Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 March 2015
Sierra Leone’s constitution crisis, engineered by president Koroma and a handful of senior ruling party grandees supported by China, has now taken on a new twist, as the ruling party continues to display its communist credentials.
There are unconfirmed reports that the country’s chief justice, is uncertain as to whether he should be conducting a swearing-in ceremony of the new vice president in parliament, as is traditional, given the current legal arguments that have now reached the Supreme Court.
And with the growing opposition to president Koroma’s unilateral dismissal of the vice president, civil liberty groups and opposition politicians are calling upon the president to pull back from the brink.
But the highly politicised Chief of police is bellicose, and now threatening to muffle dissenting voices through the use of police violence.
Opposition SLPP parliamentarians are threatening to table a motion of impeachment in parliament, which could, for the first time in the country’s history, witness a sitting president thrown out of power by the elected parliamentarians.
But such a motion is unlikely to succeed, given the ruling party’s 59% majority in parliament.
Although there is a small minority of ruling party parliamentarians that are unhappy with president Koroma’s appointment of his new vice president – if not opposed to his violation of the country’s constitution, yet an open confrontation with the president is not an option they are willing to contemplate.
Sensing the rising political tension and anger in the country, the ruling party – generally known for violence is calling for calm. But it is unrepentant about Koroma’s sacking of the country’s constitution.
In a statement published two days ago, the secretary general of the party, said that he ‘wishes to inform all and sundry that the APC party is a rejuvenated political entity that is continually committed to maintaining peace and stability.’
But there are serious doubts now as to the ruling party’s commitment to multi-party democracy and civil liberty, given its ever increasing ties with China, who is prepared to do anything necessary in order to protect its investments in Sierra Leone.
There are fears China may have shipped large consignments of deadly arms and ammunition into the country through its Ebola shipments, to help strengthen the police and the newly formed armed presidential guard – made up largely of Guinean troops.
Commenting on the constitutional crisis and the coronation of the president’s handpicked ambassador from China as vice president, the secretary general of the APC party said this:
“As far as the matter regarding the dismissal of Samuel Sam-Sumana and the appointment of Victor Bockarie Foh (Photo: Seen above in his Chinese presidential robe) as Vice President of Sierra Leone by His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma, members of the public should note that the only competent authority to decide and declare judgement is the Supreme Court, which alone has the constitutional authority to interpret the Constitution.”
Justifying the decision of president Koroma to set aside, and his refusal to abide by the relevant provisions enshrined in the country’s constitution, the ruling party says that the president was simply following a precedent established by the former president Tejan Kabba, whilst in office.
It says: “Without any prejudice to the pending judicial deliberations, the SLPP needs to be reminded that during their tenure, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah used the same supreme executive authority as a constitutional precedence to appoint RUF Leader Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh as Vice President, thereby making redundant the elected Vice President Albert Joe Demby without any recourse to Parliament.”
“The SLPP executive,” it says, “having failed to win the hearts and minds of the people of Sierra Leone, and knowing very well that a similar fate awaits them in the next elections, are now using a constitutional matter that can only be settled at the Supreme Court as a smokescreen to pursue a diabolical and dangerous agenda.”
But the ruling APC party continues to make fundamental and gross error, by simply failing to comprehend what is written in the country’s constitution, which makes no provision for the use of precedents in applying the relevant sections of the constitution that deals with ‘relieving of the vice president from his duty’.
In response to what many now see as gross incompetence on the part of the president and his cabal, the sacked vice president has issued a writ to the highest court in the land – the Supreme Court, for interpretation and resolution.
This is Sumana’s writ, filed in the Supreme Court, awaiting the usually required ‘cooling off’ period of twenty-one days, before the court sits:
If APC knows then that President Kabba’s appointment of Foday Sankoh was illegal, why then repeating the same?
If they are truly in line with the application of the rule of law and upholding the constitution to its highest esteem, they should have distanced themselves from this unconstitutional act and allow the law to apply through impeachment process.
It is a shame and disgraceful to say that former President Kabba did it and we will also do it. Only a fool will compare the nature of Sankoh’s appointment to the current unilateral action of President Koroma.
The truth of the matter is that, Koroma and his thugs know Sierra Leoneans so well as cool minded people who barks but never bite, and they are taking this for granted, hence denying us of our constitutional right to an elected VP.
The VP was elected by voters just as the president and any other elected officials. As such, the power of removing them lies in the hands of parliament and the Supreme Court.
Should this unlawful and unconstitutional act goes through and unchecked, and if the Supreme Court rules in APC’s favor, president Koroma will then have the supreme power to fire our elected officials and or supreme court judges and replace them with handpicked APC supporters.
It is time to tell the president that our votes matter.
I have faith in the Sierra Leone Justice system, but I doubt if the Sierra Leone Judiciary system is that independent as to rule against a sitting president. This is a test case for the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone and I hope and pray that they don’t set a bad precedent for future generations.
One thing the court should try to avoid is delaying tactics by the defense counsels (the government). They will move to delay the entire process until the next general election.
Any delay in the application of the law is a blatant denial of justice.
Why is APC resorting to such serious lies and nasty political amnesia?
APC knows very well that it was the Lome Convention which struck a deal between Foday Sankoh and Tejan Kabba, that forced Kabba to upgrade the role of Sankoh to that similar to vice president.
This was purely ceremonial as Sankoh was never invited nor attended a single cabinet meeting with Tejan Kabba as part of the executive arm of the state.
There is a distinct difference therefore between the appointment of the corrupt victor Foh as vice president following the unconstitutional sacking of an elected vice president, and the decision of the Lome Convention to upgrade an unelected rebel thug to assume that role.
I find it amazing that APC executives are so unintelligent. And these are the half-baked people that are running the country? Sierra Leone has got a serious problem.
APC executives ought to know that the agreements arising from the Lome Convention were subsequently domesticated into the laws of Sierra Leone, culminating in the return to peace in Sierra Leone, as supervised by the international community and the UN.
So please go and read your history books and stop trying to re-write history that never was.
Kabbah never appointed Sankoh as Vice President. Sankoh was given a position, which was equivalent to that of the Vice President
A significant challenge to the political process in Sierra Leone has been the ability of the Judiciary and the Legislature to hold the Executive branch to account and to ensure that the latter does not act above its powers and ensure that it is subject to the rule of law.
The crisis created by the Koroma government in dismissing the Vice President, presents us with a genuine opportunity to achieve demonstrable separation of powers of these three institutions. Therefore, I am concerned at the suggestion that the Chief Justice is uncertain whether to swear in Victor Foh as Vice President, especially as Sam Sumana is now challenging the actions of President Koroma in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court should concern themselves only with the provisions in the constitution and its interpretation and any swearing in of Victor Foh as Vice President should be deferred until a determination is made on the application of Sam Sumana which is now before the Supreme Court.
Judicial independence in a corrupt country is only nominal. I will not pin my hopes on the courts in Sierra Leone. “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”