FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Sierra Leone's main opposition party on Saturday issued a statement saying they had "noted with utter dismay" the election results recently announced by the country's election commission, giving victory to incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma.
The Sierra Leone People's Party, or SLPP, added that they planned to meet to discuss a possible appeal, a move which could destabilize this nation recovering from one of Africa's most brutal civil wars. The Nov. 17 poll is only the third since the end of Sierra Leone's 11-year conflict, and the opposition's acceptance of the results is considered key to maintaining national cohesion.
Koroma was sworn in for a second term late Friday, after provisional results published by the National Electoral Commission showed he had won with 58.7 percent of the vote. The SLPP candidate, retired Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio, came in second with 37.4 percent.
In the statement released Saturday, the SLPP said the party had documented "systematic and widespread irregularities, malpractices and injustices that occurred on polling day," and which undermine the credibility of the results. The statement added that if appropriate remedial action was not taken by the electoral body, the party would be inclined to not accept the results of the poll.
The SLPP has convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday to determine what further action they will take. In the meantime, the SLPP said it is calling upon its supporters to remain calm and refrain from violence.
Sierra Leone's civil war, which ended in 2002, was dramatized in the Hollywood blockbuster "Blood Diamond," starring Leonardo di Caprio. Rebels financed themselves by plundering Sierra Leone's diamond wealth. They left behind a nation that includes several amputee soccer teams, the result of a policy of amputating the hands of victims, including toddlers and babies.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that "any grievances related to the election must be resolved through Sierra Leone's judiciary, in accordance with the rule of law. We urge all party leaders to refrain from actions that incite violence or encourage acts of retribution."