Hundreds of pro-government demonstrators gathered Wednesday in Sierra Leone’s capital to protest what they said was a “stolen” presidential vote, hours before official results are expected.
The outcome of the March 31 ballot — pitting opposition challenger Julius Maada Bio against the ruling All Peoples’ Congress (APC) candidate Samura Kamara — was due to be announced at the start of the week.
But the country’s electoral commission had to interrupt the ballot count after a dispute over the method of tallying results left votes from 11,000 polling stations across the poor West African nation uncounted.
Kamara supporters marched in Freetown Wednesday evening, tearing down Bio posters and alleging “foreign meddling” in the vote, an AFP reporter said.
Security forces erected a cordon around Bio’s SLPP party headquarters, where hundreds of supporters had already begun celebrating victory ahead of the expected official result announcement at around 2100 GMT.
Bio narrowly won the first round of voting ahead of Kamara, a close ally of outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma.
A total of 3.1 million people were registered to vote in the first presidential poll since a 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak which killed 4,000 people.
One of the world’s poorest nations despite huge mineral and diamond deposits, Sierra Leone is recovering only gradually from war and disease. Its economy remains in a fragile state with corruption widespread in the former British colony.