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Vol 43 No 7

Published 5th April 2002

Sierra Leone

Heading for the door

Problems with the election timetable and organisation undermine the huge peacekeeping mission

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah seems sure to win Sierra Leone's presidential election on 14 May. He has support from Sierra Leoneans relieved that peace has come at last and from an international community (led by Britain) which sees him as the candidate most likely to follow its agenda. They hope that a second Kabbah presidency will at least reduce corruption and bring in new blood. His running mate, Attorney General Solomon Berewa, dismisses as 'wild rumours' talk that 70-year-old Kabbah has offered to step down after two years. Donors had hoped a new Kabbah government would have a stronger mandate than the present one, which was elected in 1996 in a poll that could not be held everywhere and whose term of office officially ended a year ago. The main opposition is missing, though. Leaders of the Revolutionary United Front met on 1 April and threatened not to participate in the presidential and parliamentary elections. Foday Sankoh, whom they want as their presidential candidate, is on trial for murder, sick and in any event ineligible because he is not a registered elector. RUF Secretary General Pallo Bangura, close to Sankoh, has been insisting, along with the RUF rank and file, on Sankoh's right to stand. So by the deadline on 2 April, the RUF had not registered any candidate for the presidential poll; the deadline was immediately extended as almost everyone hopes the RUF will reconsider. If the RUF stays out of the elections, it risks undermining the peace declared ­ just two months ago ­ between government and rebels.

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