Abdul R Thomas (Editor)
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 March 2015
Last night, in a statement read out on national television, the president announced the sacking of the fugitive vice president Sam Sumana (Photo) from the office of vice presidency – with immediate effect.
President Koroma’s decision to summarily dismiss vice president Sam Sumana from the vice presidency, has raised several serious questions of constitutionality and legal due process.
The president says that he has executive powers to sack the vice president. But these are imaginary powers, he has falsely arrogated to himself.
Today, there are unconfirmed reports of fellow tribesmen and women of Kono from where the vice president hails, demonstrating in the streets against president Koroma and his ruling APC. The situation is said to be tense and there are fears that the former madness that gripped the country in 1991 to 2001, may return.
Has the president been erroneously advised by his Attorney General, who must now consider his position untenable?
And should the country’s parliamentarians also consider carrying out their sacred duty of impeaching the president himself, for violation of the constitution?
In justification of his decision to summarily sack the vice president with immediate effect, this is what president Koroma (Photo – below) told the people of Sierra Leone:
“On the 6th day of March 2015, the National advisory Committee (NAC) of the All Peoples Congress (APC) took a decision to expel Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana from the APC, and by letter dated 6th day of March 2015, Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana was duly expelled from the APC.
“As president of the Republic of Sierra Leone and guardian of the constitution of Sierra Leone, pursuant to Section 40(3) of the constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991, I have taken note of the decision of the APC.
“The public will recall, and I have also taken note of the fact that on Saturday, March 14, 2015, Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana sought asylum from a foreign embassy, demonstrating a willingness to abandon his duties and office as vice president of our beloved Republic.
“And whereas Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana is no longer a member of a political party in Sierra Leone and therefore does not have the continuous requirement to hold office as vice president of the republic of Sierra Leone, as provided for in section 41(b) of the constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991, I hereby relieve Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana of the duties and from the office of the vice president of Sierra Leone with immediate effect, pursuant to my supreme executive authority as president of the republic of Sierra Leone as enshrined in Section 40(1) of the said constitution of Sierra Leone.
“I am in consultation with the leadership of the APC, the party under whose ticket I was elected president, in relation to the appointment of another person as vice president.
“I shall appoint and announce the name of the vice president of Sierra Leone shortly, pursuant to Section 54(5) of the constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991.”
President Koroma, his Attorney General and his ruling APC party executives, may be convinced about the legitimacy of their decision to set aside the provisions enshrined in the country’s constitution, which dictates the circumstances and procedure for relieving the vice president of his duties, but they are very wrong.
Section 40(1) says: “There shall be a President of the Republic of Sierra Leone who shall be Head of State, the supreme executive authority of the Republic and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.”
But this cannot be interpreted by the president as conferring powers that are outside and beyond those which he has been granted by the constitution itself.
And equally, whiles Section 40(3) says that: “The President shall be the guardian of the Constitution and the guarantor of national independence and territorial integrity, and shall ensure respect for treaties and international agreements”, it does not give the president the right to violate any of the other sections of the constitution.
Therefore, when president Koroma said that: “As president of the Republic of Sierra Leone and guardian of the constitution of Sierra Leone, pursuant to Section 40(3) of the constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991, I have taken note of the decision of the APC,” he is simply conflating issues, as his duty to take note of his party’s decision has nothing to do with the constitution of the country, but the constitution of the APC party – of which he is the chairman.
The president has behaved very dishonourably and is disingenuous in using Section 41(b) of the constitution, to justify his twisted logic and crass decision to sack the vice president.
Although Section 41(b) says that: “No person shall be qualified for election as President unless he is a member of a political party”, this constitutional provision cannot be applied retrospectively.
The elections for which vice president Sam Sumana was appointed as candidate for the office of vice-president by president Koroma himself, took place in 2012, and there is no reason to suggest that Sam Sumana was not a member then of the APC party.
The forthcoming presidential election is not due for another two years at least, when the constitutional criteria for the vice presidential candidacy as dictated by Section 41(b) shall become relevant.
