The two longest and highly competitive political parties in the Sierra Leone political landscape have unveiled their flag-bearers for the nation's March 7, 2018 presidential and general elections.
Sierra Leone is currently embroiled in a tense political atmosphere as President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma's second and final term of five years ends in March 2018, barely four months from now.
Both parties did their primaries on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 October 2017 to get party flag-bearers for the upcoming elections.
The incumbent and ruling All People's Congress party (APC) has chosen a seasoned diplomat and current Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Samura Kamara as its flag-bearer.
The strongest opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) has chosen former army officer Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, who contested the presidential race in 2012 with Dr Ernest Bai Koroma but lost.
After a very tense anticipation over the weekend, Sierra Leoneans have got to know now the standard-bearers of the ruling APC and opposition SLPP parties, the two longest traditional parties that have been at the helm of the political affairs of Sierra Leone since the country got Independence in April 1961, a land with milk and honey (gold, diamond and bauxite to name a few) but paradoxically one of the poorest nations on earth.
The APC, whose grand convention took place in Sierra Leone's northern town of Makeni, had about 28 presidential aspirants in their fold with such names as Alimamy Petito Koroma, John Bono Sisay, Kaifala Marah, Victor Bockarie Foh (current vice president), Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara (justice minister), Alpha Khan, Dr Samura Kamara (foreign affairs minister) and former Sports Minister and journalist Paul Kamara among others.
On the other hand the SLPP, whose convention or primary election took place in Freetown, had names such as Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, Dr Alie Kabba, Munda Rogers, John Oponjo Benjamin among others.
These party flag-bearers, traditional and newly emerging ones, will have to face stiff challenge in the upcoming presidential and general elections to take place on 7 March 2018.
This is because there are new parties in the race that will have to put up flag-bearers of high calibre and credibility, shakers and movers of the political landscape of Sierra Leone.
There are parties such as the National Grand Coalition (NGC) movement tipped to be led by Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, a former UN official commonly known as KKY, and the Coalition for Change (C4C), whose flag-bearer is tipped to be no other person than former Vice President Sam Sumana.
Also among other strong parties is the Alliance for Democratic Party (ADP) led by popular presidential aspirant Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray.
With these and more in the race for the presidential seat, Sierra Leoneans are sure of having to make a decisive choice that will determine whether the country is heading for a make or break.
While the APC under President Ernest Bai Koroma is considered by some people to have registered some infrastructural and socio-economic development, other quarters of the population of Sierra Leone are of the view that the country has degenerated into the abyss of poverty, unemployment and hardship while a few citizens or portions of the society are living in affluence.
On Monday 16 October President Koroma, together with the new flag-bearer of his APC party and the running mate, a popular, young and dynamic lawyer, Mohamed Chernor Bah, took a state drive from the Northern city of Makeni right through to Freetown, amid droves of onlookers and APC supporters lining the streets almost painting the northern province and Freetown red (the party colour), sampling the popularity of his choice, which indeed was visible all over the north (the stronghold of APC) and the capital city of Freetown.
The March 7, 2018 polls, which cover presidential, parliamentary, councillor and mayoral elections, will determine whether the people of Sierra Leone really want a change of government or continuity under the APC.
About 3.5 million registered voters are expected to go to the polls on 7 March 2018.