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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Peaceful poll in Sierra Leone
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By Mark Doyle
BBC West Africa correspondent
line
On the day of voting in the general elections, Mark Doyle reports from Freetown.

Day 6 - Election day

"I can vote for who I want. I am happy, just so happy, because I want this country to be a better country for me and my children."

The old lady standing in a queue outside one of the main polling stations in Freetown was shuffling slowly towards her turn at the tables and cardboard polling booths set up in the shade.


I feel so good because... it's a peaceful election

Young voter
Small children skipped around shouting "Col' wata! Col' wata!" with plastic sachets of cold water for sale in bowls balanced on their heads.

Towards the middle of the day the children were doing good business.

Some people had to queue in the sun for hours. They were determined to keep their places to make their choice, so thirst grew.

"I feel so good because after 10 years of war it's a peaceful election," said a young man.

"Thousands of people are at this polling station to vote, so it's very slow but it's all fine."

A few hours after polling began, people gathered in small knots around crackling radio sets.

Incorrect lists

The election commissioner, Walter Nicol, was announcing a last minute change to the rules.

Voting in Freetown
Results are not expected for several days

Because of errors that some opposition candidates had complained about, some of the polling station lists were incorrect.

Mr Nicol announced that anyone with a valid voter's card would be allowed to vote even if their name was not on the lists.

Quite why this was announced at the last minute, and why, with all of the international assistance the electoral commission has had to draw up the lists, they were still inaccurate, may turn out to be a source of controversy.

Logistical shortcomings

Next I met the chief electoral observer of the European Union. Johann Van Hecke was a Dutch politician in a bright blue waistcoat.

When I spoke to him mid-morning he said: "There have been numerous logistical shortcomings but from what I have seen so far I think these are due to lack of resources and not part of any political manipulation".

I rang the Sierra Leone Chief of Police, a former British policeman, Keith Biddle: "I haven't had any reports of violence reported to me."

"People are voting peacefully and that seems to be the picture across the whole country," he said.

See also:

11 May 02 | Africa
S Leone campaign ends in riots
28 Mar 02 | Africa
Sankoh barred from poll
13 Mar 02 | Africa
In pictures: Foday Sankoh emerges
12 May 00 | Africa
Foday Sankoh: Rebel leader
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