Vice president Sam Sumana running for his life

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 March 2015

sam sumana in quarantineSierra Leone’s vice president Sam Sumana who last week was expelled from the ruling APC party is seeking asylum at the American embassy in Freetown.

He is understood to have fled his home where he had spent two weeks in self-imposed quarantine following the death of one of his bodyguards from Ebola.

Sam Sumana is no longer running away from the clutches of Ebola, but from president Koroma’s secret service who are believed to be hunting him down.

The home of the hounded vice president was raided by heavily armed security forces. His security staff have been disarmed.

Sam Sumana’s fate seems to have been decided by the president, once the decision to expel him from the ruling party had been made last week.

But today he is fighting to secure his life and that of his wife, as they await the decision of the American embassy regarding his asylum request.

President koroma - Feb 2013The president has established a new heavily armed personal paramilitary force that is now poised to crush any sign of opposition or dissent as he tightens his grip on power. (Photo: President Koroma).

This worrying development comes in the wake of the sentencing of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo’s wife for the part she played in the violence that engulfed the country after her husband refused to give up power.

Violence erupted in Ivory Coast in 2011 after president Laurent Gbagbo refused to acknowledge defeat by Alassane Ouattara, who is now president, in controversial elections held in 2010, in which over 3,000 people were killed.

GbagboLaurent (Photo) has been held at the ICC for over three years, awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court accused of crimes against humanity.

He is the first former head of state to be detained by the ICC, although Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and Liberia’s Charles Taylor were also tried by the Special Courts in The Hague.

According to the ICC, the former president of Ivory Coast will go on trial for crimes against humanity on 7 July this year – 2015.

Mrs Simone Gbagbo at the hands of Ivorian opposition militiaThis week, a court in Ivory Coast found Laurent Gbagbo’s wife – Simone Gbagbo, guilty of charges related to her role in the post-election violence.

She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. (Photo: Seen here at the hands of opposition militia after her arrest).

Laurent Gbagbo’s son – Michel Gbagbo, was also convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

Spokesman for the government of Sierra Leone said, that the vice president’s life is not at risk and could not understand why the vice president should have left his home and seeking asylum at the American Embassy.

He explained that the vice president’s security staff were simply being rotated in line with agreed policy and this was not intended to cause panic or insecurity in the country.

But few in the country believe his explanation, let alone vice president Sam Sumana whose whereabouts is now unknown, as the American Embassy is yet to confirm whether he is at the Embassy along with his wife.

Surprisingly, however, rather than State House itself issuing a statement regarding the safety and security of a senior public official, it was left to the ruling APC secretary general who issued this incoherently written and irrelevant public notice, regarding the safety of the vice president:

“The All Peoples Congress national secretariat has been informed by the American embassy in Freetown that the honourable vice president, Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana, has requested to seek asylum at the US embassy in Freetown, alleging his life is under threat and that his residence has been vandalized.

“The APC national secretariat wishes it to be known that since the expulsion of the vice president from the APC, the party has not at any point in time threatened the life of the vice president, nor is the party aware, or a part, to the act of vandalizing his residence, as has been alleged by the vice president.

“In line with article 8 of the 1995 APC party constitution, the vice president has 30 days to appeal his expulsion from the party and the APC would want to assure him, the general public and the international community, that following the due process as stipulated in the party’s constitution is the only available option for the vice president.

“Consequently, the party views the allegations been made by the vice president as an indication that the vice president is not prepared to avail himself to the internal appeal process of the party as sanctioned by the 1995 constitution and is also intended, by the vice president, to feign public sympathy and further shows that the vice president is conducting himself in a manner which is likely to embarrass the party, or bring the party into hatred, contempt, ridicule and disrepute, in contravention of article 8.i.i (ii)(a) of the 1995 constitution of the party.

“Hence, the national secretariat calls on the entire party membership and the general public to remain calm, as our party is a law abiding party and will not do anything outside the ambit of the law.”

Vice president Sam Sumana is not an employee of the ruling APC party, but a senior public officer employed by the State. Responsibility therefore, for the safety of the vice president rests with the State – and by extension the president himself.

What now needs to be answered is why the American embassy in Freetown see the need to  inform the ruling APC about the vice president’s request for immunity.

The Sierra Leone Telegraph will bring you more on this story as it develops. 

3 Comments

  1. I shall be very grateful if the problems of Sierra Leone be resolved peacefully, as we do not need history repeated in our country.

  2. The indecent haste to get rid of the Vice President is becoming comical. The APC Party and indeed the Government, let slip the opportunity to dismiss Sam Sumana prior to the 2012 general elections. This was when news about his dodgy business dealings with some American businessmen came to light – one calling the leadership (the President and his Vice) “two peas in a pod”.

    That episode brought the Government into disrepute, with those allegation by the US businessman of having (partly) funded the APC election campaign in 2007.

    Another opportunity was the Timbergate scandal which touched on the VP’s integrity. But the Party did not censure the Vice President, instead he was cleared of all allegations.

    There is the axiom – “a stitch in time saves nine”. Had the APC or the Government censured the VP over these two affairs, the Party would not now be issuing press statements about the Vice President embarrassing the Party or bringing it into disrepute.

    By their omission, the Party have brought itself into disrepute.

    The fate of VP Sam Sumana begs the question – is there a hex on the post of the Vice Presidency/Vice Prime Minister in Sierra Leone? Because since independence in 1961, no incumbent of that post has ever succeeded his boss for the top job.

  3. Welcome to Sierra Leone where President Ernest Bai Koroma is now consolidating power at the barrel of a gun.

    The President and his ruling cabal are now in full control of the judiciary and the legislature. And any challenge to their absolute reign is now met with brute force.

    Democracy, which by any objective measure, is a once in 5 year event in Sierra Leone, may soon be done away with altogether. This is a country which is in the grip of a seemingly never ending Ebola crisis.

    While Guinea and Liberia are making great strides in curbing Ebola, the rate of infection in Sierra Leone is on the increase.

    International investors are leaving the country in light of the Ebola situation and the rampant corruption and graft which makes it impossible for them to operate.

    The ruler has progressed beyond demanding large facilitation and other illegal payments to now demanding direct equity stakes in mineral and other projects. Even the Ebola contingency fund was not spared as millions of dollars have vanished into thin air.

    This, while President Koroma was head of the National Ebola Task Force and directly responsible for the administration of Ebola funds.

    International accounting firm – KPMG, was compelled to resign as auditor of the Ebola contingency fund, lest they be implicated in the graft.

    Not content with mismanaging the finances of his country, President Koroma is lobbying the international community for Sierra Leone to take over the leadership of the African Development Bank, with risk of that institution facing similar mismanagement.

    Even in a region which is known for corruption and political instability, what is unfolding in Sierra Leone is extremely alarming and demands immediate intervention by the international community – particularly Great Britain and the ECOWAS countries.

    Not so long ago, Sierra Leone almost destroyed itself in a vicious, bitter and protracted civil war. Let’s pray that Ernest Koroma’s actions today have not set the country down that path to destroying its event-driven democracy.

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