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By Kari Barber
Freetown, Sierra Leone
31 July 2007
 
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The West African nation of Sierra Leone is to hold elections on August 11 to replace President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who is credited with bringing the nation out of a decade-long civil war. Candidates are vying to replace Mr. Kabbah, who was first elected in 1996. Kari Barber reports from Freetown that discontent in the impoverished and war-torn nation means opposition candidates are finding a good deal of support.

Minority leader Ernest Koroma
Minority leader Ernest Koroma
Sierra Leone's recovery from the devastating civil war that ended in 2002 is a slow process. The economy is stagnant and infrastructure remains in disrepair. Thousands of former combatants and victims of brutal attacks by rebels struggle to reintegrate in a society with few opportunities.

Supporters of the opposition say the ruling All People's Congress has not done enough to improve the diamond-rich nation's desperate situation.

Many are backing parliament minority leader Ernest Koroma, who has promised to expand the availability of electricity -- a top concern of voters.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah bid farewell to parliament after serving the maximum two terms. He is supporting his vice president, Soloman Berewa, to succeed him and provide continuity.  "Today, five years on, thanks to the visionary leadership of my government coupled with the resilience of our people, Sierra Leone is now a safe, secure and stable country."

However, some young voters say the government needs to do more than just stabilize the country, it needs to push forward to develop infrastructure to entice more foreign investment.

"We pray for good elections, violentless," prays an Imam.
They support candidate Charles Margai, nephew of the country's first prime minister. Theophilus Sbenda edits an opposition newspaper.  "We are taking the lead now. We are forcing our way. Our elders, I am sorry to say, have failed us to an extent that we cannot leave the running of the country in their hands any longer."

Societal ills that led to civil war are still present, and analysts say they could once again threaten the nation. For many, this election will be viewed as an indicator of Sierra Leone's progress toward stability.

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