according to the Crisis Group, and is widely seen as "a decent and honest leader". To win Koroma would have to overcome deep resentment and antipathy toward his party the All People's Congress (APC). When in power APC transformed the country into a dysfunctional one-party state and is seen by many as having sown the seeds for the decade long civil war.

Koroma is a Temne, an ethnic group in the north of the country where APC gets most of its support, along with in the capital, Freetown. Koroma lost to President Kabbah in the last presidential election in 2002, gaining only 22 percent compared to Kabbah's 70 percent.

The spoiler

Charles Frances Margai (PMDC)

Like Berewa, Charles Margai is an ethnic Mende. He is also a nephew of the first prime minister and a son of the second. He left the SLPP in 2005 after it passed him up as its presidential candidate and caused a political storm when he formed the People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC). His subsequent arrest by the government on 'conspiracy' charges threw his supporters into a fury.

Margai has effectively divided the ruling party - a situation that can only benefit the opposition APC. The party's motto is 'positive change.' Its manifesto says the party came "in response to [the people's] call for a radical departure from the negative and unprogressive political traditions that have characterised bad governance over three decades."

The remaining four candidates are:

Alhaji Amadu Boie Jalloh (National Democratic Alliance)
Andrew Turay (Convention People's Party)
Kandeh Conteh (Peace and Liberation Party)
Abdul Karim (United National People's Party)
Parliamentary elections

Unicameral system - 124 seats

(112 members elected by popular vote; 12 seats reserved for paramount chiefs and filled through separate elections)

Source: African Elections Database

Tuesday, August 14, 2007