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Constitutional Crisis Looms in Sierra Leone

March 11, 2015 By Clarence Roy-Macaulay, OOR

The expulsion of Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana as a member of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) political party last Friday March 6, 2015 is the prelude to his removal from office as Vice President of Sierra Leone.

Section 55 subsection (c) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, which is Act No. 6 of 1991, deals with “vacancy in the office of Vice-President” and subsection (c) “if the Vice President is removed from office in accordance with the provisions of sections 50 and 51 of this Constitution”.

Section 54 subsection (8) of the Constitution states: “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”.

Section 50 of the Constitution – “Mental or Physical Incapacity”, is not applicable in the present circumstance, and section 51 of the Constitution – “Misconduct by President”, sets out the provisions for the removal from office of the President, which according to section 55 subsection (c) cited above shall apply to the Vice-President.

From the foregoing, the stage is now set for the removal of Samuel Sam-Sumana from the office of Vice-President of Sierra Leone through IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS to be commenced in Parliament under section 51 subsection (1) which states: “If notice of a motion in writing is given to the Speaker (of Parliament) signed by not less than one-half of the Members of Parliament that the 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 (of Parliament) shall:

(a) 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

(b) 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, cause the motion to be considered by Parliament.”

If the motion is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the Members of Parliament, the Speaker shall declare the motion to be passed.

Section 51 (2) subsection (2) states: “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 a period of three months from the date on which the motion was passed report to Parliament through the Speaker whether or not the particulars of the allegation specified in the motion to have been sustained.”

“Where the Tribunal reports to Parliament that it finds that the particulars of any allegations against the President specified in the motion have not been substantiated, no further proceedings shall be taken under this Section in respect of that allegation.

“Where the Tribunal reports to Parliament 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 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 President, and where Parliament so resolves, the President shall thereupon cease to hold office and a vacancy shall then be deemed to have occurred in the office of  President and subsection (4) of Section 49 of this Constitution shall apply accordingly.

In a press statement issued by the National Secretary General of the APC, Osman Yansaneh, after their March 6, 2015 meeting, it is stated that “the NAC (National Advisory Council) unanimously decided to expel Comrade Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana from the party pursuant to Article 8 of the 1995 Constitution of the Party for anti-party activity, fermenting violence, deceit, false statement amounting to fraud, inciting hate, threatening the personal security of key party functionaries, flouting of rulings and decisions of the party, carrying out anti-party propaganda, and engaging in activities inconsistent with the achievements of the party’s objectives.”

The uuling APC has seventy (70) MPs and the SLPP opposition has 42 MPs. There are 12 (twelve) Paramount Chief (Traditional Rulers) MPs representing the twelve Provincial Districts and according to convention, they are supposed to support “THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY”.  Parliament is composed of a total of 124 (one hundred and twenty-four) MPs.

It is reliably understood that after the APC National Advisory Council (NAC) meeting on Friday March 6, 2015, an announcement was made inviting all their MPs to a meeting on Tuesday March 10, POSSIBLY TO PREPARE THE NOTICE in writing to the Speaker of Parliament in pursuant to section 51 subsection (1) cited above.

If Parliament succeeds in impeaching Sam-Sumana under the relevant sections of the Constitution cited above, then President Ernest Bai Koroma will have to appoint another person to the office of Vice-President.

In an interview with the National Secretary General of the main opposition political party, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) on Sunday March 8, Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie said: “The SLPP as a party believes that the ruling APC party is fanning the flames of a Constitutional crisis in our country. We consider the expulsion of a sitting Vice President under the 1991 Constitution as fanning the flames that will erupt into a constitutional crisis in our fragile democracy. This is most untimely at a time when this country is slowly recovering from the debilitating Ebola scourge and it is inhuman to expel the sitting Vice President of the country at a time when he is in self imposed quarantine, helping in our common course to fight Ebola.

“As a party with a nationalistic predisposition, we will not sit back and allow the APC Government to drag this nation into a political abyss.”

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