Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 March 2015
In defiance of critics, and despite calls from independent constitutional experts to annul his decision to sack his vice president, president Koroma has stubbornly gone ahead today to appointing someone he regards as ‘a very safe pair of hands’ – Victor Bockarie Foh.
This news will come as another blow to most Sierra Leoneans, who have been hoping that the president would take due cognisance of the weight of chorus, calling his decision to sack the vice president as unconstitutional.
But president Koroma has shown that he is not a leader, but a ruler who dictates, rather than build national consensus. For this, many now believe that history will surely judge him very harshly.
And it seems president Koroma has not heeded the constitutional advice, which was issued to him in an open letter by eminent lawyer – Dr. Abdulai Conteh, who has called his decision to sack the vice president – unconstitutional and therefore unlawful.
Is president Koroma certain of the legality of his decision or does he know something that the rest of the country doesn’t, regarding this ugly crisis?
The president’s short statement of appointment was read out on national radio and television. It said:
“The general public is hereby informed that following the vacancy which occurred in the office of the vice president and pursuant to Section 54(5) of the constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 (Act No.6 of 1991), it has pleased his Excellency the president to appoint Mr. Victor Bockarie Foh (Photo – Left) as vice president of the Republic of Sierra Leone with immediate effect.”
Today’s news will be seen by many as an attempt by the president to steady the ship, until the party’s convention next year, when candidates for both the presidency and vice presidency will be resolved by a ballot by members of the APC party.
By appointing Victor Bockarie Foh as vice president, president Koroma has achieved three vital objectives.
Firstly, Victor Foh is regarded as an arm’s length outsider, who has been working in China and not seen as part of the daily political machinations for the leadership at State House.
Thus, Koroma has for now laid to rest the internal strife among a handful of die-hard contenders for the position, especially the information minister – Alpha Kanu, the presidential adviser – Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, mining minister – Minkailu Mansaray, finance minister – Kaifala Marah, and Major Palo Conteh, each of whom believe to have a legitimate claim to succeeding the vice president.
Secondly, Victor Bockarie Foh may not be a straight forward, like for like replacement for Sam Sumana who is from Kono – eastern district of Sierra Leone. But Foh is a southerner, and his appointment will go a long way to helping Koroma demonstrate to south-easterners that he is a president of all tribes. This may help boost morale in the party camp.
Thirdly, Victor Bockarie Foh is a significant personality in what is known as the late Serry Kamal – Eddie Turay – Jengo Stevens wing of the party. In the early 1990’s these three and Victor Bockarie Foh, took Ernest Bai Koroma to court for violation of the party’s constitution, as Koroma fought his way to the top of the leadership.
But after a lengthy and bitter court battle and power struggle, a fragile truce was declared between the two factions and a pact was agreed for Koroma to contest the 2007 elections, which he won resoundingly.
But the embers of distrust continue to burn in the party, as was witnessed few weeks ago when Dr. Jengo Stevens wrote a letter to the party Secretary General about president Koroma’s weak leadership.
Hence, by appointing someone from the Stevens – Eddie Turay – Foh wing of the party, many believe that president Koroma has pulled off a magic stroke, which should placate Dr. Jengo Stevens and his cohorts.
But does president Koroma trust Victor Bockarie Foh?
According to report from State House Communications Unit this evening, president Koroma has said that the newly appointed Vice President – Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh, is taking up office with a wealth of experience, having served as provincial secretary in almost all of the districts in the country. The president is said to have extolled the qualities of Vice President Foh.
“I feel very happy that you are now coming in as VP, a position you opted for in 1996 without success. But today I want to congratulate you on behalf of government on this appointment. I pray that you live up to expectations,” President Koroma said.
President Koroma is expecting his new VP to add value to the ongoing efforts of the government in achieving zero Ebola cases.
This evening, I called Mr. John Baimba Sesay at the Sierra Leone Embassy in China, to ask him, what kind of VP is Bockarie Foh going to make, and what value is he going to add to the Koroma government.
John Baimba Sesay said: “Having worked with him for long, I am certain he will make the best in terms of supporting the President in his drive for a better Sierra Leone. Forget not, that we have come a long way as a country, and what we now need is concerted efforts in especially moving ahead with the prosperity trajectory for national development.
“Victor Bockarie Foh is an astute gentleman that will even call you late at night when he wants things to be done. He is hardworking, and for a country like Sierra Leone that cannot wait for national development, I am certain, he will do all he can, in not only supporting the President, but in bringing what is needed for a post-war country like Sierra Leone.
