Franklyn Davies: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 March 2018:
The Sierra Leone Supreme Court has a big responsibility on its hands: either unify this nation or divide it for decades and risk massive civil disobedience. In an amazing twist of circumstances, the APC presidential candidate, Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara, could be disqualified from elections less than two days before voting day.
This was revealed in court papers filed on February 26, 2018 by C.F. Margai & Associates, the law firm of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) Presidential Candidate, Charles Francis Margai.
The suit alleges that the APC government of President Koroma may have violated several provisions of the constitution and our electoral laws, including that the selection of Samura Kamara as flag bearer was undemocratic and that he has dual citizenship.
The dilemma for the Supreme Court is that if they are pressured or bribed and influenced by President Ernest Bai Koroma to disqualify the National Grand Coalition (NGC) Presidential Candidate Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella (by giving a biased interpretation of the constitution), then they must also extend time and look into that case to disqualify the APC flag-bearer.
As was clearly demonstrated in the Sam Sumana case, President Koroma has a well-known reputation for corrupting almost every institution, including the Judiciary.
But the stakes are much higher than just a contest. The issue here is whether the Supreme Court will behave impartially and responsibly to protect the citizens and protect our nascent democracy.
With over 200 observers on the ground, many international institutions, and major international media watching, will the judges dishonour the image of the country’s judicial system? Other courts in Africa such as in Kenya and Liberia have protected their constitutions and the rights of their people. Will our court take a leaf from their page?
Furthermore, whatever ruling the Supreme Court might give, it will have more serious implications for millions of Sierra Leoneans.
Will President Koroma demolish the little credibility he has left in front of the world stage by denying many Sierra Leoneans their constitutional right to vote for a candidate of their choice, by once again tampering with the judicial system?
Unlike the Sam Summana case, we have former President’s John Mahama, Amos Sawyer and Goodluck Jonathan all now in Sierra Leone, along with several dignitaries wondering how the court will deal with the cases of the two leading candidates from the North – Dr. Yumkella and Dr. Kamara, in a very ethno-regionally divided country.
There is a fundamental difference between the case filed by C.F. Margai & Associates against Samura Kamara and the one filed by lawyers briefed by the All Peoples Congress to represent the assistant to David Forna (one of the personal assistant of the APC Secretary General).
The APC briefed lawyers have asked for an interpretation of certain clauses in the constitution, but did not file a petition objecting to the candidacy of Dr. Kandeh Yumkella.
The case against Samura Kamara is an objection to his candidacy – a petition stating why he is not qualified to run for presidency.
Thus, there is no petition before the Supreme Court to disqualify Dr Yumkella, but a biased interpretation could affect him and millions of Sierra Leoneans.
The adjournment of the two cases to Monday March 5 (two days before elections) is very significant. In the first instance, one asks why is Chief Justice Abdulai Charm recusing himself from such an important case.
Secondly, the objection to justice Vivian Solomon is very valid as many people know her strong affiliation to the APC party. Justice Nyawo Jones has retired from the bench and should not sit when there are substantive judges.
Chief Justice Charm can protect his own reputation and the integrity of the judiciary by reflecting hard this weekend, whether it is worth risking his reputation.
The Supreme Court has a great opportunity to repair its image after the Sam Sumana case, safeguard its independence rather than succumb to the dictates of a lame-duck president, whose only interests is his personal agenda rather than the country which is and must always be paramount and be put above all else.