‘‘Sierra Leone has experienced 11 years of war and now we want peace. So when the results are finally declared, if the elections are conducted in a free, fair and credible manner, everybody should accept it and cooperate with the government of the day,’’ said Marian Faux, who was voting in Freetown.
Koroma’s APC party is expected to draw strong support in the north and in the capital, though he also appears to be making some inroads in traditional opposition strongholds. It’s unclear, though, whether he can garner the 55 percent of ballots needed to win outright and avert a runoff.
He faces eight challengers including the leading opposition figure Bio, a retired brigadier-general from the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP). Bio calls himself the ‘‘father of democracy’’ after his brief three-month tenure as head of state in 1996 before handing over power to a democratically elected civilian government.
Bio and his supporters maintain the president has failed to deliver on his 2007 election promises and does not deserve a second term.
Edward Conteh said education is a key concern, especially for the children of war victims who have suffered economic hardships and few opportunities.
In 1999, rebels chopped off his left arm above the elbow with an ax when he tried to return home to collect food for his eight children.
Today, he is a 70-year-old grandfather and worries about a generation of young men without jobs.
‘‘These are the rebels of tomorrow if we don’t work to educate them,’’ he says.
Associated Press writer Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone contributed to this report.