Opposition candidate and former military junta leader Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) was sworn in as Sierra Leone’s new president on Wednesday night, barely a few hours after the elections commission announced his victory in a tight run-off poll.
According to the 1991 constitution of the country, immediately after the National Electoral Commission (NEC) announces the winner of the election, the president-elect should take the oath of office.
Dressed in traditional white robes, Maada Bio was sworn in just before midnight at a hotel in the capital Freetown, raising in the air the Bible upon which he swore the oath of office to the cheers of supporters.
“This is the dawn of a new era. The people of this great nation have voted to take a new direction,” he said in a speech following the short ceremony in which he made an appeal for national unity.
“We have only one country, Sierra Leone, and we are all one people.”
Maada Bio won a narrow victory with 51.81 percent of more than 2.5 million valid ballots, while his main challenger, Samura Kamara, of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) garnered 48.19 percent, according to official results released by the commission.
This is the fourth election the West African country has conducted since the 11-year rebel war that ravaged the country was declared over in 2002. Sixteen political parties contested in the election, with more than 3.1 million voters registered across the country.
Maada Bio, 53, was the military head of Sierra Leone in 1996 under the National Provisional Ruling Council.
He was the SLPP presidential candidate in the 2012 election but defeated by his predecessor Ernest Bai Koroma of the ruling APC party.