Sierra Leone opposition concedes election defeat to president

Reuters Middle East

* Boycott threat to be lifted within days - opposition

* Decision follows meeting with ruling party late on Monday

FREETOWN, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone's main opposition

party has conceded defeat to President Ernest Bai Koroma, weeks

after an election that the incumbent won but the opposition had

complained was marred by fraud.

Koroma secured re-election in the first round of voting last

month but his rival Julius Maada Bio's opposition Sierra Leone

People's Party (SLPP) had announced its boycott of all levels of

government in protest, threatening to undermine an otherwise

widely praised vote.

The opposition change of tack following the vote that is

seen as a test for Sierra Leone's post-war recovery came after a

meeting on Monday between the SLPP and the leadership of

Koroma's All People's Congress party.

"It is a matter of fact, the oath of office has been taken

and he's the president of the country," Banja Tejan-Sie,

secretary general of the SLPP said on Tuesday.

Tejan-Sie said the boycott was likely to be lifted following

a meeting of the SLPP's leadership, due within the next three


Koroma won just under 60 percent of the presidential vote on

Nov. 17, avoiding the need for a run-off, and his APC party

gained eight seats to secure a majority with 67 of the 124 seats

in parliament. The SLPP took 42 seats, losing three.

Sierra Leone has seen a decade of post-conflict

reconstruction, and the country, which has resources including

gold, diamonds, oil and iron ore, has drawn billions of dollars

in state revenues from mining and agriculture deals.

However, it remains one of the least developed nations on

earth and the ruling party said the opposition move would allow

the aid-dependent country to "move forward".

"It has brought a lot of relief to many Sierra Leoneans who

were kind of tense because the main opposition leader had not

met the president," Sheka Tarawalie, Sierra Leone's deputy

minister of information, told Reuters.

"Now he has come out openly to acknowledge the president as

elected leader of the country, the tension has gone away."

A 100-strong observer mission from the European Union said

the advantages of incumbency meant there was no level playing

field for the election but that it was generally free and fair.

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