April 6 (UPI) — Opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio won a runoff election to become president of Sierra Leone and took the oath of office within hours of his victory.
Maada Bio, 53, of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, won the race with 51.8 percent of the vote over his opponent in the ruling All People’s Congress Party, Dr. Samura Kamara, who got 48.2 percent. Shortly after being declared president, Maada Bio took his oath of office in a hotel instead of the State House on Wednesday.
The Constitution says the presidential election winner must be sworn in the same day.
Maada Bio led the country for about three months in 1996 after seizing power in a military coup. The former military ruler said the coup against his boss, Capt. Valentine Strasser, was necessary because Strasser broke his promise to step down in favor of a democratically elected government.
“He is best remembered for initiating the peace process that brought back peace to a bitterly divided country, returning Sierra Leone to democracy and handing power to a democratically elected government,” Maada Bio’s election biography says.
Still, critics hold him responsible for human rights violations committed by soldiers under his watch including the execution of 29 people in 1992 without legal due process. Maada Bio apologized in 2011 for the conduct of his soldiers and said he accepted “collective responsibility” for the human rights abuses.
Outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma, who has faced corruption allegations, decided not to open an investigation into Maada Bio’s abuses.
Koroma, of the APC Party, said he preferred Kamara, an economist and former foreign affairs minister, as his successor.