Ernest Bai Koroma (born October 2, 1953) is the 4th and current President of Sierra Leone. He was sworn in as president on 17 September 2007, shortly after being declared the winner of a tense run-off election over the incumbent vice-president Solomon Berewa. He is the leader of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and was minority leader in parliament prior to becoming President.
Koroma was born on 2 October 1953, in Makeni, Bombali District in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. He is the eldest son of seven children. Koroma was born to a father from the Temne ethnic group and a mother from the Limba ethnic group. Koroma was born of Christian parentage from the predominant Muslim north and a devout Christian himself.
Koroma attended the Sierra Leone Church Primary School in Makeni, and then the Government Secondary School for Boys in Magburaka, Tonkolili District. He attended Fourah Bay College in Freetown, from which he graduated in 1976. After graduating, Koroma taught briefly at the St. Francis Secondary School in Makeni and then joined the Sierra Leone National Insurance Company in 1978. In 1985, he joined the Reliance Insurance Trust Corporation (Ritcorp), and in 1988, he became Managing Director of Ritcorp, remaining in that position for 14 years.
Koroma was elected as the leader of the APC on March 24, 2002, at a national convention of the party. He was expected to be one of seven candidates, but five of them were not present for the election, and the remaining candidate appeared only briefly. Unopposed, Koroma received 370 votes from delegates, while 12 delegates voted against him and the remainder abstained.
Koroma was the APC presidential candidate in the August 2007 elections. He was allegedly the target of an assassination attempt in the early hours of July 23, 2007, when, according to the APC, a group of armed men led by Tom Nyuma, who was a participant in the 1992 coup that ousted the APC from power, attempted to enter his hotel room in the country’s second largest city of Bo to kill him. Nyuma was severely beaten by Koroma’s guards, and he was hospitalized as a result. According to another version of events, however, there was no assassination attempt and the claim was invented to justify the beating of Nyuma.
In the first round of the 2007 presidential election in Sierra Leone, held on August 11, Koroma garnered 44.3% of the votes, ahead of Solomon Berewa of the ruling SLPP, who received 38.3%. This was not enough to win outright, and a run-off election was held on September 8.
In an interview with Reuters on September 13, Koroma said that he wanted to run the country “like a business concern”, emphasize agriculture and tourism rather than mining, and fight firmly against corruption.
On September 17, the Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission declared Koroma to be the winner of the election with 54.6% of the vote, although the SLPP disputed the results. He was sworn in later on the same day at a ceremony attended by Berewa and Kabbah.
On September 21, Koroma left Sierra Leone for a diplomatic visit to neighboring Guinea and Liberia, his first trip outside the country as President.
Koroma has taken a notably long time to name his Cabinet ministers, and has done so in stages. The first group of 10 ministers was named on October 8, and another 10 were named on October 12. According to Koroma, he is willing to take additional time to find the right people; others, however, have speculated that the delay is due to maneuvering in the APC for Cabinet positions.
Koroma was formally inaugurated in Freetown on November 15, 2007 at a ceremony attended by five other African leaders. On this occasion, he promised to fight corruption and emphasized the importance of changing people’s attitudes towards corruption.