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‘No witch hunt,’ new S. Leone president promises civil servants

Sierra Leone’s new president, Julius Maada Bio

Media Source: Agence France-Presse

Sierra Leone’s new president, Julius Maada Bio, on Friday promised civil servants they need not fear a purge despite a historic shift in the country’s politics.

Bio, whose election has ended decade-long rule by the All People’s Congress (APC), praised state workers and “gave them assurance and expressed commitment to work with them,” the spokesman for his SLPP party said.

“The meeting between the president and civil servants went well today and the president assured them that there will be no witch-hunting of workers,” spokesman Alie Kabba said.

Bio also called for Sierra Leone — whose 1991-2002 civil war claimed around 120,000 lives — to turn its back on “tribalism and regionalism”.

“I want you to work hard to deliver and be prompt and professional — don’t worry, be happy,” he said.

Bio, a former soldier who briefly led a military junta more than two decades ago, won 51.81 percent of ballots in the March 31 election runoff, according to the official results released late Wednesday.

He defeated Samura Kamara, the APC’s champion, who secured 48.19 percent of the vote.

The campaign was bitterly fought, marked by ugly verbal exchanges and sporadic violence, and Kamara has said his party will launch a legal battle to contest the outcome.

Bio called Kamara on Thursday, according to Kabba.

“They had a very friendly conversation and (he) plans to meet (him) soon,” Kabba said.

Bio on Friday also named a transition team of 10 men and two women, whose first job will be to “interface” with the team of the outgoing president, Ernest Bai Koroma.

Separately, the country’s electoral commission said the APC retained most seats in the 132-seat legislature, which was contested at the same time as the presidency.

With two seats left to be determined, the APC had 67 seats and the SLPP 47, it said.

Kabba said the SLPP was confident it would be able to form a majority in parliament, working with smaller parties and individual legislators who were traditional chiefs.

Cornelius Devoux, the APC’s spokesman, said the party would work in the country’s “best interest”.

But he also called on the SLPP “to protect APC supporters who have been attacked or threatened”.

One of the world’s poorest nations despite huge mineral and diamond deposits, Sierra Leone is recovering only gradually from war and a 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak that killed 4,000 people.

Its economy remains fragile with investors slowly returning, and corruption is widespread. Political loyalties are often divided along ethnic lines and traumatic memories of the civil war run deep.

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