Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 June 2018:
Sierra Leone’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Charles Margai has today been sacked by president Bio, after serving less than two months in the job.
It is not clear what prompted his sacking. But sources close to the president, told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that both president Bio and the Attorney General have major differences of opinion, regarding the priorities being pursued by the Attorney General and the quality of legal advice the president is receiving.
But what is clear is that, prior to the recently concluded general and presidential elections in Sierra Leone, won by president Bio and his SLPP party, there was no love lost between the two.
It was just a matter of time before their relationship was to become unraveled.
Charles Francis Margai was the leader and presidential candidate of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), which he himself founded after losing the leadership contest of the SLPP party in 2005, splitting the SLPP into two factions.
And at the 2007 presidential election runoff, Margai became the ‘kingmaker’, when he decided to enter into a coalition with Ernest Bai Koroma’s opposition APC to help Koroma win the presidential election.
Whilst Margai did not accept any ministerial or public appointment in return for helping Koroma take control of the country, several senor members of his PMDC party where given ministerial posts.
But by the end of Koroma’s first term in office in 2012, most of Margai’s ministers had been sacked by president Koroma. This did not go down well with Margai, who by then had been arrested by police and had his offices raided after a row with the wife of president Koroma over land ownership dispute. Margai’s relationship with Koroma had turned sour.
Margai saw the March 2018 elections as an opportunity to punish Koroma and his ruling APC, for what he saw as serious betrayal and breach of trust by Ernest Bai Koroma.
Rather than officially forming a coalition with Julius Maada Bio and his opposition SLPP to once again become a kingmaker, Margai instead campaigned alongside the opposition parties for regime change. He succeeded.
But few expected Charles Margai to accept a ministerial appointment from president Julius Maada Bio, after Bio had won the presidential runoff election, especially given some of the rather unflattering account of Bio’s political history narrated by Margai on local radio before the elections were held.
Could this be the primary reason for his sacking? Did Bio find him untrustworthy and uncontrollable? Perhaps, we may never know the answers to these questions.
But tonight, what is certain is that Charles Margai is no longer the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone. He will sadly be remembered in history as the shortest serving attorney General the nation has ever had.
So, who has president Bio appointed to replace Charles Margai?
A statement regarding Margai’s replacement was issued this afternoon by the government’s press office, without any mentioning of Charles Margai nor the reasons for his sacking. It simply reads (See below):
According to a second statement issued today by the government press office titled: ‘President Bio Appoints First Female Attorney-General and Minister of Justice’, it is obvious president Bio is highly pleased with his latest appointment. This is what the statement says:
“In fulfilment of his continued commitment to women empowerment, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has, on Monday 11th June 2018, appointed the first female Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Princilla Schwartz (Nѐe Fofana). Dr. Princilla Schwartz is also the only female lawyer with a Doctor of Law degree.
“Dr Priscilla Schwartz (Nѐe Fofana) has over 20 years of invaluable experience as a lawyer, adept in public sector matters, and over 12 years of academic practice across diverse fields of law, which together reflect a career of distinguished professionalism demonstrated at the international and national spheres.
“Dr Schwartz served as State Counsel and Special Assistant to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, at the Law Officers’ Department, Sierra Leone and subsequently assigned to the Vice President (1996 – 2006). Dr Schwartz was key in setting up the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, including co-ordinating the Security Council visit, negotiating and drafting of the statutes and agreements, and their implementation.
“Immediately prior to her appointment as the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Dr Schwartz worked as Senior Lecturer and the Director of the Energy and Natural Resources Law (Master of Laws (LLM) Programme, at the College of Professional Services, Royal Docks School of Business and Law, United Kingdom (2012-2018). She has also lectured at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom (2007-2012); Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom (2008-2011); School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, United Kingdom (2011-2013).
“Dr Schwartz has made distinctive contributions to the advancement of legal knowledge through authorship of high quality and widely cited refereed publications, where she offers critical perspectives on the role of law and policy in growth oriented development especially affecting Africa.
“Notable examples of her publications include: Energy Resources Financing (2018); Capitalism, International Investment Law and the Development Conundrum (2014); Public Private Partnerships and Government Services in Least Developed Countries (2013); Trade and Development Partnerships (2010); Sustainable Energy Infrastructure: Law and Policy (2009) and Sustainable Development and Mining in Sierra Leone (2006).
“She has also applied subject expertise in ‘Sustainability Law’ and developed e-learning courses on the Right to Development (RtD) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The courses cater for representatives from Governments, the UN system, NGOs, civil society, and academia, to enhance knowledge on the implementation of the SDGs. She is the Regional Project Representative for Europe to the UNOHCHR/RtD and SDGs meetings in Geneva.
“She has developed several targeted innovative graduate curricula, including in Energy (LLM), and Oil and Gas (MSc), which focus on resources exploitation in Africa and the Middle East. Designed to attract minorities and build capacity in the energy sector, the programme has in just over three years, successfully produced graduates from twenty African countries, including five Sierra Leoneans.
“Dr Schwartz has earned international and domestic recognition in her field of expertise evidenced by regular invitations to participate in collaborative research projects, organise and speak at international conferences and other media outlets (e.g. the “BREXIT and UK Trade with Africa”, BBC Radio London, 2016). She sits on editorial boards and peer reviews submissions for legal monographs and text books.
“She has also demonstrated academic leadership through founding and coordinating a vast international network of legal scholars to attract public and private funding to enhance legal knowledge on economic issues in Africa – she is the Co-founder and was Chair of the African International Economic Law Network (2009-2015), hosted at the Wits University, Mandela Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa.
“Teaching excellence and mentoring skills earned her positive peer and student reviews including the “Law Society Lecturer of the Year Award 2012” (University of Leicester); and the Students Union “My Academic” nominations, in 2014 and 2016 (University of East London).
“Dr Princilla Schwartz has managed programmes and projects, including for Masters (LLM), doctoral studies (PhD), accreditation bids, research networks etc; in roles as Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader, Director, Co-ordinator and Chair, severally. She has supervised over 150 people, including students, academics, support staff, research communities and partners.
“The appointment of Dr Princilla Schwartz has been commended by majority of Sierra Leoneans praising President Bio for appointing the first woman Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the history of Sierra Leone. President Bio has also further demonstrated through the appointment of Dr Princilla Schwartz that he is not only committed to women empowerment but more importantly to ensuring that competent women are empowered to lead the change and transformation the New Direction offers.”
Where now and what’s next for the embattled former Attorney General – Charles Francis Margai?
Will he go to the media to tell his side of the story as to why he has been unceremoniously sacked today by president Julius Maada Bio, who in the last two weeks has sacked two of his senior ministers?
Is this the end of Charles Margai’s political career, Sierra Leone Telegraph asks?