Under pressure, Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma has finally announced March 7 as the date for the general election next year.
The country will be conducting presidential, parliamentary and local council elections.
“The parliamentary and local council elections will be held a little over one year from now, on March 7, 2018,” President Koroma said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Having consulted with me, the National Electoral Commission will also announce that the presidential elections shall take place on the same date,” he added.
The announcement comes on the back of a relentless campaign by the civil society and opposition political parties for the election date to be declared.
According to the Constitution, the NEC chairman has the mandate, in consultation with the president, to declare the date of the presidential election a month or two before the vote.
But the opposition and civil society groups say the delay in the making the announcement disadvantages prospective contenders by leaving many political parties unprepared.
Speculation had also been rife that the president could have been planning to extend his term in office, fuelling tensions.
The third largest political party, the Alliance Democratic Party, had already threatened to stage mass protests across the country if the poll date remained unknown by February 23.
A nationwide voter registration exercise is scheduled to start in March this year. The listing will be carried out by the newly established National Registration Commission, alongside NEC.
President Koroma also said his government was on the final stages of producing a White Paper for a new constitution, a draft of which was presented to him last month, bringing to an controversial end a review process that took over two years.
The White Paper is expected to be tabled in Parliament, which should call for a referendum.
The president said the referendum is expected to be conducted before the end of September this year.
President Koroma urged citizens to turn up for the voter registration exercise.
He however warned against early political campaigns saying the time to do so will be announced by NEC.
“When that time comes, we expect every party and every individual to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the appropriate authorities. Political activity is no excuse for breaking the law,” he said.
Sierra Leone holds presidential elections every five years.