FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Sierra Leone’s incumbent president handily won re-election and was sworn in late Friday by the country’s chief justice, as the capital of the war-scarred country erupted in drumming and celebration.
Ernest Bai Koroma won 58.7 percent of the vote. His closest rival, opposition leader and retired Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio, came in second with 37.4 percent, according to results announced Friday by the National Electoral Commission chairwoman Christiana Thorpe.
A total of eight challengers attempted to unseat Koroma in the Nov. 17 election, the third presidential poll since the end of Sierra Leone’s horrific civil war in 2002.
The 11-year war, which was the subject of the Leonardo Di Caprio film “Blood Diamond,” wrecked the country’s economy. Rebels were known for hacking off the arms of their victims, sometimes asking them if they preferred “short sleeves” or “long sleeves,” and the country is dotted with visual reminders of the war, including a league of amputee soccer teams.
Koroma was first elected in 2007 on a ticket of change, and says he has visibly improved the country’s quality of life. His supporters point to newly paved roads and a government health care reform program that has provided free medical treatment although there are serious concerns about its sustainability.
But his opponents argue that not enough progress has been made in the decade since the end of the war, drawing attention to Sierra Leone’s dismal statistics, which include one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.
Thorpe announced that anyone that contests the results has seven days to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.
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