Sierra Leone is preparing for a tight race in presidential elections with incumbent Ernest Koroma seeking a second term against his main competitor Julius Mada Bio.
Koroma will have to get more than 55 per cent of Saturday’s vote to avoid a runoff.
Voters will also be choosing 112 members of parliament and local elections are being held for regional councillors and mayors.
Saturday’s presidential election is the third since the end of a brutal 11-year civil war that ended in 2002. Koroma faces eight opponents in a vote closely watched by the international community as a test of the country’s democracy.
The victors will take charge of the nations lucrative mining boom.
President Koroma’s party, the All People’s Congress (PAC), has been praised for driving the nation’s infrastructure developments, although his detractors say they have been marred by corruption.
While the capital, Freetown, boasts a range of new construction projects with newly paved roads, there are also slums recently ravaged by a cholera outbreak, leaving citizens struggling.
Koroma hopes to use the impending windfall from mineral resources to complete his governments projects. The country is rich in diamonds, iron ore, gold and the mineral rutile.
The 59-year-old president took office in 2007 in an election that was marked by several incidents of violence.
This followed a peaceful transfer of power between the ousted Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the APC.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called for a peaceful voting process.
“Peaceful elections resulting in a credible outcome are critical for consolidating Sierra Leone’s hard-won peace and for demonstrating that the tremendous progress the country has made since the end of hostilities one decade ago is irreversible,” he said in a statement.