- Title: SIERRA LEONE: VOTING STARTS IN ELECTIONS TO GIVE FRESH START TO THE COUNTRY
- Date: 14th May 2002
- Summary: (W4) FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE (MAY 14, 2002)(REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 1. MV PEOPLE QUEUEING AS WAITING TO ENTER POLLING STATION IN FREETOWN 0.09 2. MV/CU POSTERS OF CANDIDATES (2 SHOTS) 0.14 3. MV PEOPLE RUSHING TO VOTE 0.23 4. MV GROUP OF AMPUTEES HEADING FOR POLLING STATION 0.34 5. TSV AMPUTEE MAKING PRINT WITH BIG TOE 0.43 6. SVs AMPUTEE VOTING WITH HIS PINCERS (2 SHOTS) 0.53 7. MV WOMAN AMPUTEE VOTING 1.03 8. TGV PEOPLE QUEUING OUTSIDE POLLING STATION 1.09 9. MV MAN SHOWING EMPTY BALLOT BOX 1.14 10. SV MAN VOTING 1.22 Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Embargoed: 29th May 2002 13:00
- Location: FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE
- Country: Sierra Leone
- Reuters ID: LVA10XETWG8N9ITN2EZM11GYQ7ON
- Story Text: Sierra Leoneans have started voting in elections to
give the West African country a fresh start after a decade of
At many polling stations, people gathered well before
dawn for the chance to take part in an election made possible
by the deployment of the biggest U.N. peacekeeping force to
disarm over 47,000 rebels and pro-government militia fighters.
An estimated 50,000 people were killed in the country of
5.4 million during the war which started in 1991. Many more
were mutilated, raped or robbed and a third of Sierra Leone's
people were driven from their homes.
Despite some stone-throwing and scuffles between President
Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's supporters and rival parties, the
election campaign has been one of the most peaceful since
independence from Britain in 1961.
But fresh fighting in a closely linked civil war in
neighbouring Liberia has sent a shiver through Sierra Leone
and highlighted the chronic instability of the mineral-rich
region that is among the world's poorest.
There were no immediate reports of trouble from an
election that appeared well-organised by the standards of many
in West Africa. Voting started promptly at 7 a.m. (0700 GMT)
and was due to end at 5 p.m. (1700 GMT).
Over 2.3 million people are registered to vote.
Police and soldiers, who had the chance to vote last week,
kept a close eye on voting, alongside more than 17,000
peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone
The election is the first multiparty poll to be held
across Sierra Leone since 1977. Seventy year-old Kabbah was
among the first to vote, though the former international
functionary made no comment other than to say his vote was
Kabbah won 1996 elections, but they were held in only part
of the country and boycotted by rebels of the Revolutionary
United Front. Some rebel units hacked off the hands of voters
as punishment for taking part.
This time, the rebels have their own party, although their
charismatic leader Foday Sankoh has been detained since May
2000 and is on trial for murder. Soft-spoken former academic
Pallo Bangura is standing in Sankoh's place.
Probably posing a greater challenge to Kabbah, though, is
Ernest Koroma of the All People's Congress, the former ruling
party with its powerbase in the north. Kabbah's Sierra Leone
People's Party (SLPP) is expected to clean up in the south.
If none of the nine candidates gets more than 55 percent
of the vote there will be a run-off between the top two.
The end of the campaign was soured at the weekend by
clashes between former rebels and Kabbah's supporters. The
electoral commission dismissed them as minor and said all was
in place for a smooth ballot.
More worrying for Sierra Leoneans than electoral
fisticuffs is the civil war raging in Liberia. Sankoh launched
his rebellion from there in 1991 and Sierra Leoneans are
fighting both for and against President Charles Taylor.
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