Sierra Leone: First presidential debate ahead of March 7 polls held

Ahead of the March 7 presidential elections in Sierra Leone, the top six candidates held a debate to decide the fate of the candidates and the future of the country.

The debate which was held in capital Freetown on Thursday evening pitted all the six parties who showed up at the event.

The candidates were offered the opportunity to woo voters even as political campaigning across the West African country is at its peak. The flag bearers were able to share the vision of their parties with the citizens throughout the country.

The parties that participated included the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) led by the immediate past foreign affairs minister, Samura Kamara, and the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led by Retired Brigadier General Julius Maada Bio – a former military Head of State.

The other four included the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), led by Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray, Coalition for Change (C4C) led by Samuel Sam, the National Grand Coalition (NGC) – a breakaway from main opposition SLPP led by Kandeh Yumkella, and a former U.N. senior official and Citizens Democratic Party (CDP) led by Musa Tarawally, a businessman.

According to the elections body, a total of sixteen parties had filed to contest the presidency. The other ten parties had earlier attempted to place an injunction on the debate citing discrimination.

Viewers were offered the opportunity to watch and listen to how the top candidates articulated the issues on the economy, human development and national unity. The debate was moderated by ace journalist who works for the BBC, Hassan Arouni.

Electoral campaigning was declared open by Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission (NEC) on February 5, 2018.

The West African nation which has experienced considerable economic growth in recent years will be welcoming a new leader as incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma leaves office after two terms.

This election is the fifth straight vote since a return to multi-party elections but the third after the end of a civil war in 2002.