U.N. Secretary-General Calls for “Peaceful Spirit” in Sierra Leone Elections

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Sierra Leone will vote for president, parliament, mayoral and in local council elections on Saturday, and given the history of the small West African nation, the United Nations Secretary-General encouraged citizens to carry out elections in a "peaceful spirit," according to his spokesperson .

The country is still rebuilding from a civil war that ended a decade ago.

Here's the latest information regarding the elections and the candidates.

* Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's statement noted that peaceful elections "resulting in a credible outcome are critical for consolidating Sierra Leone's hard-won peace and for demonstrating that the tremendous progress the country has made since the end of the hostilities one decade ago is irreversible," according to his statement.

* The registered parties and government institutions signed a declaration on May 18 in which they committed to peaceful, free and fair elections, a move the Secretary-General also congratulated.

* Running for re-election is President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People's Congress Party, Reuters reports . The 59-year old primarily represents a constituency based in the north and is noted for his infrastructural projects and for introducing targeted free health care through donor funding. However, the initiative has been criticized for corruption, an issue that has also been a source of complaint from critics throughout his administration.

* His chief opponent is the Sierra Leone People's Party candidate, Julius Maada Bio, a former head of state who was briefly in charge during a junta. He has campaigned on a pledge to review mineral deals and the mining code while improving education for the country. His critics suggest he has an unclean war record, charges he has denied.

* AFP reported on Thursday that supporters of Bio and the SLPP had gathered in the capital city of Freetown for a final rally, in hopes of unseating the incumbent. Among his supporters, Bio is credited as being the "father of democracy" for the country for voluntarily stepping down from power after heading the junta. It's a role his opponents say was forced on him through pressure, per the Reuters report.

* Koroma came to power in 2007 through elections considered free and fair, another report from Reuters notes , and is hoping he can avoid a runoff. However, due to political affiliations being largely drawn across ethnic lines, it is possible he will achieve the 55 percent needed to do so.

* Whoever becomes president will inherit a country about to become the beneficiary of a mining boom that could fuel growth of as high as 20 percent this year. Royalty revenues could eventually yield between $125 and $250 million per year.

Shawn Humphrey is a former contributor to The Flint Journal and an amateur Africanist, focusing his personal studies on human rights and political issues on the continent.

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