Human rights lawyer says VP sacking ‘has no legal merit’


March 19, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi

One of Sierra Leone’s finest human rights lawyers has told a group of civil society organisations and human rights activists in the country that the premise provided by State House in a press release issued on 17 March, 2015 as reason for the sacking of Vice President Chief Samuel Sam-Sumana has no legal merit in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

Lawyer Sonkita Conteh, while addressing members of the West Africa Civil Society Forum (Sierra Leone Chapter) at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) conference hall in Freetown, said in his view the president used his powers to sack his vice president even though the country’s constitution is very explicit as to how a Vice President or a President can be removed from office.

“I have had discussions with my legal colleagues based on this decision; can the president remove his vice president?” he asked.

He said the constitution is very clear on how to remove a sitting vice president as Section 55, for example, prescribes that the office of vice president can be vacant following the ‘expiration of time of the president’, if the vice president resigns or retires from office or dies, or if he is removed from office as a result of mental or physical incapacity or misconduct.

“In my view, if you want to work in accordance with the law, I would have advised the President to go to Parliament. All of these provisions are not entrenched clauses in the constitution,” Conteh said and added that the decision to sack the vice president based on his expulsion by his political party could well give excessive power to a political party.

The 17 March release from State House noted that the vice president had been expelled by his party on 6 March, 2015.

“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.

“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 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,” the State House release states.

It further says the decision was based on the fact that the vice president had “sought asylum from a foreign embassy demonstrating a willingness to abandon his duties and office as Vice President of our beloved Republic” last Saturday, 14 March.

It concludes that the president was in consultation with the leadership of the APC to appoint a new vice president in accordance with Section 54(5) of the Constitution, which grants the president power to appoint a successor upon the death, resignation, retirement or removal from office of the vice president.

Meanwhile, the vice president is reported to have challenged his “purported removal” as “unconstitutional and unlawful”, and that he would pursue the matter in the Supreme Court.