5.27.2012

2007 Sierra Leone Elections: Changing the Playing Field


Yuki Yuki Politics
Sierra Leone is considered to have multiparty elections and this is evident in the nine political parties that ran for election in 2002 and the six (before the SLPP split) that participated in the 2007 elections. However, two main political parties have historically dominated the political scene in Sierra Leone: The All People’s Congress (APC), which I previously described to be Temne-dominated; and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), which I mentioned earlier is traditionally Mende-dominated. Both the APC and SLPP are the oldest (and first) political parties in the Sierra Leone; therefore, their popularity and power is unsurprising.

The contenders for the 2007 election included Earnest Bai Koroma of the APC party and Charles Margai, the son of Albert Margai and the nephew of the late Prime Minister Milton Magrai, who was the favorite to be the flagbearer for the Sierra Leone People’s party. However, internal discord and yuki yuki1 caused an internal divided within the SLPP.

Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s Vice President from 2002-2007 was Solomon Berewa, a rich lawyer turned politician from central Sierra Leone. Given the fact that often in Sierra Leaonean politics (and much of African politics as a whole) money is king – Solomon Berewa bribed election delegates at polling stations during the by-elections that were to decide who would become the SLPP’s candidate.2 Given the low standard of living throughout Sierra Leone and the abject poverty that most Sierra Leoneans live in, the election delegates decided to accept the bribe and make it seem as if Berewa won the SLPP’s candidacy.

Charles Margai had clear reason to be upset with the fraudulent results. As a response to the false election results, Margai subsequently made his own political party – the People’s Movement from Democratic Change (PMDC). However, as what usually happens when a strong third party enters the political arena, the PMDC split the SLPP constituency, which cleared the way for the APC candidate, Earnest Bai Koroma, to win the election.

The first round of elections that took place in 2007 resulted in 44.34% of the votes for Koroma (APC), 38.28% for Berewa (SLPP), and 13.89% for Margai (SLPP), with the other votes being for the other less popular candidates (none of whom managed to receive over 2% votes).3 Since no candidate won the necessary 55% majority to win the election, run-offs were scheduled. Given that the PMDC was a new political party with the only strong support coming from the Mende-majority city of Bo in Central/Southern Sierra Leone, his chances of making it past the primary election were presumably slim.

Final Presidential Election Results (2007) – First Round4

After Margai’s initial defeat, he dropped out of the second round of elections and publicly declared his support for Komora of the All People’s Congress. According to Francis Ansumana, “Margai went on the radio and said to da [people] dem, ‘you know those [people] have betrayed me. If you want…to be my supporter…I am out of the race now, but vote for APC’ – and so the people voted for APC”.5 Those who were strong supporters of Margai and his policies obeyed and threw their support behind Koroma.

The run-off elections concluded with Koroma winning with 54.60% of the vote and Berewa obtaining 45.40%.6 When looking at the election results broken down by major cities, the North/South-APC/SLPP divide is quite evident. Cities like Bo, Kenema, Moyamba, Pujehun, and Kailahun – all located in the South and East of the country – voted primarily for SLPP while the other districts voted mostly APC. The election results meant that the Presidency switched over from an SLPP President (Ahmad Tejan Kabah) to an APC President (Koroma), and Solomon Berewa peacefully accepted defeat.
Presidential Run-off Election Results (2007) by Major City7
Despite the yuki yuki that lead to SLPP’s split, the 2007 election proved that many Sierra Leonean politicians were invested in moving the country from a decade of violence to peace. However, the SLPP split had the power to drastically change Sierra Leonean politics (perhaps in favor of the APC) for future elections. Furthermore, when one considers the political divide along ethnic lines, the SLPP and PMDC split might well result in PMDC taking some of the Mende constituency from the SLPP and moving it to the APC, as long as PMDC candidates continue to support the APC candidate during run-off elections. If this is to happen, then it might well be the beginning of depolitization of ethnic identities.


1 Yuki Yuki is the Krio word for ‘corruption’ in Sierra Leone
2 Francis Ansumana, interview by Karen Kilberg, Bo, Sierra Leone, December 11, 2011.
3 Republic of Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission, Progressive Results Summary, August 25, 2007.
4 Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission, “Presidential and Vice-Presidential Election (Ordered by VotesObtained),” Progressive Results Summary, August 25, 2007, 6.
5 Francis Ansumana, interview by Karen Kilberg, Bo, Sierra Leone, December 11, 2011.
6Republic of Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission, Final Results Summary, September 17, 2007.
7 Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission, “Presidential Runoff Election” Final Results Summary, September 17, 2007, 4.

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