UPDATE 2-Sierra Leone's Koroma promises growth in new term

Simon Akam
Reuters Middle East

* President wins re-election against ex-military rival

* "We will attract investment, fight corruption" - Koroma

* Fast-growing economy looks to iron ore, oil development

FREETOWN, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone President Ernest

Bai Koroma was sworn in for a second term on Friday after

winning elections, promising to boost foreign investment and

crack down on corruption in the war-scarred nation.

Koroma took 58.7 percent of the ballots in a Nov. 17 poll,

just above the 55 percent he needed to avoid a run-off, election

officials announced. His main rival, Julius Maada Bio, a

48-year-old retired army brigadier, took 37.4 percent.

"We will continue to attract investment, we will continue to

fight corruption," Koroma said in a speech to cheering

supporters in the ramshackle capital Freetown.

"I will make sure that the fruits of ... prosperity are

equally distributed in every district and every region. The work

starts today."

The election was the third national vote since the end of a

1991-2002 civil war that made Sierra Leone notorious as a "blood

diamonds" battleground for rebels and child soldiers.

After Koroma's win was announced, groups of youths shouted

and cheered under a cotton tree in the centre of Freetown, a

landmark where slaves were once bought and sold.

"I'm pleased, very happy (...) He brings joy in Sierra

Leone. Ernest brings joy in the heart of the people," said Abdul

Deen, 41, who runs a decorating business.

At stake in the vote was the opportunity to oversee billions

of dollars of investment in the aid-dependent country's

resources that include gold and diamonds, oil and iron ore.

Iron-ore shipments by British companies African Minerals

and London Mining are expected to buoy the

economy to 20 percent growth this year - below original

forecasts of more than 50 percent, but still one of the highest

growth rates on the planet.

Election officials and observers reported a large and

enthusiastic turnout in the polls, and observers called the

process free and fair.

Koroma and his ruling All People's Congress (APC) faced a

determined challenge from Bio, a former junta leader who

represents the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP).

Koroma wrested the presidency from the SLPP in a hotly

disputed 2007 vote and was considered the narrow favourite above

Bio, who was involved in two military takeovers in the turbulent


Bio supporters were dismayed by the outcome, many claiming

the results were fraudulent.

"As for me, the election does not go down well with us,"

said Frank Mattia, a 28-year-old student. "Ernest Bai Koroma has

rigged the election which is not free and fair to us, the people

of this country."

The electoral commission said there were some polling

stations where votes exceeded registered voters, but said those

results were thrown out and were too few to have an impact on

the election's outcome.

An SLPP official declined comment, saying an official

statement would be issued over the weekend.

The election in the former British colony was one of the

most closely observed in Africa this year by monitors from the

European Union, the Commonwealth and the African Union.

Doubts remain whether Koroma can root out graft from Sierra

Leone's patronage-driven politics and fairly distribute the

mineral wealth.

"If they get through this successfully, I think it will mark

the tipping point from a post-conflict country to a

democratically developing one," John Stremlau, of the

Atlanta-based Carter Center's election observer mission, said.

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