APC Tampers with Sierra Leone Constitution

Musa Tamba Sam, National Publicity Secretary, SLPP

The National Publicity Secretary of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party has in a press interview on Wednesday Nov 6, 2013, voiced serious concerns about moves currently afoot by the ruling All People’s Congress, APC, in Sierra Leone to manipulate the Sierra Leone Constitution to their advantage. The concerns come in the wake of a recent promulgation of a proposed change to the Constitution in the Sierra Leone Gazette (read Sierra Leone Gazette Constitutional Amendment), which is the official organ for all important government announcements. The proposed Constitutional amendment, printed under the hand of Franklyn Bai Kargbo, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, seeks to remove the current constitutional requirement that the Speaker of the House of Parliament be elected from among persons who are “Members of Parliament or are qualified to be elected as such and who are qualified to be appointed Judges of the Superior Court of Judicature or have held such office“. Instead, the amendment would require only that the Speaker be elected from among persons who are “qualified to be Members of Parliament“. Additionally, the amendment would change the current Constitutional requirement that the deputy Speaker of Parliament be elected at the beginning of each session of Parliament and proposes to give this office a fixed five year term


Mr Tamba Sam pointed out similarities between the proposed amendment and a similar one introduced by the APC as a prelude to introducing the old, discredited 1978 One Party Constitution. The APC used that amendment then, Mr Tamba Sam said, to install William Conteh as Speaker, a retired policeman without the required legal background. Mr Conteh then went on to preside over the introduction of the 1978 One Party Constitution as well as various other undemocratic and repressive laws. Mr Tamba Sam claimed that similar moves are afoot now in Parliament, where the current Speaker, Abel Stronge, though elected with APC backing, is too legally minded for the comfort of the party. There are plans afoot, Mr Tamba Sam claimed, to have him removed as Speaker and to install someone without legal experience who would be more malleable to the interests of the APC. Mr Tamba Sam insisted that this is all part of a grand plan by the APC to alter the Constitution in their favour and specifically to lengthen the term of office of the current President and of Parliamentarians.


The proposed Constitutional amendment comes barely four months after the official inauguration of an 80 man committee (read Review of Sierra Leone Constitution begins) with the mandate to hold nationwide consultations and recommend Constitutional amendments. Mr Tamba Sam questioned why it was necessary to bypass this ongoing process and bring a separate amendment to Parliament now. He explained that in order for a bill to be laid before Parliament it must first be gazetted, which has been done, and then shown to Parliamentarians, which has also been done. The next step is for the proposer of the bill, in this case the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, to lay it before Parliament for a vote. If a majority of Parliamentarians vote in favour (and the APC has a majority in Parliament) all that would then be required would be the President’s signature to bring it into law.


Mr Tamba Sam vowed to fight to the bitter end against the proposed Constitutional amendment. He promised that the SLPP would oppose it in Parliament and would lobby the international community and mobilize the people against it. Read the official press release from the SLPP on the proposed constitutional amendment here.