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Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Profile: Solomon Ekuma Berewa
The BBC's Umaru Fofana profiles the ruling party's veteran candidate, who is locked in a tight run-off contest to be president this weekend.

Women walk past a poster of SLPP's Solomon Ekuma Berewa
Vice-President Solomon Berewa polled 38% in the first round

On Freetown's Cotton Tree, Sierra Leone's most important landmark, is a giant picture. Deliberately located and strategically positioned.

It is of "The Youth Dem Papa" or the father of the youth.

He has just celebrated his 69th birthday.

Even his fiercest critics do not dispute his workaholic tendencies.

His name is 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.

Belated birthday

As attorney general he was the chief negotiator for the government during the peace talks to end the country's civil war.

If you believe his middle name Ekuma, a Mende word meaning invincible, then he could just be on the way to receiving the best belated birthday gift of his life.

When Mr Berewa was controversially named by outgoing President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as his running mate for the 2002 elections, few thought he would get the ticket for the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP).

He was not even a card-carrying party member at the time.

In the last few years, he has worked, or has been worked hard, for it.

Close to call

His boss and outgoing President Kabbah, who many believe orchestrated Mr Berewa's ascendancy, seemingly deliberately referred many matters to him.

Ernest Bai Koroma at a rally
With an ebullient character, Koroma stands tall with charisma. The 54-year-old insurance broker says he wants to run the country like a business concern

Some say he was mesmerised by his diligence, while others believe he was being groomed.

Either way, Mr Berewa is his own man.

As one of the country's finest criminal lawyers, he was appointed attorney general in 1996 by President Kabbah after the two worked on the National Policy Advisory Council set up by then NPRC military junta.

Mr Berewa's critics within the party say his ascendancy to the leadership of the party is the biggest factor with the elections so close to call.

In the first round, Mr Berewa came second - just behind the main opposition candidate.

They say his lack of charisma makes him a hard sell, politically; something they believe forced Charles Margai to break with the party to set up one of their biggest challengers at the polls, the People's Movement for Democratic Change.

Although Mr Margai came third and was eliminated - he may yet end up having a decisive role for he has backed the opposition candidate Ernest Bai Koroma in what has become a divisive and hard fought run-off battle.

His supporters say vying for the presidency is not a beauty or charisma contest.

Whatever that means, it is up to the 2.6m electorate to decide on Saturday.


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