Bio of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) scored 51.81 percent of the 2.54 million vote cast over the ruling All People Congress’ (APC) Samura Kamara who got 48.19 percent, according to results announced on Wednesday by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
Born on May 12, 1964 in Tihun, a village in Sogbini Chiefdom in Bonthe District in Southern Sierra Leone, Maada Bio is the 33 of 35 children of Charlie Bio II who used to service as Sherbro Paramount Chief.
Bio’s military and political career has been documented by the mainstream media. According to his teenage years spent at Bo Government Secondary School, a hundred percent boarding school commonly known as Bo School, he serviced as disciplinary school prefect.
Bio, in 1985, joined the Sierra Leone Military at the age of 21 after graduating from Bo School. He spent three years in Benguema going through training before graduating in 1987 as a Second Lieutenant. He was posted in the following year to Kambia and then to Lungui where he trained as aviation security under United Nations.
Bio and many of his friends from military academy formed the second Sierra Leone contingent to serve in Liberia under the West Africa Multilateral Armed Force (ECOMOG), at a time when Liberia was fighting a civil war involving several warring factions, including Charles Tailor, who were taking arms against the government.
When the Liberian war spread to Sierra Leone in 1991, Bio served in the Sierra Leon-Liberian border to conduct military operations to fight the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels led by Foday Sankoh. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report published in 2004, failure in governance was one of the causes of the war that claimed over 70 000 lives.
Weak state and economic institutions created a power vacuum filled by corruption, organized crime, and widespread human right abuse, sinking the country into extreme poverty and political instability. Bio and his colleagues of military officers, including Captain Valentine Strasser, in 1992 overthrew the All People Congress (APC) government led by Major General (Ret.) Joseph Saidu Momoh who used to head the military.
The group of young soldiers who plotted the coup installed Captain Valentine Strasser as head of state of the new military government. At age 26, Strasser became the youngest head of state in the world.
The military coup quickly won the support of Sierra Leoneans from all walks of life and it brought hopes of ending the civil war, rooting out corruption, reducing poverty, and fighting the chronic high youth unemployment.
Bio, a “key member of the Supreme Council of State, the NPRC governing body”, served Strasser’s government in many capacity including Secretary of State, South, and then quickly Information and Broadcasting and deputy head of state. Four years later Bio deposed Strasser and served as head of state for three months before the country organized a general elections that returned Sierra Leone to civilian government in 1996.
The consensus over Sierra Leone military as a public body that should be independent from politics led to the peaceful transfer of power between the NPRC and the SLPP. In a colorful ceremony at the national stadium, Bio handed over power to the new elected civilian president Ahmed Tejen Kabba on March 19th, 1996.
Soon, Bio left Sierra Leone for the United State to further his education, where he earned his masters degree in International Relations. He returned to Sierra Leone in 2003 just after the war had ended in 2002. He introduced several initiatives including the setting up of a grass root diamond valuation venture.
He ran for the SLPP flagbearer during the 2007 primary elections where he lost. However, Bio won the SLPP primary elections in 2012 to run against the incumbent APC president Earnest Bai Koroma. However, Koroma won the 2012 presidential election over Bio with Koroma scoring over 55 percent required to win the presidency in the first round.
Therefore, many observers predicted that Bio’s declaration to run for president at the March 7th 2018 general elections under the SLPP might further divide the main opposition political party and allow the ruling APC to win easily. But, Bio continued campaigning and calling for unity.
In an exclusive interview on April 30, 2017 with the African Press Agency in Dakar, Senegal, Bio played down local media reports of deep division in the SLPP. “It’s normal for an opposition party to have some differences ahead of general elections. I’ll use my 2012 experience to unite the party,” he assured.
During the interview, he talked about corruption, high youth unemployment, injustice, poverty, insecurity that, according to him, has plagued the country for far too long. He said one of his top priority as president was to justly implement the law of the land and according to the constitution.
On the economy, he said the country’s rich menial resources must be transformed into economic development that reduce poverty, improve standard of living and create jobs for youths that make up a majority of the population.
According to the 2012 year book of ‘Science for Changing the World’, “Sierra Leone ranked among the world’s top 10 producers of diamond and rutile by volume.”
Minerals worth $1.1 billion accounted for 71 percent of export revenue in 2012, employing 3 percent of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Mines and Mineral resources of Sierra Leone
However, Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in 2013, 77.5 percent of Sierra Leone’s population are multidimensionally poor.
Moreover, Sierra Leone is still recovering from a bloody civil war, a catastrophic Ebola outbreak in 2014, and mudslides that claimed over 1000 lives on August, 2017 in the capital city Freetown.
“If I was able to return Sierra Leone to democracy in the middle of a civil war, I think I could do better at a time of peace,” Bio answered when asked about the daunting challenges the next Sierra Leone president might face.
Now, at a time of peace, Sierra Leone looks forward to the new president to moving the country forward where government could provide quality service such as safe drinking water, shelter, healthcare, education, transportation, electricity, road infrastructure, town planning, justice and security.
Bio has promised to introduce policies that could make the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) more effective and independent with the full implementation of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2008. Moreover, his campaign promises include providing free primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Bio is succeeding president Earnest Bai Koroma who is stepping down after serving two-five-year terms.