Mar 8, 2015

APC Sacks Vice President

The Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Samuel Sumana, has been expelled from the ruling All Peoples Congress, APC, party. News of the dismissal came in a press release signed by the party secretary general. The decision was  taken at a  meeting, chaired by the President of the republic, of the National Advisory Committee of the party, the second highest body within the party structure. The Committee met following the conclusion of work of an Investigation Committee, set up to examine various allegations against the vice president. The Investigation Committee was chaired by I.B. Kargbo, former government minister and currently adviser to the President. The APC party's press release cited various misdeeds by the vice president, including "anti-party activities, fermenting (sic) violence and deceit."

Sierra Leone President Ernest KoromaThere have been rumors for some years of discord between the President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, and his vice. During campaigning leading up to the last election in 2012, there was a long delay before President Koroma announced that Alhaji Sumana would continue to be his running mate (after their initial election in 2007), during which period speculation was rife that the President would choose another number two. The decision had presented the President with a clear opportunity to relieve himself of his second in command, with recent precedent on his side: In 2002, running for reelection, late President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah had chosen Solomon Berewa as his vice presidential running mate in favour of then Vice President Joe Demby. The decision had caused raised eyebrows at the time, but at least it was done in a politically honourable fashion, at a time when the party was seeking a fresh mandate from the people. As things stand now, with elections over and the vice president in place, the Constitution does not give the President the mandate to dismiss his vice, and apparently other means must be sought. The conventional wisdom is that what stayed the President's hand in 2012 was that the vice president hails from Kono, an important swing state from which both the APC and the main opposition SLPP have drawn considerable support.

|Despite his expulsion from the APC, Alhaji Samuel Sumana remains as Vice President of the republic of Sierra Leone, but pundits assert that his grip on thisSierra Leone vice president Sam Sumana position is tenuous. The APC, past masters at political and Constitutional manipulation, may use some section of the Constitution to impeach him. In an interview, the chairman of the Investigation Committee, I.B. Kargbo, mentioned in passing that the Sierra Leone Constitution requires the vice president to be a member of a recognized political party. Alhaji Sumana, apparently alert to this scenario, reportedly was already in the process of putting together his own party, but it is unclear whether

this will save him as all new parties must be endorsed by the Political Parties Registration Commission. To add to his woes, the vice president is currently under quarantine, after one of his bodyguards died from Ebola. This isolation would make it even more difficult for him to mount an effective defense if the plan to remove him is mounted swiftly.

During his seven-plus years as Vice President of the Republic, Alhaji Samuel Sumana has never been far from controversy. In 2011 there was a much publicized shootout in Kono in which he was implicated, necessitating a lengthy investigation by the Inspector-General of Police. In a power struggle within his district he was reportedly at loggerheads with current Minister of Internal Affairs, Diana Konomanyi. The Aljazeera Timbergate scandal involved foreign businessmen allegedly paying bribes to secure the influence of the vice president's office. And a US businessman, Mark Heligmann made sweeping allegations of corruption against him, including the channelling of loans to fund the APC in its ultimately successful bid for power in 2007. Throughout all these controversies, Vice President Sam Sumana has survived, pundits say, because he has had the backing of the President. And he is in dire danger of being removed from office now because he no longer enjoys the support of the President, not because of any violation of laws or the Constitution he may have committed.

This would by no means be the first time for an APC leading light to suddenly disappear into political oblivion. Last year, the speaker of the House of Parliament, number three in the Constitutional hierarchy, was swiftly removed from office by his colleagues in Parliament (read Sierra Leone Speaker Resigns). And APC's founder, late President Siaka Stevens, a grand master at political skulduggery, was able upon retirement to thwart the ambitions of his longtime stalwart second-in-command, S.I. Koroma.

The recent political machinations may not be unconnected with the campaign, muted during tLate President Siaka Stevenshe Ebola outbreak but now apparently revived as the 2017 elections draw near, to somehow extend for President Koroma the two term limit imposed by the Constitution. A Constitutional Review Commission was suddenly revived two years ago (read Review of Sierra Leone Constitution Planned) amid suspicions that this body would propose some kind of an extension and this would be endorsed by the APC-controlled parliament. Dubious disqualifications of SLPP candidates at the last election along with incentives and coercions applied among the existing, disunited SLPP parliamentarians have made it likely that the APC could command a two thirds majority in Parliament, which would be necessary for Constitutional amendment. The situation is eerily reminiscent of the aforementioned President Siaka Stevens and the introduction of the One-Party State.