Opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio has won a narrow victory in a run-off election to become Sierra Leone’s next president, according to official results by the country’s electoral body.
The National Electoral Commission announced at 10:00 pm local time that Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won 51.8 percent of a total of over 2.5 million ballots cast in the March 31 vote, beating out the ruling All People’s Congress candidate Samura Kamara, who garnered 48.1 percent.
Kamara, a former foreign affairs minister, and Maada Bio, who briefly ruled Sierra Leone as head of a military junta in 1996, were vying to replace outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma, who cannot seek re-election due to term limits.
Maada Bio is to be sworn in as president tonight at a yet to be disclosed venue.
“The new president will be sworn in tonight,” Chief Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm told Reuters.
SLPP supporters began celebrating in the streets of the capital Freetown on Wednesday evening in anticipation of the official announcement of results.
“I feel happy about the results. I am here because my president Julius Maada Bio has won the election in this country,” said Adolfus Kargbo, among a group of SLPP supporters chanting Maada Bio’s name.
Who is Maada Bio?
Julius Maada Bio, 53, has tasted the presidency before having served a military Head of State for about three months. He led the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) military junta government that lasted from January 16 to March 29 1996.
He has also tasted how it feels to be on the ballot paper, he was the Sierra Leone Peoples Party’s candidate for the last elections. He lost to outgoing Ernest Bai Koroma.
As a military ruler, he toppled his boss in the NPRC junta Captain Valentine Strasser in January 1996 but handed over to democratically elected Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP after the 1996 presidential elections.
He later retired from active service that year and moved to the United States to further his studies. He earned a Masters Degree in International Affairs from the American University in Washington DC.
He was born on May 12, 1964 and graduated from military academy in October 1987 aged 23. He has played part in peacekeeping ops by the United Nations famously in Liberia. He played a role in the 1992 coup and led the 1996 one before handing over after elections.
He returned from the U.S. to join the SLPP in 2005. Contested to lead the party but lost the bid. He was picked as party’s presidential candidate in 2012 polls and garnered 37% of votes to place second.
He is a Roman Catholic married to Fatima Bio a practising Muslim and a Gambian national. They got married in an interfaith ceremony in London in 2013. The couple have a child but Maada Bio has three other children from a previous marriage. The vice presidential candidate of the SLPP is Jalloh Mohamed Juldeh.
The largely peaceful election process has come as a relief for the country of 7 million people, who endured a civil war in the 1990s and whose economy was dragged down by an Ebola epidemic in 2014-15 and a global slump in commodity prices in 2015.