Sierra Leoneans await results of presidential, parliamentary and local elections

‘Logistical challenges’ cause delays for voters with some queuing from 6am

Sierra Leoneans are awaiting the results of presidential, parliamentary and local elections, as citizens grapple with economic woes amid rising inflation and a cost of living crisis.

Voters began queuing around 6am on Saturday, an hour before polls were due to open, but it would be hours more before many of them could cast a ballot.

“The process is very, very slow,” complained one man, in Lakka, southern Freetown. Those around him had been queuing for three hours and said the polls had opened more than one hour late. “The process is not running the right way,” another man said.

The electoral commission reported that some polling stations faced “logistical challenges” related to the “late arrival of materials,” with the opposition saying that voting did not start until the afternoon in several polling stations. It also said there were various cases of electoral officials being attacked or beaten.


Particular problems seemed to be faced by people with the name Kamara – one of the most common surnames in the country, which has a population of roughly 8.4 million people. In two polling stations that The Irish Times visited, three out of the 10 queues were for people with that surname, making many voters confused about which queue they should be in.

Even when they found their line, there could be issues. “They have two books for verification, they can’t find my name,” said Umarr Kamara. “I came here at 6am. I was told to wait. They said there are issues with some of my details not being there.”

The two main presidential candidates included another Kamara: Samura Kamara, a 72-year-old economist and former foreign affairs minister, running for the opposition All People’s Congress party.

He is up against incumbent Julius Maada Bio, who is running for a second term with the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

This was the first election in the West African country using proportional representation, which has caused a lot of confusion among the electorate. “There are serious issues around voter education deficits that we are facing at the moment,” civil society activist Marcella Samba-Sesay said during an online discussion a few weeks before the vote.

There have also been widespread concerns about the spread of fake news online, particularly through WhatsApp.

Over the past five years, the ruling SLPP party has been accused of growing authoritarianism and violence. At least 28 civilians and six police officers were killed last August, during protests related to cost of living increases. Last week, one person was killed at another protest in Freetown, which was called by the opposition to highlight alleged electoral irregularities.

The actual day of voting appeared to go off relatively peacefully, however, despite the opposition party holding a press conference in the early afternoon to read out a list of what they reported as problems in polling stations across the country. Businesses shut and the streets of Freetown were relatively empty, with civilians stocking up on supplies in advance of time so they could stay home most of the day.

The election is the fifth since the end of Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war in 2002.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa