President Koroma’s sacking of vice president Sam Sumana was illegal – says Ecowas Court

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 November 2017

Reports from Abuja, Nigeria, says that the West African Regional Court of Justice – the ECOWAS Court, has today ruled that president Koroma’s sacking of the country’s vice president Sam Sumana in 2015, after accusing Sam Sumana of “abandoning” his duties by seeking political asylum in the US embassy, was illegal. Koroma must now pay restitution damages.

This court ruling comes against the earlier decision of the Sierra Leone Supreme Court Judges, who said that president koroma as Supreme ruler of Sierra Leone, has the right to sack the vice president.

But the ECOWAS Court of Justice disagrees, and has ordered the government of Sierra Leone to pay the former vice president Sam Sumana his full salary along with other emoluments lost since his dismissal in 2015.

Sam Sumana’s lawyers had told the Court that their client should receive damages in the sum of $250 million (about £190 million), for the hurt caused to his person and financial loss suffered as a result of president Koroma’s unconstitutional decision to kick him out of office without proper due process.

It is unlikely the Court could have ruled for cash-strapped Sierra Leone taxpayers to pay this amount, which is almost as much as the country receives in foreign aid. And to do so would have been regarded as a punishment of the people of Sierra Leone, for the sins of their president.

But by failing to attend the ECOWAS Court proceedings and make representation to defend the decision of president Koroma to sack the vice president, critics say that the Koroma government deliberately shot itself in the foot.

But will the Koroma government pay financial compensation as ruled by the ECOWAS Court? Presidential and general elections will be held in Sierra Leone in March next year. President Koroma will not be contesting those elections as his term of office ends in November 2018.

It is highly unlikely that the incoming government will be in any rush to find money to pay Sam Sumana’s lost salary and benefits.

However, Sam Sumana will be exploiting today’s Court ruling to his political advantage, as he joins the election campaign along the opposition parties to unseat the ruling APC.

Responding to the news of victory this morning, Sam Sumana is understood to have told journalists that “the ECOWAS Court’s decision is not just for him but for the people of Sierra Leone, Africa and the whole world at large”.

Listen here to Sam Sumana speaking to BBC Focus On Africa this afternoon after the verdict:

And this is what Sierra Leone’s Attorney General – Joseph Kamara told the BBC Focus on Africa in Response:

The Sierra Leone Telegraph this afternoon contacted the Attorney General of Sierra Leone for his response to today’s ECOWAS Court decision and received this statement:

Can the ECOWAS Court over-turn the decision of Sierra Leone’s Supreme Court?

The Community Court of Justice was created pursuant to the provisions of Articles 6 and 15 of the Revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Its Organisational framework, functioning mechanism, powers, and procedure applicable before it are set out in Protocol A/P1/7/91 of 6 July 1991, Supplementary Protocol A/SP.1/01/05 of 19 January 2005, Supplementary Protocol A/SP.2/06/06 of 14 June 2006, Regulation of 3 June 2002, and Supplementary Regulation C/REG.2/06/06 of 13 June 2006.

COMPOSITION and MANDATE 

The Court is composed of seven (7) independent Judges who are persons of high moral character, appointed by the Authority of Heads of State of Government, from nationals of Member States, for a four-year term of office, upon recommendation of the Community Judicial council.

The Mandate of the Court is to ensure the observance of law and of the principles of equity and in the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Revised Treat and all other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by Community.

JURISDICTION

Advisory Jurisdiction – The Court gives legal advisory opinion on any matter that requires interpretation of the Community text.

Contentious Jurisdiction

  • The Court examines cases of failure by Member States to honour their obligations under the Community law;
  • The Court has competence to adjudicate on any dispute relating to the interpretation and application of acts of the Community;
  • The Court adjudicates in disputes between Institutions of the Community and their officials;
  • The Court has power to handle cases dealing with liability for or against the Community;
  • The Court has jurisdiction to determine cases of violation of human rights that occur in any Member State;
  • The Court adjudges and makes declarations on the legality of Regulations, Directives, Decisions, and other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by ECOWAS.

Competence in matters of arbitration

Pending the establishment of an Arbitration tribunal, provided for under Article 16 of the Revised Treaty, the Court has competence to act as Arbitration.

WHO IS ENTITLED TO HAVE ACCESS TO THE COURT?

