Sierra Leone's leader 'within rights' to sack VP - court

2015-09-10 09:22

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Freetown - Sierra Leone's sacked vice-president lost a legal challenge Wednesday to his dismissal, the Supreme Court said, ruling that he'd brought it on himself through his expulsion from his party.

Samuel Sam-Sumana was axed in March after being kicked out of the ruling All People's Congress (APC) and going into hiding, claiming he was in danger and asking for asylum in the United States.

He had asked the country's most powerful legal institution to rule on whether President Ernest Bai Koroma acted outside of his powers when replacing him as deputy.

"The loss of membership of a political party created a vacancy in the office of vice-president," acting chief justice Valesius Thomas said, reading out the court's reasons for rejecting the petition.

"And the supreme authority gives power to the president to remove a vice-president in circumstances where constitutional provisions are not expressly applicable."

Constitutional right

The ruling was greeted with silence inside the Freetown courthouse - packed to capacity two hours before the hearing was due to start - but cheering from a small crowd outside.

Sam-Sumana's barrister Banja Tejan-Sie said he was "saddened" by the decision, adding that his client would consider appealing to the higher Ecowas regional court in Nigeria.

A presidential statement days after Sam-Sumana's sacking said Victor Bockarie Foh, a veteran APC powerbroker, had been appointed "due to the vacancy of the post".

The president said Sam-Sumana's asylum claim showed "a willingness to abandon his duties and office as vice-president of our beloved republic".

Sam-Sumana immediately accused Koroma of acting unlawfully, telling reporters the president "does not have the constitutional right to sack me because I was not appointed by him but elected under the constitution of Sierra Leone".

Foh was APC secretary-general for more than a decade until he was appointed Sierra Leone's ambassador to China, a posting which won him praised for strengthening ties with Beijing.

Violence

The appointment is seen as particularly significant as Koroma, re-elected in 2012 for a second term with Sam-Sumana, cannot stand again in 2017 polls under Sierra Leone's constitution.

This makes his deputy a strong favourite to become the country's next leader.

The APC announced on March 6 it had kicked out Sam-Sumana, accusing him of fomenting violence in his home district of Kono, deceit, fraud and threatening key party officials.

He denied all charges and fled briefly into hiding, with aides reporting he had voiced fears for his safety.

The action against Sam-Sumana was seen as part of a wider crackdown on "anti-party activities" which saw expulsions, reprimands and fines for several other senior members.

Read more on:    sierra leone  |  west africa

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