CSOs issue ultimatum to President Koroma
March 20, 2015 By Alusine Sesay & Mohamed Massaquoi
Ten civil society organizations – including Advocacy Movement Network (AMNET), Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Centre for the Coordination of Youth Activities (CCYA), Institute of Governance Reform (IGR), National Election Watch (NEW), Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), Network Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (NMDHR), Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI), and West African Civil Society Forum National Platform Sierra Leone Chapter (WACSOF) – have urged President Koroma to reverse his decision to sack his vice president in order to ease the rising tension it has generated.
“We believe that this decision is not consistent with the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. We therefore call on His Excellency the President to reverse the decision relieving the Vice-President of his position and seek the due process of law. The 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone is the supreme law of the land and should be correctly followed in all aspects of governance and in all matters relating to the use of public office or authority. We wish to emphasize that we are more concerned about the process rather than the outcome. Whilst, we plead with the public to remain calm as we embark on a nationwide consultation with the masses to seek a peaceful resolution,” the group noted in a joint release issued yesterday.
State House on Tuesday night issued a release that announced the sacking of Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana for having “sought asylum from a foreign embassy, demonstrating willingness to abandon his duties and office as Vice President” and that he no longer belongs to a political party.
The press release states that the President had relied mainly on Section 40(1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone to remove the Vice President from his position.
But the civil society organisations contend that, “It is clear that Section 41 does not apply to the executive branch. Section 51 specifically lays out the procedure for removing a president or vice president. This is clearly the intention of the constitution, and also the specifics. A parliamentarian vacates his office when he ceases to be a member of the party that elected him/her. A different procedure is laid out for President and Vice President and that must govern. Indeed, Section 41 does not expressly state that membership of a political party must be a continuous requirement for a sitting Vice President to remain in office. This therefore makes the decision of the president inconsistent with the constitution.”
They continued that Sections 50 and 51 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone give directions on how to remove a sitting president and the same goes for the vice president, adding that the sections stipulate only for mental and physical incapacity and misconduct, respectively, none of which was the reason given by the President to sack the vice president.
“Whether or not the Vice President was removed based on any of these grounds or on the grounds of his lack of continuous membership of a political party, we believe that he should have been allowed to use the option open to him of challenging the decision to expel him from his party within 30 days as provided for by the Constitution of the ruling party to which he had belonged,” they said.
The CSOs further noted that, “While we agree that the President carries immense executive authority in the state, we however believe that the removal of a sitting Vice President is a constitutional matter and should not be dictated by a single official of the state, or be influenced by the activities or a state of affairs within any political party. Section 5 of our Constitution makes it clear that sovereignty belongs to the people of Sierra Leone from whom government through the constitution derives all its powers, authority and legitimacy. We urge the President, the guardian of the constitution, to fully respect its provisions.”
They observed that there is a potential unintended consequence of using Section 41 to remove the Vice President, as it would establish a precedent whereby a party can disown a sitting president or vice president and force one or both from office. “That is clearly not the intention of the constitution,” they said.
They referred to the situation in South Sudan where the controversial dismissal of the Vice President by the President has led to political instability.
“Sierra Leone has made significant progress in consolidating peace and democracy since the end of our brutal civil conflict, and everyone has a responsibility to ensure that the foundation of democracy and stability – including respect for rule of law and due process – is enhanced,” they admonished.