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Sierra Leone Swears In Opposition Leader as New President

Julius Maada Bio has been sworn in as Sierra Leone’s new president after winning a tight run-off vote.

Bio took the oath of office just before midnight Wednesday, soon after the electoral commission named him the winner of last Saturday’s poll.

“The people of this great nation have voted to take a new direction,” Bio said to cheers at the ceremony in the capital, Freetown. “We are honored and privileged to serve the new government of Sierra Leone.”  

The ceremony took place in the capital, Freetown.

Bio, the 53-year-old standard-bearer of the Sierra Leone People’s Party and a former military junta leader, won with almost 52 percent of votes in last Saturday’s poll. He defeated former foreign minister Samura Wilson Kamara of the ruling All People’s Congress Party, who garnered just over 48 percent.

In the March 7 general election, neither candidate had reached the 55 percent threshold constitutionally required to win.

Some 3.1 million people were registered to vote in the election, according to the French news agency AFP.

On the streets of Freetown, Bio supporters celebrated his victory and what they say he means for the country.

“Our president, President Brigadier Maada Bio, has been elected,” said Richard Tommy, a supporter of the SLPP. He said Bio’s election has been long awaited. “We believe that [he] is the only person who can move this country forward.”

Bio, who had campaigned against corruption, succeeds outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma. Koroma had governed for two five-year terms, the limit.

Koroma spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay said the government was relieved that the first round and runoff elections generally were peaceful.

A poor West African country of 6.1 million, Sierra Leone is dealing with widespread poverty and the after-effects of a 2014 Ebola epidemic that killed roughly 4,000 people.

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