Sierra Leone's outgoing president handpicks successor

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma has shocked the nation by naming Foreign minister Samura Kamara as his preferred successor.

Dr Kamara, a development economist, was unveiled at the convention of the governing All People’s Congress (APC) party in the northern district of Makeni, held from Friday to Sunday.

President Koroma also named the deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Mohamed Chernor Maju Bah, as Dr Kamara’s running mate.

Mr Bah, a lawyer, will be the youngest person to occupy the seat of vice-presidency if the duo is elected in March next year.

Dr Kamara will face off with Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Paty (SLPP).

Brig Bio, a former junta leader, was also picked on Sunday evening at a parallel event in Freetown.

Unlike SLPP, whose candidate was decided by an election, APC’s was single-handedly selected by the outgoing president, prompting speculations of a possible rift within the party in power since 2007.

Over 20 people were contesting the APC's flagbearer position, including current Vice-President Victor Bockarie Foh and the Attorney-General and Justice minister, Mr Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara.

Dr Kamara never really declared his intention in public and was hardly considered a serious contender for the presidential ticket.

APC is seeking to retain power after nearly 10 years in office.

Sierra Leone goes to the polls on March 7, 2018, with President Koroma barred from contesting as he was on his second and final five-year term.

The race for the ruling party’s ticket had been tough, with occasional signs of tension fuelled by regional considerations.

On Saturday, President Koroma, as part of his address to the party delegates, issued what has been described as a threat against rebellious factions.

"People say I am a nice man, that I am a gentleman and I agree; but do not cross my path after I have made a decision," he said in his statement delivered to the well-attended conference at the party’s new regional headquarters in the city of Makeni.

Dr Kamara is one of the few technocrats held to a high esteem in the Koroma administration. He served as Finance minister before being appointed to his current position after the 2012 elections.

Previously, he also served as Governor of the (Central) Bank of Sierra Leone.

In 2015, Dr Kamara was one of eight candidates who vied for the presidency of the African Development Bank, a position that eventually went to Nigerian Akinwumi Adesina.

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