Litics: Sierra Leone getting ready for elections

ECOWAS Observation Mission Urges Political Actors In S/ Leone To Be Peaceful Ahead Of March 7 Polls

Sierra Leone's voters are choosing a new president from among 16 candidates in a race that has sparked debate over dual nationality and eligibility for the country's highest office.

Still, whoever gains the presidency today will inherit a hard position.

"In Sierra Leone we are far behind some other countries in Africa, which are making progress", Sesay said. Under the Sierra Leone constitution, a political party whose candidate is disqualified has seven days to produce a replacement.

Immediately on the agenda will be addressing International Monetary Fund concerns, which last month delayed a $224 million payout to the country in response to taxation anomalies.

President Ernest Bai Koroma is stepping aside after his maximum two terms in office, and sixteen candidates are vying to replace him, of whom four are seen as having a realistic chance.

A presidential runoff is likely, according to experts, as the threshold to win outright in the first round is 55 percent.

"He was able to persuade them to allow us access to the building", said Mohamed Kamara, head of the police criminal investigation.

The SLPP has retained the same candidate, Julius Maada Bio, who lost to Koroma in 2012.

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But two candidates from younger parties - former United Nations Under-Secretary Kandeh Yumkella and Samuel Sam-Sumana - are seen as having a strong chance if they can garner enough votes from disaffected younger people exhausted of the status quo.

"They have huge resources compared to us but we have connected to the people better", Spencer said.

President Weah urged the people of Sierra Leone to emulate the good example of Liberia, who after almost 14 years of civil war realized peace is the true path to development.

Observers from the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union and the British Commonwealth are all overseeing voting.

"The Missions "Look to the government of Sierra Leone to uphold its constitutional obligations to provide a secure environment that guarantees the safety of candidates, voters, NEC officials and electoral materials", and urged the security personnel to demonstrate professionalism and enforce the law in a neutral and proportional manner".

The current government is accused of misusing funds meant to rebuild the country's health system after Ebola, and of failing to address the fallout from a mudslide in August that killed hundreds.

Meanwhile, outgoing president Koroma's increasing reliance on China for infrastructure, including a new airport and adjoining toll road, have raised concerns Beijing is seeking to keep the APC in power.

Voter freebies and funding for campaign materials could "potentially influence the voting public" in the APC's favour, it added.

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