March 30, 2015 By Victoria Saffa
Various civil society groups across the country have issued statements to either condemn or applaud President Ernest Bai Koroma for the sacking of Vice President, Chief Alhaji Sam-Sumana.
Most, if not all of the releases underscored that civil society has a unique mandate to help maintain the rule of law and good governance in the country, while at the same time calling for due process of the law to be followed in the current constitutional imbroglio that has generated a lot of public attention and comments.
By no means in order of priority, the West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) noted that, “Ever since President Koroma took the unprecedented action to relieve his Vice, Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana of his position, a lot of debates have been engendered with several civil society organizations and political parties issuing statements in condemnation of the action of the President. WACSOF Sierra Leone, which has the mandate to create the avenue through which civil society organizations can constructively engage with the authorities at the national level as well as the institutions of the ECOWAS system, views this constitutional crisis as unfortunate in the light of the country’s recent history. The country’s ability to review this crisis is on serious test, we therefore urge that pressure be brought to bear on all the parties to the constitutional crisis to accede their obligations in particularly under the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance as adopted in December 2001 by the Heads of State and Government, supplementary to the protocol relating to the Mechanism on Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.
“We shall be organizing a peaceful march in cities across Sierra Leone as a way of registering our position for due process of the law to be followed, and we are also urging ECOWAS, the African Union (AU), the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court to work closely with civil society in monitoring and documenting the key drivers of conflict for accountability.”
The Sierra Leone Labour Congress has suddenly awakened from their long state of comatose. They added their voice to the saga by stating: “We observe with great concern the ongoing political saga involving the removal from office of the former Vice President by President Koroma.
“As a national institution representing workers in this country and advocate for the promotion of good governance, democracy and the rule of law, we have careful gone through the provisions in the 1991 Constitution Act No.6 of the Republic of Sierra Leone, in respect to the election and removal from offices of the President and Vice President.
“We have noted the reasons stated in press release for the removal of the vice President from office: We views the reasons advanced for the removal of the Vice President do not conform to the provisions stipulated in the said constitution which is the supreme law of our land.
“We also wish to remind all of the role and sacrifice of workers in the country in bringing, nurturing and maintaining democracy in the country and they are strongly of the view that the current political developments have the potential to derail and undermine the peace, democracy and stability of the country. We are therefore calling upon the President and all stakeholders to follow the due process of the law and to respect the rule of law.”
As for the National Youth Coalition (NYC), they averred that: “Members of other civil society groups purporting to represent the whole civil society community in the country – which was calling on President Koroma to rescind his decision over the sacking of the former Vice President, we wish to disassociate our civil societies from the position of such a pseudo political group.
“Civil society does not have the locus standing [sic] to pass verdict on the issues of sacking of the former Vice President; we acknowledge the fact that any citizen of Sierra Leone, including civil society organizations, can challenge the decision of the President in court. We call for calm and respect for the rule of law and constitutionality by all citizens so that we don’t jeopardize our hard own peace.
“We also believe that the unprecedented actions of the President were taken in the best interest of the country’s peace and stability so that we can continue on our development agenda as a people.”
The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), on their part, said: “WANEP and its partners note the growing tension over the sacking and appointment of holders of the office of Vice President and the related effects on our hard won fragile peace at time when the country is economically and socially devastated by the ravaging Ebola virus disease that has led to the death of over three thousand Sierra Leoneans. The implications of this impasse are exemplified in the numerous press releases issued by various state and non-state actors in the country.
“We therefore express our unreserved stance in calling for dialogue that will culminate into a negotiated settlement that will further provide a win-win solution for all parties; the use of alternative dispute resolution as an option is therefore proposed to the parties concerned and it is without prejudice to the ongoing judicial options that has already been requested by parties to this impasse.
“Whilst we are recognizing the complexity of the situation involved in addressing this issue, we must not forget for a moment that we fought for our own hard peace and we must stand to promote and defend lasting peace in our beloved country. We also therefore call on the parties to join us in seeking alternative mechanisms to the resolution of this impasse.
“We have also proposed the establishment of a nine-man committee that will serve as mediators and negotiators for a peaceful and amicable resolution of this impasse which will bring forth an outcome that will be mutually owned by all parties concerned. We have also decided that within 14 days as our target in working with parties to try to bring this sad chapter to an end.
“We therefore call on both parties to accept our intervention in the interest of peace and tranquility to allow us to perform this noble and patriotic role.”
Civil Society Movement-Sierra Leone (CSM-SL) had this to say: “We members of the Civil Society Movement Sierra Leone have been following with grave concern the recent political development taking place in our country. On Friday 6th March, 2015, the ruling All Peoples Congress Party expelled the sitting Vice President, Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana from the party for various allegations ranging from anti-party activities to deceit and falsehood, and following this action the president also relieved him from his position as a Vice-President. These events have heightened political tension and brew the feeling of constitutional uncertainty across the country, particularly in the capital city.
“We are very concerned with these developments, which are not only extremely worrying for all Sierra Leoneans to whom sovereignty belong and with whose franchise all elective public officials, including President and Vice President, acquire their legitimacy and authority.
“CSM-SL views very seriously these developments to have the propensity of reversing all the gains that we have made as a country over the years and plunge us into the abyss of conflicts and self-destruction.
“In view of the above and on the fact that the matter has now been referred to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone for constitutional interpretation, we are urging members of the Supreme Court and all other authorities that have tasks to perform in the determination of this matter to do so speedily and for the public good.”
The list is not exhaustive as other groups, including the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists have called for calm and a speedy judicial interpretation, while the Auradicals Foundation has posited that the President did not follow “constitutionally stipulated procedures” to remove his Vice or declarative orders from the Supreme Court as which way to go.
With the plethora of views in favour or against, the public now waits with bathed breath a verdict from the Supreme Court, which five judges carry the legal burden of interpreting a sacred document meant to hold the country together and not to pull it asunder.