As part of preparations towards Sierra Leone’s March 7 election this year, a presidential debate has been held to decide the fate of the candidates and the future of the country.
The debate, which was held in the capital Freetown on Thursday, had all six parties with their registered candidates showing up at the event. The top six candidates 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 Rtd Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio – a former military Head of State.
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The others were 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.
Viewers were able to watch and listen to the about three hours of grilling questioning of the candidates by the BBC reporter – Hassan Arouni. The questions basically focused on the economy, human development and national unity.
The 2018 Presidential debate together with the logo was launched on January 5, 2018, by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and Africa Young Voices (AYV), the Political Parties Registration Commission, National Electoral Commission and civil society organizations including the Standing Together for Democracy Consortium.
The organisers at the time said the debate was to provide a platform for Sierra Leoneans to engage their leaders.
Campaigning has already started in the country ahead of the election. Sierra Leoneans will be voting for a new president and legislators as incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma steps down after leading the country for the last decade.
Sierra Leone has experienced considerable economic growth in recent years, but the effects of its civil war that ended in 2002 are still being felt. With a country rich in diamonds and other minerals, the civil war was perpetuated by the illegal trade in “blood diamonds” which the government has always sought to clamp down.