Access to the Court is open to the following:

  • All Member States and the Commission, for actions brought for failure by Member States to fulfil their obligations;
  • Member States, the Council of Ministers and the Commission, for determination of the legality of an action in relation to any Community text.
  • Individuals and corporate bodies, for any act of the Community which violates the rights of such individuals or corporate bodies;
  • Staff of any of the ECOWAS Institutions;
  • Persons who are victims of human rights violation occurring in any Member State;
  • National courts or parties to a case, when such national courts or parties request that the ECOWAS Court interprets, on preliminary grounds, the meaning of any legal instrument of the Community;
  • The Authority of Heads of State and Government, when bringing cases before the Court on issues other than those cited above.

HOW TO ACCESS THE COURT?

Cases are filed before the Court through written applications addressed to the registry. Such applications must indicate the name of the applicant, the party against whom the proceedings are being instituted, a brief statement of the facts of the case, and the orders being sought by the plaintiff.

APPLICABLE LAW and DECISIONS OF THE COURT

The Court applies the Treaty, the Conventions, Protocols and Regulations adopted by the Community and the general principles of law as set out in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
In the area of human rights protection, the Court equally applies, inter alia, international instruments relating to human rights and ratified by the State or States party to the case.

Decisions of the Court are not subject to appeal, except in cases of application for revision by the Court; decisions of the Court may also come under objection from third parties.

Decisions of the Court are binding and each Member State shall indicate the competent national authority responsible for the enforcement of decisions of the Court.

5 Comments

  1. Power, money, and the rule of law form a strange mix at the best of times. In the current election campaigns for votes, many Sierra Leoneans are wondering which political entity possesses the platform and policies on paper that are ingrained with the potential for change: the mix that could revive or retard a country poised to shed-off the jinx of natural calamities often providing excuses for clueless leaderships in the art of integral governance: benefits for the people.

    Long live Sierra Leone.

  2. Sierra Leone people need to look at our neighbouring countries – like Liberia and Ghana and the improvements they have made. Mr Bio must go. We dont need him in Sierra Leone anymore.

  3. I wish to look at the whole drama from a slightly different angle, which does not stray too far from the core of what others have said.

    It is about the tarnished image of both President Koroma and his Attorney-general, Joseph Fitzgerald [where did he get his Fitzgerald from?]Kamara.

    President Koroma, as head of state, is in charge of everything and is expected to keep a clear mind constantly, soliciting effective and efficacious advice where necessary. Sporadically, the President is expected to cast aside technicalities and tap common sense to pursue an issue to its logical end.

    But his behaviour in the Sam Sumana case has soiled his reputation internally and externally. The ECOWAS court must now surely see him as a destroyer of international protocol to which he is a signatory whether he did so directly or not.

    He can forget about ever being called upon again to represent the institution at any level or forum,such as when he was made part of the delegation sent by ECOWAS to reason with Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast for the latter to give up power after losing to Alhassan Watara in the presidential election. I feel ashamed as a Sierra Leonean.

    Joseph Kamara. What kind of lawyer is he? Does he know his job description? As a so-called professional, supposedly well versed in legal matters,he is the one that should have emphatically advised the President that whatever the prevailing conditions, he the Attorney-general, should fly to Abuja with a strong team to defend the government.

    But to have sat out the whole procedure at home in the unproven belief that the ECOWAS court had no jurisdiction over Sierra Leone is unethical and completely devoid of decency. Has he ever followed the ECOWAS Court counterpart within the E.U? The ruling of the European Court of Justice takes precedent over national courts. For example, the Norwegian terrorist, while in prison in Norway for killing scores of people,complained to the European jurists that he was not being treated properly. The Court found in his favour and Norway complied.

    Joseph Kamara, you have a lot to learn, especially in the area of judicial precedent. Your behaviour suggests to me that you lack self confidence in arguing a case before seasoned judges. You know you cannot browbeat them as you would those in Sierra Leone. You can only now practice law at home having exposed yourself as not fit for international duties.

    You and your boss, Ernest, epitomise myopia. Thanks to the Almighty that you are both on your way out.

  4. Sierra Leone is really blessed but we still haven’t got what it takes us to be blessed. but I’m not going to stop praying for that person who will lead us to a good path.

  5. Bravo to ECOWAS for the free and fair judgement on matters relating to Sam’s long awaited case. On behalf of our beautiful motherland Sierra Leone, the ruling government should abide by the law. It’s never too late and it will never be too late to resolve the issue. I pray that God will always continue to guide and protect our promised land Sierra Leone,

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