The ban of Sierra Leone's presidential election run-off has been lifted. The candidates will face off on March 31, according to a statement from the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
“The NEC has been doing its best,” Sierra Leone People's Party head Julius Maada Bio added, “I can say they have been 110 percent in my personal estimation of their work. We have had issues with them, we've expressed our concerns to them, and they've always addressed them.”
The Supreme Court had given the go-ahead for the commission's request to move forward with the polls. But, legal representatives of the NEC remarked that the injunction had undermined the electoral process and caused “chaos” in the country.
“[Corruption] is a threat to our development and a threat to the security of this country,” opposition candidate Bio told DW in an interview, “we have put in place measures like the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). We have the necessary laws. What is lacking is the political will to support them.”
The ruling All People's Congress (APC) party's Samura Kamara will go up against Bio to determine who will claim the presidency. Bio had edged out Kamara in the March 7 election, winning 43.4 percent to the latter's 42.7 percent.
The runoff was triggered because neither candidate managed to secure the required 55 percent majority. The initial date for the runoff was March 27, but Justice Abdulrahman Mansaray granted the injunction amid fraud claims made by an APC attorney.
Over two dozen civil organizations accused the APC of employing unscrupulous tactics to manipulate the final election result.
The Sierra Leonean police are currently investigating some 200 cases of alleged electoral fraud. And, election observers have additionally voiced concerns that the delay from the injunction will adversely affect the voter turnout.
Sierra Leoneans are generally required to travel far distances across the country to participate in the electoral process in regions they are registered. The lifting of the ban and newly assigned date leaves a small window within which the voters have to arrange extensive travels to their designated polling station.
Incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma is set to demit office after serving the constitutional maximum two five-year terms.