Sierra Leone’s 2007 Elections: Monumental and More of the Same
by Kevin S. Fridy and Fredline A.O. M’Cormack-Hale
When the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone announced that Ernest Bai Koroma and his party, the All People’s Congress, had been elected to replace the incumbent Sierra Leone People’s Party government, Sierra Leone joined a growing number of African nations to have experienced a peaceful turnover of power from one popularly elected government to another. Though the electoral tallies were not without their critics, the overwhelming sentiment both within Sierra Leone and without was that the 2007 elections marked a positive turning point in the country’s political history. Using newly released census data and election results, we analyze the 2007 elections to see just how paradigm-breaking these elections were. We find that the social cleavages, and most notably ethnic cleavages pitting the Mende versus the Temne, that marked preceding elections were evident in 2007. These most recent elections were not, however, as some SLPP supporters have claimed, more divisive in terms of ethnicity than elections past. What changed between 2002 and 2007 was not an increase in “tribal animosities” or a demographic shift but rather a change in who the heterogeneous and relatively cosmopolitan voters of Freetown felt should lead the country for the next five years.
Kevin S. Fridy is Assistant Professor of Government and World Affairs at the University of Tampa.
Fredline M’Cormack-Hale is Assistant Professor at the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University. This research and analysis was made possible in part through University of Tampa Dana and Delo grants and a United States Institute of Peace dissertation fellowship.