Sierra Leone votes for new leader
Ballots not bullets
Iron ore shipments by British companies African Minerals and London Mining are expected to buoy the economy to 20 percent growth this year - below original forecasts of more than 50 per cent but still one of the highest growth rates on the planet.
Doubts remain over whether the election winner can root out the graft from Sierra Leone's patronage-driven politics, fairly distribute the mineral wealth and unite the war-scarred society over tribal and political divisions.
In the electoral propaganda battle waged in Freetown's pot-holed streets, APC billboards have sought to emphasise Koroma's performance over the last five years in building new roads, improving the power supply and bringing in foreign investors.
"De Pa Dea Woke (The Father is working)" proclaims one pro-Koroma billboard in the local Krio language, while another assures voters the president's "Action Pass Intention".
SLPP posters hail Bio as a "Father of Democracy". His supporters point to his role in handing over to civilian rule more than a decade ago and rebuff accusations from critics who question his military past and democratic credentials.
Although ethnic allegiances still shape Sierra Leone's electoral landscape - Koroma's APC draws support from the Temne and Limba peoples of the north, while the Mende of the south and east traditionally vote SLPP - both candidates face pressure to convert the mineral riches into jobs and improved livelihoods.
But a strong consensus also exists among voters that Sierra Leone must never be allowed to fall back into the violence of the brutal 1991-2002 war, when thousands of civilians had their limbs hacked off by drugged-up bush fighters.
"People are getting aware. People are no more interested in violence," said Alimany Barrie, a 45-year-old army corporal, as he lined up to vote in Freetown in civilian clothes.
"They have seen that the power of development is through the ballot box, not the bullet," he said.
Soldiers in crisp new green camouflage and floppy bush hats joined police in trying to control the impatient, shoving lines of voters, some of whom had waited through the night.
At one polling station in the capital's Cardiff Primary School, Fafata Kamara was squeezed in a crammed line of voters snaking down a dirt road, many women wearing colourful wraps and headscarves and carrying babies on their backs.
"Let us have good leaders to develop the country," she said.