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Clashes at opposition headquarters overshadow Sierra Leone elections

Voters in Sierra Leone are waiting for the results of a general election that was overshadowed by violence at the opposition headquarters.

Voting was held across the country on Saturday for presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections, and the process was mostly peaceful on the day.

The main candidates are incumbent President Julius Maada Bio and 72-year-old opposition leader Samura Kamara.

Some incidents were reported on Sunday, such as attacks on polling agents and violence near several polling centres in Freetown.

The head of the Office of National Security, Abdulai Caulker, said at a press conference that he was not aware of those alleged incidents.

However, police reported they had fired tear gas at the main opposition party’s headquarters on Sunday evening.

‘Unbearable’ situation

In a statement, the Sierra Leone Police said that members of the APC had paraded through Freetown “announcing to the public that they had won” the elections.

They attracted “a huge crowd” of supporters outside the headquarters, who “started harassing passers-by”, the force added.

“When the situation became unbearable, the Police had to fire teargas canisters so as to disperse the crowd which was harassing people on the road,” the statement added.

Opposition All People’s Congress (APC) presidential candidate Samura Kamara wrote on Twitter that live bullets had also been fired at his office inside the party headquarters in the capital Freetown.

Sidie Yahya Tunis, a spokesman for the APC, told AFP that one woman had died in the incident.

“She was downstairs in the medical unit,” he said. “She’s a nurse. We have a little health clinic in our office, that’s where she was working.”

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, a prominent APC member bidding for a second term as Freetown mayor, tweeted photos from inside the building showing people taking cover on the floor.

Key elections

The APC has for weeks accused the electoral commission of bias in favour of the governing party, raising speculation that it is laying the groundwork for a court challenge of the results.

On Sunday evening, the European Union Election Observation Mission said it was “concerned about the ongoing tabulation process”.

“Considering the highly polarised political environment and prevailing mistrust, it is imperative that the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone provides full transparency during the tabulation of results,” chief observer Evin Incir said in a statement.

The Carter Center also sent an observation mission and said on Sunday evening that it was concerned “about reports indicating a lack of transparency during parts of the tabulation process”.

Chief electoral commissioner Mohamed Konneh however said it had been “one of the best election days” in recent history, “if not the best”.

Results are expected within 48 hours of the vote.

(with newswires)

Originally published on RFI

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