October 13, 2007 / 6:44 PM / in 10 years

Sierra Leone president names cabinet of new faces

(Corrects paragraph 10 to read "Musu Kandeh for the social welfare portfolio" instead of "Minkailu Mansaray for the employment and social affairs portfolio")

By Katrina Manson and Christo Johnson

FREETOWN, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone’s new President Ernest Bai Koroma appointed 10 more ministers on Saturday to complete a 20-post cabinet mixing technocrats with little-known members of his All People’s Congress (APC) party.

Koroma, a 54-year-old former insurance executive who was sworn in last month after winning a tense presidential run-off in the West African state, already named 10 cabinet posts on Monday, appointing technocrats to key positions including the finance and foreign ministries.

Koroma’s announcement on state radio on Saturday made good on his promise to appoint newcomers to politics, amid lingering political tensions following a 1991-2002 civil war which killed 50,000 people.

"It is a good sign because a lot of fresh faces have come in,’ said Kelvin Lewis, editor of the national daily Awoko newspaper, noting that only two of the 10 named on Saturday had previously held ministerial posts.

Koroma won elections on a ticket to combat corruption and deliver development to the former British colony ranked as the second least developed in the world by the United Nations.

More than 70 percent of people live below the poverty line and unemployment is widespread.

Koroma, who defeated Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) candidate Vice President Solomon Berewa to win the presidency, did not appoint any SLPP members to the cabinet despite promises of a government of inclusion.

The cabinet, however, includes four people from southern Sierra Leone, a heartland of the Mende people who traditionally support the SLPP.

The four ministers are supporters of the third-placed People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), which split from the SLPP in 2006 and backed Koroma’s APC in the second round presidential run-off.

Two new women named in the final batch of ministers — Haja Kabbah as new minister of energy and power and Musu Kandeh for the social welfare portfolio — brought the total of women in the cabinet to three.

Parliament, controlled by the APC since August legislative elections, is expected to approve the appointments this week.

This year’s elections were seen as a test of stability in the former British colony, five years after the end of the 1991-2002 civil war, one of Africa’s most brutal conflicts.

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