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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Profile: Ernest Bai Koroma
By Umaru Fofana
BBC News, Freetown

Ernest Bai Koroma casting his vote
Opposition candidate Ernest Bai Koroma polled 44% in the first vote

On the Clock Tower in the east end of the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, throughout the presidential election campaign was a colourful poster of Ernest Bai Koroma.

It is the picture of an imposing man. The poster screams for "Change" and it echoes Mr Koroma.

So successful was his campaign message, that the opposition leader successfully defeated the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) party's candidate in the run-off for presidential elections.

Now the All People's Congress (APC) leader must carry out his campaign promises.

Ebullient character

A relative newcomer to politics, he was seen as a political nonentity when he expressed interest in the leadership of his party at the turn of the millennium.

Others say it was foolhardy of him to dirty his reputation by joining a party so tainted by innumerable vices during their time in power.

Some seven years on, Mr Koroma is seen as the single biggest factor for the party's resurgence.

Solomon Ekuma Berewa
Solo B as he is fondly called, is reputed to be dedicated and dutiful. A no-nonsense disciplinarian and a skilled negotiator

With an ebullient character, Mr Koroma stands tall with charisma.

The 54-year-old insurance broker says he wants to run the country like a business concern.

His critics say he is a facsimile of the late former President Joseph Saidu Momoh who ruled the country until the party was kicked out in 1992.

Behind their binoculars, he is surrounded by the same old people who wrecked the country.

They say he is weak and lacking in ideas.

Sleek campaign

His supporters cannot disagree more.

In their eyes, Mr Koroma has been earnest in reforming the party.

So much so that he has apologised for the dark days the APC plunged the country into.

Incontrovertibly, while the party has benefited from his charisma, he has benefited from the party's sleek campaign which has been unparalleled in these elections.

Born in the north and the eldest of seven children, the APC's presidential candidate came to the fore in 2002 when he became the flag-bearer of the party and took a distant second managing only to become a parliamentarian.

Such was his confidence, that he did not contest any seat other than the presidency.

With a clean past, his supporters only doubted his margin and not his victory.

But with a country worn down by corruption and power shortages since the end of the decade-long war, he faces a tough task to turn things around.


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