Sierra Leone lifts state of emergency

Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah ended the state of emergency in the war-battered West African country, freeing political parties to campaign ahead of May elections, Reuters reported.

More than a decade of brutal conflict in Sierra Leone ended officially in January after U.N. peacekeepers disarmed more than 47,000 fighters from the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and government militias.

The state of emergency had been in place since 1998, when Kabbah was restored to power by a regional force to end the rule of a junta of renegade soldiers allied to the rebels.

“I am happy to declare that the condition for maintaining extraordinary measures for security and public order in Sierra Leone no longer exists,” Kabbah reportedly said in an address broadcast late Friday on radio and television.

Under the state of emergency, public meetings by political parties were banned, making it hard for them to campaign ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections set for May 14.