December 13, 2011 / 12:27 PM / 8 years ago

Sierra Leone lifts ban on political rallies

FREETOWN, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone has lifted a three-month ban on political rallies imposed in September after violent clashes among rival factions who will face off in next year’s presidential election.

The ban took effect after Maada Bio, the candidate of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party, was struck by a stone while visiting Sierra Leone’s second biggest town, Bo.

Signalling tensions that still exist a decade after the end of its civil war, the incident prompted his supporters to run amok in the town and set fire to buildings associated with the ruling All Peoples’ Congress Party.

The end of the ban was announced in a statement by Inspector General of Police Francis Munu released late on Monday.

Bio, who briefly ran the country in 1996 as the head of a military junta, will run against incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma. His ruling APC party has accused Bio of human rights violations during the civil war, a charge he denies.

The West African country hopes the Nov. 17 election will show its stability and pave the way for new investment in its mining and energy sectors.

Its first shipment of iron ore left on a ship for China last month. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that iron will help boost economic growth next year to some 51 percent, one of the highest rates in the world. (Reporting by Simon Akam; editing by Mark John)

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