Sierra Leone’s former Vice President, dismissed Wednesday by President Ernest Bai Koroma, said his “purported” removal is “unconstitutional and unlawful.”
In a statement, Samuel Sam-Sumana said he was duly elected to the post and Koroma had “absolutely no power to relieve me of the duty of Vice President.”
He said he has instructed his lawyers to pursue the matter in court. Sam-Sumana called on his supporters to remain calm and abide by the law.
Government spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay said the vice president was expelled from the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party on March 6 for fomenting trouble in his home district of Kono.
Bayraytay said the constitution mandates that one must be a member of a political party in order to become president or vice president.
He said the final straw occurred when Sam-Sumana sought asylum in the U.S. Embassy, claiming his life was in danger.
“The APC party, which is the governing party, found the former vice president fomenting violence after some members of the region he came from made a formal complaint to the party that the then-vice president was involved in some anti-party activities, and the party invoked Article 8 of the 1995 constitution and he was expelled,” he said.
Bayraytay said Koroma viewed the asylum request as an abdication of his official duties.
“So, that is why the president yesterday had to relieve him of his duty, citing specifically Section 41-b which disqualifies the vice president by virtue of the fact that he has been relieved as a member of a political party under which he came into governance as vice president,” Bayraytay said.
Koroma has just two years remaining in his second and final term, leaving some to speculate whether the vice president’s dismissal was made so that Koroma could select a vice president from his own region.
Bayraytay said succession politics played no role in the vice president’s dismissal.
“That has never been part of the political debate because, don’t forget, in the first term of President Koroma, he nominated Alhaji Chief Samuel Sam-Sumana to be his running mate. The fact that the president chose Chief Samuel Sam-Sumana during the 2012 election was [a] clear indication that he worked with him very well during his first term and believed that Samuel Sam-Sumana will bring more added value to the presidency,” Bayraytay said.
But he added that no matter one's status, once they violate the APC constitution and are found guilty by a disciplinary board, they will either be suspended or expelled from the party depending on the gravity of the violation.