Sierra Leone finally has a new president

Taking the oath.
Taking the oath.
Image: Reuters/Olivia Acland
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Nearly a month after first going to the polls, Sierra Leoneans have elected a new president.

Julius Maada Bio, the main opposition candidate, has been declared winner of the March 31 presidential run-off. The run-off came after no candidate secured the required 55% of votes in the first round of voting on March 7.

Maada Bio, who briefly led Sierra Leone as a military head of state in 1996, won 51.8% of valid votes cast to secure his first term as a civilian president. He takes over from Ernest Bai Koroma, who served two five-year terms as leader.

Maada Bio “fast-tracked” the oath of office and was swiftly sworn in less than two hours after the results were announced yesterday. But Samura Kamara, the candidate of the erstwhile ruling party, has announced that he intends to challenge the result, saying the vote was marred by fraud. The legal threat comes after results were delayed over disputes related to the vote-counting process.

In the meantime, Maada Bio will face daunting economic challenges in one of the world’s poorest countries, which has recently been ravaged by disasters. Last year, devastating mudslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, left more than 1,000 dead. In 2014, a major Ebola outbreak led to nearly 4,000 deaths and an estimated GDP loss of $1.4 billion.