(AFP) – Sep 1, 2007
FREETOWN (AFP) — Trouble ahead of the second round of Sierra Leone's presidential elections boiled over on Saturday as groups of youths clashed in the capital Freetown leaving several injured.
About 60 young people used rocks to attack the headquarters of the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) in the centre of the capital, witnesses said.
Young SLPP supporters responded, leading to clashes quickly broken up by police.
Several people were lightly injured as a result, witnesses said.
A police spokesman confirmed the incident and said authorities dispersed the groups with tear gas but no arrests were made.
The capital was calm later, but many stores had closed.
The clashes came as a mission from a regional grouping of nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), travelled to Sierra Leone ahead of the September 8 vote.
"It is important that ECOWAS signal to Sierra Leoneans that it is interested in the smooth conduct of the elections ...," the president of the ECOWAS commission, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said in a statement.
Most of the 5,000 international and local observers who watched the August 11 first-round elections declared the voting to be free and transparent.
Representatives of rival political parties have met to quell violence ahead of the run-off.
The talks took place after President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah warned he could invoke emergency powers to prevent further clashes ahead of the vote for his successor in the war-weary nation.
In the presidential contest, Ernest Koroma of the All People's Party (APC) will take on SLPP candidate and incumbent vice president Solomon Berewa.
The APC opposition has done well thus far, winning support from other contenders now out of the race after the first round and taking a majority of parliamentary seats.
Police had feared an outbreak of electoral violence in a country where ethnic divisions have fuelled conflict and which still has a long recovery to make after a brutal 10-year war ended in 2001.
The war, funded by blood diamonds, left around 120,000 people dead and many more mutilated and traumatised.
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