In Sierra Leone, at least one person has died and another 20 were injured during the inauguration ceremony for President Julius Maada Bio in Freetown on Saturday.
“The death figure may rise because we are still taking injured people from the stadium,” a Red Cross official, Unisa Carew, told Agence France Presse. Video posted to social media showed a fleet of ambulances responding to a chaotic and crowded scene.
The incident happened as thousands of people pressed to enter the Siaka Stevens Stadium and were forced back by military personnel. The stampede marred an inauguration event attended by African dignitaries including President Macky Sall of Senegal and Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Maada Bio, the Sierra Leone People’s Party candidate, was elected in early April following a runoff election with All People’s Congress (APC) candidate Samura Kamara. He replaced President Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC in a bitterly disputed contest in which Maada Bio received 51.8 percent of votes.
The outgoing president was on hand to complete a ceremonial transfer of power – Maada Bio was sworn in weeks ago – but the transition, while primarily peaceful, has been anything but smooth. Police were called on April 25 to forcibly remove APC members from the opening session of parliament after a brawl broke out among members, a conflict that arose from accusations that some APC MPs had been paid illegally during the election campaigns.
The SLPP remains a minority party in the legislature, presenting a challenge for Maada Bio moving forward and demonstrating the potential for further division in the West African nation.