Sierra Leone Domestic Politics

By | March 23, 2021

The 2018 presidency was won by Julius Maada Bio from the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in the 2nd ballot. He was named Sierra Leone’s new president on April 4th. He replaces Ernest Bai Koroma from the All People’s Congress (APC), who was not allowed to run again after two terms.

In terms of party politics, Sierra Leone is mainly divided into two camps. While the APC tends to be the party of the Temne in the north, the SLPP has its electorate mainly from the Mende in the south and southeast of the country. Both parties are politically charged. The one-party system and the APC’s mismanagement ultimately led to civil war. The SLPP then stood for renewal and peace. However, she is also accused of having unrestrained enrichment in her leadership during her reign.


After the civil war, presidential and parliamentary elections were held on May 14, 2002. The incumbent President Kabbah (SLPP) was re-elected with 70% of the vote.

In the regional and local elections, which took place two years later on May 22, 2004, the SLPP suffered heavy losses in Freetown and the Western Area. Further local elections were held in 2008, 2012 and 2018. This speaks in favor of the democratization and decentralization process.

In the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007, the incumbent President Kabbah was unable to run for constitutional reasons. The incumbent Vice President Solomon Berewa was nominated as the new presidential candidate of the SLPP. As a result, one of the losing competitors, Charles Margai, founded a new party, the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), and became its presidential candidate.

APC presidential candidate Ernest Bai Koroma did not get the required 50% of the vote in the first ballot. With the support of the newly founded PMDC, he won the runoff election required with 54.6% of the vote. While there were sometimes violent riots during the election campaign, the elections were generally calm, as was the transfer of power. On September 17, 2007, the new president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, took office and formed the government. He started his second term in early 2013 after being re-elected (58.7% in the first ballot). The opponent of the SLPP was Julius Maada Biowho was involved in the 1992 coup and in the subsequent government of the NPRC (see above).

In 2015, Koroma dismissed the Vice President he elected, Sam Sumana, due to a conflict. This created a political dispute over whether it was in the power of the president to dismiss the vice-president or whether parliament had to approve such a decision. The Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the dismissal, a very controversial decision. Victor Bockarie Foh was appointed as the new Vice President.

Campaign posters 2018

Campaign posters 2018

On March 7, 2018 municipal, were parliamentary and presidential elections carried out. President Koroma (APC) was not allowed to run again after two terms. The candidate of the SLPP, Maada Bio, received 43.3% of the vote, Samura Kamara of the APC, the previous Foreign Minister, 42.7%. Kandeh Yumkella, the candidate of the newly formed NGC (National Grand Coalition) got 6.9%. The NGC was founded after Kandeh Yumkella failed to run as a presidential candidate for the SLPP. Sam Sumana, Vice President from 2007 to 2015 under Ernest Koroma and his party C4C (Coalition for Change) received 3.5%.

Since none of the candidates could collect 55% or more of the votes, there was a runoff election between Maada Bio and Sam Sumana on March 31st in a very tense atmosphere, which Maada Bio just won with 51.8%. Immediately after the results were announced, he was sworn in as the new President of Sierra Leone on April 4, 2018. The public inauguration took place on May 12th at the stadium in Freetown.

In Parliament, however, the APC retains a majority with 68 out of 132 seats. The SLPP gained 48 seats.


Corruption permeates almost all areas of public life in Sierra Leone, a country located in Western Africa according to itypetravel. The corruption in the management of the large raw material deposits in Sierra Leone is a major obstacle to sustainable economic growth. International companies bribe members of the government to obtain tax breaks or to obtain raw material mining concessions on favorable terms. Furthermore, some of the diamonds are illegally exported, for which it is important in many cases, for example, to bribe officials. There is also a lack of transparency and accountability in the area of land rights.

In everyday life, corruption threatens citizens’ access to basic public services and facilities such as health, education and the police. Sierra Leoneans have to pay bribes in many cases if they want to be treated in hospital, need permits or papers, do not want to be unnecessarily delayed by the police, need school reports in time to be able to apply for a secondary school – just some of the typical ones To give examples. This type of corruption is included in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Indexā€¯Sierra Leone ranks 119th out of 180 states there (2019). Even if the sums are small, the consequence is that people are burdened with unnecessary costs for products and services, which for many of them are difficult to finance at regular prices. On the other hand, wages in the public sector are low, and often they are insufficient for a living without additional earnings.

At the middle level there is, for example, the misappropriation of international aid funds, apparently during the Ebola crisis.

With the passage of an anti-corruption law in 2008 and the creation of the largely independent Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the structures for the fight against corruption were improved. The ACC has had its own prosecutor since 2011, making it less dependent on the judiciary and government.

The current government has the fight against corruption intensified, including through appointment of a new young anti-corruption commission chairman, Francis Ben Kaifala. Over time, it will become clear whether the investigations focus primarily on the previous government, or whether they investigate the actions of their own party and government members.