Sierra Leonean police announced on Sunday evening that they had used tear gas canisters to disperse opposition supporters in Freetown, the day after the presidential election, which passed off generally peacefully and is still being counted.
Samura Kamara, the main opponent of incumbent president Julius Maada Bio in the election, said on Twitter that bullets had been fired at his party’s headquarters in the capital.
Sidie Yahya Tunis, a spokesman for the All People’s Congress (APC), Mr. Kamara’s party, said that a woman died in the incident. “She was on the first floor in the medical unit. She is a nurse. We have a small dispensary in our headquarters where she was working,” he said Sunday evening of the announcement, which could not be immediately verified.
Freetown mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, also an APC official, posted photos on Twitter of the interior of the formation’s headquarters, showing people protecting themselves by lying on the ground. “We are at the APC headquarters under fire,” she wrote.
Police said APC members were demonstrating in Freetown “announcing to the public that they have won” the elections, in a statement sent to AFP on Sunday evening.
These demonstrators attracted outside the APC headquarters “a crowd” of supporters who “started causing trouble to passers-by”, it explained in the statement.
“When the situation became unbearable, the police threw tear gas canisters at them to disperse the crowd, which was disturbing people on the public highway”, she added.
– Revenge –
Some 3.4 million people were called upon to choose between 13 candidates for the presidential election, an election with the appearance of a 2018 rematch between Mr. Bio, a 59-year-old retired military officer seeking a second term, and Mr. Kamura, a 72-year-old technocrat and leader of the APC.
Mr. Bio, candidate of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), won in the second round with 51.8% of the vote.
According to the electoral commission, the vote count is continuing.
Results are expected within 48 hours of the poll. No figures for voter turnout were given on Sunday afternoon. In previous elections, turnout ranged from 76% to 87%.
This year, Mr. Bio has championed education and women’s rights. He told AFP that he favors agriculture and reducing his country’s dependence on food imports.
Mr. Kamara, Minister of Finance and then Foreign Affairs before Mr. Bio’s accession in 2018, told AFP that he wanted to restore confidence in the country’s economic institutions and attract foreign investors.
To be elected in the first round, a candidate must receive 55% of valid votes.