Sierra Leone's president fires VP amid growing distrust

President Koroma cited questions about the vice president's party loyalty. The controversial move could create a constitutional crisis at a time when Sierra Leone is still working to fully eradicate Ebola.

Michael Duff/AP
In this file photo taken on Sept. 25, 2015, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Yanbo, left, stand next to Sierra Leone's president Ernest Bai Koroma, center, and Sierra Leone's Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana, right, during the opening ceremony of the China Friendship Hospital catering for Ebola virus patience in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone’s vice president sought asylum on the United States on Saturday, March 14, 2015, saying he no longer felt safe in the country after soldiers disarmed the security team at his residence. “I don’t feel safe this morning as vice president,” Samuel Sam-Sumana told The Associated Press by phone.

Sierra Leone's president on Wednesday fired his vice president, who was kicked out of their political party earlier this month on accusations of fomenting violence and trying to form a new party.

Early Wednesday, President Ernest Bai Koroma announced that he had removed Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana from office, citing a constitutional requirement that anyone running for vice president be a member of a political party.

Sam-Sumana was expelled from the ruling All People's Congress political party on March 6. The party statement made several accusations against Sam-Sumana including that he was instigating unrest. Sam-Sumana has rejected the accusations against him.

On March 14, soldiers disarmed the security team at Sam-Sumana's residence. He then fled, saying he didn't feel safe, and asked the U.S. embassy for asylum. The U.S. did not grant asylum and urged all sides to resolve the problem through the rule of law.

Earlier this week, Sam-Sumana returned to his home and a group of the country's political parties tried to negotiate a solution.

When Koroma dismissed Sam-Sumana from his post on Wednesday, the president said that by seeking asylum, Sam-Sumana showed "a willingness to abandon his duties and office as vice president of our beloved republic."

Koroma's move is likely to be controversial because it is not clear if membership in a political party is a requirement for sitting vice presidents. Already, the main opposition party has criticized Sam-Sumana's expulsion from his party, warning it could create a constitutional crisis at a time when the country is struggling to beat Ebola.

While Sierra Leone's Ebola epidemic has slowed somewhat, the disease continues to spread in some parts of the country. Sam-Sumana himself was under self-quarantine because of possible exposure to one of his body guards who came down with Ebola. Sam-Sumana's 21-day incubation period ended on Tuesday.

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