“I can only call for total support for the Vice President, as our Boss the President cannot do it alone. As a matter of fact, he shall be missed by many especially in the Embassy, where he ensured a surge in ties between Sierra Leone and the People’s Republic of China. I cannot tell you how I reacted to the news, given my personal and official relationship with him as the official spokesperson for the Embassy. I wish him great success ahead.”
But what do we know about Victor Bockarie Foh? This is what John Baimba Sesay – Sierra Leone’s information Attache to the embassy in China, says about the new vice president:
“His Excellency Victor Bockarie Foh is a seasoned politician and an experienced Administrator, who until his appointment as Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, was his country’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. He was born on June 12, 1946, at Jimmi Bagbo, Bo District, in Southern Region of Sierra Leone.
Victor Bockarie Foh was educated at Jimmi Bagbo, Bo School and Fourah Bay College, from where he graduated with B.A. Economics in 1969.
In the 1969/70 school year, he taught Economics and Government at the Ahmadiyya Secondary School, Freetown as the first indigenous Sierra Leonean graduate teacher in that school.
From 1970 to 1982, His Excellency Victor Bockarie Foh served as Assistant District Officer in Bonthe, Koinadugu, Bo and Kambia Districts and was Senior District Officer in Kenema and Kono Districts.
He knows Sierra Leone pretty well during and after he served as District Officer in the Sierra Leone Public Service in 8 (eight) out of 12 (twelve) Political Districts in Sierra Leone. He gave his wealth of knowledge of Sierra Leone to the All Peoples Congress (APC).
Victor Bockarie Foh joined the All Peoples Congress (APC) Political Party in 1970 as a registered card carrying member and has ever since continuously loyally and devotedly served the Party in several capacities, including Regional Chairman Southern Regional and Assistant National Secretary General. Foh has never ever defected away from the APC even when times got bad with the APC.
Because of his loyalty and invaluable services, His Excellency Foh was awarded the National Honour of Member of the Order of the Rokel (M.R) by the late President Siaka P. Stevens, Founder of the APC in the year 1980.
Foh was principal author of the current APC 5th December 1995 Constitution and the first Assistant National Secretary General under this Constitution. He was elected National-Secretary-General of the APC at the Party’s Convention in Port Loko in 2002, a position he held for 10 years until he was appointed to the People’s Republic of China as Ambassador by His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma.
In 1995, in a bid to usher in democracy and political pluralism in Sierra Leone’s political party politics, His Excellency Victor Bockarie Foh and few others formed the All Political Parties Association (APPA) – a pressure group that mounted pressure which saw the exit of the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) Military Junta from meddling into Party Politics.
For ten years following its formation, H.E Victor Bockarie Foh was APPA’s Secretary-General and Chief Executive of the Group.
After the NPRC interregnum and the restoration of Constitutional Order in 1996, Victor Bockarie Foh continued to play crucial roles in especially sustaining the APC, and even represented the Party at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Victor Bockarie Foh was Running Mate to the APC Presidential Candidate in the crucial 1996 Presidential Elections, at a time when only die hard, bold and committed members of the APC associated with the party.”
He was elected to Parliament in 1996 where he was a fearless and constructive debater as one of the five members elected to Parliament under the APC. In doing so, Foh was acclaimed an expert of the Sierra Leone Constitution.
In his entire political career, Victor Bockarie Foh has never ever defected from the APC to any other party, even during challenging moments. He has widely travelled to countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America and Africa on public, party and private business.
In 2014, Victor Bockarie Foh was awarded with the prestigious Honor of Commander of the Order of the Republic Sierra Leone (CRSL) by His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the state, especially in the field of Politics. This, according to Foh was “a clear demonstration of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s recognition of hard work, loyalty, dedication to party and commitment to national service.
Victor Bockarie Foh is married to Jonta Mumie Foh, nee Turay and are blessed with four children. He will be greatly missed by staff of the Sierra Leone Embassy in the People’s Republic of China, where he will be leaving an indelible mark in terms of fostering the relationship between the two countries.”
The appointment of Victor Bockarie Foh may go a long way to calming down the orgy of leadership frenzy that has gripped the party in the last three years, but it has done very little in bringing order and stability to the country.
Today’s decision has certainly now paved the way for a Supreme Court action, as promised by Sam Sumana and his legal team in his statement yesterday.
And whilst this drama continues, Ebola remains steadfast in snuffing out the lives of poor and helpless people in Freetown, Bombali, Port Loko and Kambia.
There are unconfirmed reports that president Koroma will soon announce another three day national lockdown, which he hopes will help stem the continuing spread of the virus across Freetown and the north of the country.