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Sierra Leone Opposition Threatens Civil Disobedience

  • James Butty

FILE - Sierra Leonean Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana, shown in Freetown in October 2012.

FILE - Sierra Leonean Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana, shown in Freetown in October 2012.

Sierra Leone’s main opposition, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), has called for an indefinite campaign of civil disobedience following the sacking of Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana, and are demanding he be re-instated.

Sam-Sumana was removed by President Ernest Bai Koroma after he ceased to be a member of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC). He was expelled from the APC March 6 for allegedly fomenting trouble in his home district of Kono.

Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, national secretary-general of the opposition SLPP, said Koroma committed a fundamental breach of the constitution when he sacked Sam-Sumana.

He said Koroma has one week to rescind the dismissal or the opposition will start a campaign of civil disobedience, including boycotting the president and vice president whenever they speak in parliament.

“We had a meeting of our National Executive Council on Saturday, March 21st, 2015 and, in that meeting, a six-point resolution was adopted. It included, among other things, instructing our legal team to institute proceedings in the Supreme Court challenging the dismissal of the sitting vice president of the country who was constitutionally elected by the people this country,” he said.

Tejan-Sie said the party’s executive board also recommended a walk-out protest at certain functions where Koroma and his new vice president would appear. He said the boycotts will not affect SLPP lawmakers’ responsibility to the Sierra Leone people.

“We will participate in parliament, but we will not sit while the president is addressing parliament because, as far as we are concerned, he committed a fundamental breach of his oath and the constitution of Sierra Leone, which he is supposed to uphold and which he is supposed to guide and defend,” he said.

Tejan-Sie said Koroma violated Section 55 of the constitution which spells out the circumstances in the event the position of vice president is vacant.

“He ignored that and relied on inapplicable provisions. We consider the action itself arbitrary. And, we think this is a reminder of the bleak days of our country when we were in an era of dictatorship and arbitrary rule,” Tejan-Sie said.

Government spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay said Koroma’s decision to sack Sam-Sumana is in line with the constitution. He said the government stands for the rule of law and every Sierra Leonean has the right to exercise his or her freedom of speech, as enshrined in the constitution.

But Bayraytay said that if anyone or political party tries to make trouble, the government will make sure the rule of law prevails.

“Our reaction is very simplistic that this is a country of the rule of law. In as much as we are not averse to any group of people protesting, venting their views, whether in support or against the action of the president, if it is done within the ambit of the law. But, anyone trying to foment trouble, hiding under the cloak of either a political or any organization for that matter, definitely, we will make sure the rule of law prevails,” Bayraytay said.

Tejan-Sie said the SLPP is also a law-abiding institution and does not intend to violate any laws.

“The planned protests are going to be peaceful and orderly. We are not confrontational. Our party is grounded on the principles of the rule of law and law and order,” Tejan-Sie said.

He said the government has seven days to meet the opposition’s demands to rescind Sam-Sumana’s dismissal or face protests and a boycott.

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