Until then, any decision by president Koroma and his ruling APC to use Section 41(b) as a crutch for sacking the vice president, must be deemed ultra-vires and therefore unconstitutional.
There is a saying: ‘When you find yourself in a hole, you must stop digging’. Sadly, president Koroma and his not so – ‘three wise men’, have not taken heed of this warning.
Not only have they gone ahead with their unconstitutional decision to sack the vice president, but have also proceeded to seriously violate the provisions of sections 50 and 51 of the constitution, which relates to the removal from office of a vice president.
The constitution of Sierra Leone is clear on the subject of removal of a vice president.
Section 54(8) says that: “The provisions of sections 50 and 51 of this Constitution, relating to the removal from office of the President, shall apply to the removal from office of the Vice-President.” The Sierra Leone Telegraph has therefore transposed the word ‘vice president’ in place of ‘president’ in discussing these sections accordingly.
“The office of vice president shall become vacant where the incumbent ceases to hold that office in pursuance of section 51 of this Constitution” – (i.e. gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office).
But this provision can only apply where there is evidence of gross misconduct by the vice president in the performance of the functions of his office, and 50% of parliamentarians have signed and handed a petition to the speaker of parliament for impeachment.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph is reliably informed that after weeks of rancor and acrimony, involving the parliamentary members of the ruling APC party and the party executives, over the expulsion of the vice president from the party, president Koroma was unable to get the majority of his APC parliamentarians to sign a petition for the impeachment of the vice president.
And, with some of his parliamentarians supporting the vice president and threatening an open rebellion in parliament, should a motion for impeachment be brought before them, president Koroma has himself decided to stick the knife into his vice president, who had refused all manners of cajoling to resign peacefully.
And even in such circumstances of alleged gross misconduct by the vice president, Section 49(1) of the constitution also says that: “Provided that the vice president shall not resign or retire from his office even at the due expiration of his term of office, where a state of public emergency has been declared.”
This implies that the vice president cannot be relieved of his duties at this time, as Sierra Leone is currently under a state of public emergency, declared by president Koroma himself and approved by parliament in response to the deadly Ebola, which is still ravaging the lives of several communities.
President Koroma’s failure to follow constitutional procedure in relieving the vice president of his duties is glaringly obvious.
If president Koroma was confident of the veracity and reliability of the charges made against the vice president by the party’s NAC and their reasons for expelling him from the party, Koroma should have pursued an impeachment order in accordance with Section 51 of the country’s constitution.
But clearly, any petition for impeachment by a majority in parliament must be supported by evidence of the alleged gross misconduct committed by Sam Sumana in the performance of the functions of his vice presidential office.
And this body of evidence, president Koroma and his party executives have found extremely difficult to submit to their parliamentarians, and hence his decision to push the vice president under the bus himself.
But be that as it may, had president Koroma and his ruling APC gone ahead with an impeachment motion in parliament, this is what the constitution says should have taken place:
Section 51(1) says that: “If notice in writing is given to the Speaker signed by not less than one-half of all the Members of Parliament of a motion alleging that the vice president has committed any violation of the Constitution or any gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office and specifying the particulars of the allegations and proposing that a tribunal be appointed under this section to investigate those allegations, the Speaker shall:
- if Parliament is then sitting or has been summoned to meet within five days, cause the motion to be considered by Parliament within seven days of the receipt of the notice; or
- if Parliament is not then sitting (and notwithstanding that it may be prorogued), summon Parliament to meet within twenty-one days of the receipt of the notice, and cause the motion to be considered by Parliament.
(2) Where a motion under this section is proposed for consideration by Parliament, it shall meet in secret session and shall not debate the motion, but the Speaker or the person presiding in Parliament shall forthwith cause a vote to be taken on the motion and, if the motion is supported by the votes of not less than two thirds of all Members of Parliament, shall declare the motion to be passed.
