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Secretary-General pledges UN support to Sierra Leone’s president-elect

Secretary-General pledges UN support to Sierra Leone’s president-elect

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged continuing support for Sierra Leone following the announcement of the opposition victory in presidential elections, the first since United Nations peacekeepers left in 2005 after helping to bring peace and stability to the West African country that was torn asunder by a brutal 10-year civil war.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson Mr. Ban commended all Sierra Leonean parties and their supporters “for exercising patience and restraint” during the tallying of votes in the 8 September poll, in which Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People’s Congress Party received 54.6 per cent and incumbent Vice-President Solomon Berewa of the Sierra Leone People’s Party obtained 45.4 per cent of the total valid votes cast. The final result was announced today.

Mr. Ban extended his warm congratulations to Mr. Koroma and also commended the National Electoral Commission and Sierra Leone’s security agencies for the professional and efficient manner in which they performed their duties during the period, which saw two rounds of voting since neither of the top candidates received sufficient votes to be elected outright.

“The Secretary-General wishes to assure the newly elected government of Sierra Leone of the continued support of the United Nations as the country continues to move towards durable political stability and sustainable economic development,” the statement concluded.

The statement was echoed by the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative, Victor Angelo, who praised the statesmanship shown by Mr. Koroma and Mr. Berewa and by the outgoing President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah for “ensuring a peaceful process” during the counting period.

“The elections are over,” Mr. Angelo said in his statement. “We all agree that the focus from now on is on ensuring national cohesion and unity, consolidating the gains made during the past five years and addressing the many challenges the country is still facing.”

The presidential and parliamentary elections were Sierra Leone’s second since the end of the civil war in 2002, and the first since the withdrawal of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).

Since then assistance has been channelled through the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), which today announced one more example of UN aid with the handing over of audio-visual equipment and computers to the Voice of Children Project (VOC), managed by the Office.

Presiding at the hand-over ceremony, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Fabrienne Demal, a Belgian pop star popularly known as Axelle Red, praised the children for their courage and enthusiasm and advised them to take their newly acquired journalistic skills seriously.

The Voice of Children project is regarded internationally as a highly successful communications tool for stimulating critical discussion among children in peace consolidation environments. It was launched as a non-profit public service radio facility for and by the children of Sierra Leone on the issues that affect their lives most intimately.