As can be observed in Figure 1, the run-up to Sierra Leone’s 7 March election was marked by an increase in political violence across the country. The majority of the violent incidents were riots or clashes between supporters of the All People’s Congress (APC) and Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) (Sierra Leone Telegraph, 02 March 2018). On 7 March, the main opposition party, the SLPP, won marginally more votes than the ruling party, the APC, triggering an election runoff (The Guardian, 21 March 2018). Further protest erupted around discussions for the date for the election runoff, but it has been settled for 31 March (Africa News, 26 March 2018). In the run-up to the 31 March, the overall levels of political violence have decreased slightly from February (see Figure 1), but are still significantly higher than Sierra Leone’s usual levels of political violence. Furthermore, the National Electoral Commission has reported a high level of intimidation of voters during this period. This intimidation is mostly carried out by the police, who are known to be sympathetic to the ruling APC (News24, 22 March 2018).
Analysts following the Sierra Leone election have also noted a worrying trend of ethnicised violence and rhetoric in this period. The APC and SLPP draw support from the two main ethnic groups in Sierra Leone: the Temne (APC) and the Mende (SLPP). However, in the past, clashes between the groups were driven by competition over access to resources, rather than ethnic rhetoric. In this election, however, analysts have noted an increase in ethnic, rather than political competition in the party clashes.