(3) If a motion is declared to be passed under subsection (2):
- the Speaker shall immediately notify the Chief Justice who shall appoint a tribunal which shall consist of a Chairman who shall be a Justice of the Supreme Court and not less than four others selected by the Chief Justice, at least two of whom shall hold or shall have held high judicial office;
- the Tribunal shall investigate the matter and shall within the period of three months from the date on which the motion was passed report to Parliament through the Speaker whether or not it finds the particulars of the allegation specified in the motion to have been sustained;
- the vice president shall have the right to appear and be represented before the Tribunal during its investigation of the allegations against him.
(4) If the Tribunal reports to Parliament that it finds that the particulars of any allegation against the vice president specified in the motion have not been substantiated, no further proceedings shall be taken under this Section in respect of that allegation.
(5) Where the Tribunal reports to Parliament that it finds that the particulars of any allegation specified in the motion have been substantiated, Parliament may, in secret session, on a motion supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the Members of Parliament, resolve that the vice president has been guilty of such violation of the Constitution or, as the case may be, such gross misconduct as is incompatible with his continuance in office as vice president; and where Parliament so resolves, the vice president shall thereupon cease to hold office and a vacancy shall then be deemed to have occurred in the office of vice president and subsection (4) of Section 49 of this Constitution shall apply accordingly.”
Whilst Section 51(1) of the constitution may seem cumbersome, onerous, complex and tedious for president Koroma and his APC cabal to follow, this provision is designed by the architects of the country’s constitution to prevent human rights violators like president Koroma from abusing powers they do not have.
It is also designed to ensure that due process is followed, in accordance with the other provisions of the constitution of the land, which must all equally be respected as sacred.
And it seems the Koroma government is once again going to get away with injustice and impunity. (Photo: Sam Sumana pictured last week in hiding, but now denying he ever requested asylum).
Most likely, Koroma will continue to be rewarded by Western leaders – who, for whatever reason, see the need to pay gratitude to the president for safeguarding their interests – which ironically, China is now slowly removing from under their feet.
President Koroma is now looking to appoint a successor to Sam Sumana, and the president has the temerity to shamelessly say that he is doing so in accordance with Section 54(5) of the country’s constitution:
“Whenever the office of the Vice-President is vacant, or the Vice-President dies, resigns, retires or is removed from office, the President shall appoint a person qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament to the office of Vice-President with effect from the date of such vacancy, death, resignation, retirement or removal.”
A long queue of Koroma loyalists has been formed in the corridors of State House, stretching from Sawpit to Cotton Tree and back to State House.
These are the men and women that are queuing up to succeed Sam Sumana, after many of them have shamelessly betrayed one of theirs. But was Sam Sumana ever one of them?
Alhaji Alpha Kanu, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, Alhaji Yansaneh, Dr. Monty Jones, Sylvia Blyden, Ibrahim Bundu, Palo Conteh, Minkailu Mansaray, Dr. Jengo Stevens, John Sesay (Sierra Rutile), Kelfala Marah, Joseph Kamara (Anti-Corruption Commissioner), Balogun Koroma, and Victor Foh.
Sam Sumana has been thrown under the bus, quite simply and callously by president Koroma, in order to clear the field for his heir apparent, in preparation for the ruling party’s leadership contest. But it need not have happened this way.
Yesterday’s frantic public denial by vice president Sam Sumana that he never left his house and went into hiding – fearing for his life, and that he never requested asylum from the US embassy, is a serious sign of a broken man who is under a lot of mental strain.
He seems to have lost all sense of time and place, by denying his own actions and movements of the last week. (Photo: Sam Sumana pictured last week in hiding – now denying he ever left his house).
The country’s legal professionals too, need to come to the rescue of Sierra Leone’s constitution that has been shredded by president Koroma and his cabal.
This is a worthy cause to which the country’s Bar Association must now rise up and take on, not necessarily to vindicate Sam Sumana – but to prove that by summarily sacking the vice president, president Koroma’s action is ultra vires, and therefore tantamount to a serious violation of the country’s constitution.