Ex-military leader to run as Sierra Leone president


Sierra Leone’s main opposition party yesterday named former coup leader Brigadier-General Julius Maada Bio, who handed power back to civilians in 1996, as its candidate for next year’s presidential vote.

Bio, 47, will lead the ticket of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) against incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma, who will be seeking a second term in office.

Bio ousted fellow coup plotter Captain Valentine Strasser as head of the West African state’s junta in January 1996 and went on to rule for two months before handing power to a civilian government led by ex-president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. He left shortly afterwards to study in the United States.

Bio remains a popular figure in Sierra Leone and can count on strong support in his southern stronghold. His nomination ends months of sometimes violent infighting within the SLPP over who will be its candidate to take on Koroma.
“I implore all of you to work closely with me so that we can achieve our goals together,” Bio said in a call for party unity after the congress vote.

The poll, an exact date for which has yet to be set, will be Sierra Leone’s third since the end of a devastating civil war in 2002.

Since coming to power in 2007, President Ernest Bai Koroma has improved road and energy infrastructure and overseen large-scale mineral deals, but the country remains one of the poorest in the world.