SIERRA LEONE: Clashes spread to south


FREETOWN, 31 August 2007 (IRIN) – Sierra Leone’s run-off elections are becoming increasingly chaotic with reports of violent clashes between political activists dogging the political campaigns as they moved through the southern cities Bo and Moyamba.

Supporters of APC presidential candidate Ernest Bai Koroma and the governing party’s SLPP Solomon Berewa armed with sharp sticks and rocks clashed in Segbwema and Kenema on 30 and 31 August, according to reports from the towns.

As tension mounted in Kenema on 30 August, police imposed a curfew, however residents went about their normal business on 31 August.

Berewa’s spokesperson told IRIN that on 31 August, APC supporters attempted to burn down the SLPP party office in Bo, however the charge was denied by the head of the police in Bo, Foday Dabah. “The situation is under control. Media reports of houses being burned are false,” he said.

One of Sierra Leone’s most prominent human rights activists Charles Mambu condemned the increasing violence and appealed to political leaders to restrain their supporters. “The hard won peace must me maintained at all costs,” he said.

Some analysts have expressed concern that Sierra Leone, which experienced a devastating civil war between 1991 and 2002, could divide along ethnic-regional lines. However, senior diplomats in the country have said that low-level violence is not a major cause for concern, and expressed confidence that Sierra Leone’s police and army are sufficiently trained and equipped to quell violence effectively.

Meanwhile the Head of the Outreach Unit of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Miatta French has confirmed the arrival of elections materials for the 8 September poll.

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