Ghana’s John Mahama denies interference in tense Sierra Leone election

Former Ghanaian President John Mahama has denied involvement in alleged plot to rig Sierra Leone’s presidential election.

Mr Mahama, whose sudden departure from Freetown on Tuesday sparked rumours of his expulsion by Sierra Leonean authorities, said he had no interest in who becomes president and was only interested in safeguarding the country’s peace given its history.

Mr Mahama is head of the Commonwealth Elections Observation Mission to Sierra Leone, where the governing All People’s Congress (APC) party accused him of plotting a regime change agenda as part of an international conspiracy led by the UK.

The allegation has added to an already tense atmosphere created by the delay in announcing the outcome of the March 31 run-off.

The contest is between APC’s Samura Kamara and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party’s (SLPP) Julius Maada Bio.

Both parties have claimed victory, even though the National Electoral Commission (NEC) was yet to announce the final results.

APC said Brig (Rtd) Bio’s campaign was bankrolled by a brother of Mr Mahama.

On Tuesday, a campaign was launched by some APC stalwarts to force the former Ghanaian president to leave the country. Shortly after, news came in of his departure.

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A senior APC official announced a ‘Mahama-Must-Go’ campaign via the social media platform, Whatsapp. Mr Gibril Fadika repeated the accusation levied against the Ghanaian and insisted that he wanted to cause chaos in the country.

But in a statement released via a Facebook post shortly after his arrival in Accra, Mr Mahama said that he did not leave because of any pressure from the government. He said his departure had been planned that way by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Mr Mahama said before departing he met with outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma and did not realise any bad feeling from him.

“I have absolutely no interest in who becomes president of Sierra Leone at the end of the elections. I just believe that a credible election would consolidate, not only Sierra Leone’s democracy, but also its peace, bearing in mind its past gruesome civil war,” he said.

NEC was expected to announce the results later Wednesday. But a request by APC for investigation into alleged ballot stuffing was feared to cause a delay.

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On Tuesday, there was a spontaneous protest in front of the building housing the high courts in Freetown by a group calling for the announcement of the results without delay.

The protesters, comprising students and business people, said the long delay had made life difficult as businesses had come to a standstill. The students and their parents were worried about the prolonged closure of schools.

The protests also sparked speculation of a plan by APC to seek a court ruling barring NEC from announcing the results. The party however denied that.

There are also reports of a planned demonstration Wednesday against the alleged foreign meddling in the election, according to an unsigned notice addressed to APC supporters and distributed via social media.

A leaked audio attributed to APC Secretary-General Osman Yansaneh was also circulating on Whatsapp where he was telling a worried supporter on phone that Mr Mahama had run away and that they should expect to hear something about the UK High Commissioner later.

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