Sierra Leone Election: The test of the nation’s stability

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Nov 16th, 2012
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By economist

Voting is priceless; T-shirts are cheap

POSTERS plaster Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. With an election on November 17th, candidates are vying for votes. President Ernest Bai Koroma is bidding for re-election with snappy slogans such as “When Music is Nice We Play it Twice” and “De Pa Dae Woke”, which means “The Father is Working”.

Whoever wins, the ballot creates opportunities for businessmen such as Mohamed Taleb, a recent immigrant from Lebanon. Mr Taleb runs the printing operation for a firm called Protec in Freetown. His workshop ran off some 5,000 square metres of banners for Sierra Leone’s two main parties. The ruling All People’s Congress (APC) ordered about $20,000-worth; the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) a quarter as much. “They just rely on me for what I do,” Mr Taleb says.

It is ten years since Sierra Leone’s terrible, hand-chopping civil war ended. The poll is a test of the nation’s stability. But voters still like to be given goodies, such as T-shirts, caps, scarves and wristbands in party colours.

A lot of the election tat is made in China. Qifei Liang, a 28-year-old Chinese trader, struck a deal with the SLPP to bring in 6,000 T-shirts. The deal is worth $30,000, but so far he has received only $4,000. The rest is due by the end of November. Mr Liang is a little nervous.

Local traders are importing election goodies from China, too. Kada Enterprises on Freetown’s ECOWAS Street brought in two 40-foot containers. The $150,000 deal included 12,000 APC and 9,600 SLPP T-shirts and 72,000 caps to keep off the sun. Nearby Sulaiman Kamara has brought in 90,000 T-shirts. He is cagey about prices. “Making a profit is one; assisting our people to go through the campaign is another profit,” he says.

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