Lawyers in Sierra Leone divided over president’s unconstitutional behaviour

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 March 2015

State House - FreetownNever before in the history of Sierra Leone has a constitutional crisis triggered so much passion and healthy national debate, as the people of Sierra Leone await the outcome of the pending Supreme Court decision as to the constitutionality of the president’s behaviour.

This can only be good for the country’s fledgling liberal democracy, many now believe the Koroma government – with its espoused communist tendency is seriously attempting to destroy. Sierra Leoneans do not want to see a return to dictatorship.

Last week, the country’s Bar Association representing barristers, held a closed door meeting to discuss the president’s unilateral decision to sack the vice president, thus, effectively sacking the country’s constitution.

It is understood that the majority of barristers present at that meeting, had wanted the executives of the Bar Association to issue a statement condemning the president’s behaviour and to describe his decision as unconstitutional.

But vociferous minority members of the executives of the Bar Association, whom are believed to be sympathetic to the ruling APC party, instead issued a contradictory public statement, stating that ‘the Association was unable to deliberate upon the matter, as it was deemed subjudice by justices of the Supreme Court’.

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First Ebola vaccine to be tested in affected communities

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 March 2015

Ebola vaccineAfter several months, waiting for the results of various Ebola vaccine trials in West Africa that are yet to produce positive outcomes, today it seems there is a ray of hope.

According to report from WHO, the Guinean government in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) have initiated the very first efficacy trial of an Ebola vaccine this week, in an affected community of the Basse-Guinée, one of the areas where most Ebola cases are found in the country.

Ring vaccination tests of VSV-EBOV – a lead Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, received an excellent response from the community in a small village in the Coyah prefecture, where the trial team arrived on 23 March.

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Sierra Leone gets $102 million in extra IMF financing and debt relief

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 March 2015

salone poverty2The IMF Survey magazine, yesterday reported that the Executive Board of the IMF has approved a “loan and grant package for Sierra Leone that includes $102 million in extra financing, to help the West African country counter a slump in economic activity engendered by the Ebola outbreak”.

But what is not clear, is whether this newly announced ‘$102 million in extra IMF financing and debt relief package’ is the same financing facility that was announced early this month, that is now being recycled.

For a government that is still failing to account for $14 million missing Ebola funds, meant for the sick, concerns are quite rightly being raised as to the rationale and wisdom in continuing to entrust such large sums of money to the Koroma government, rather than find new ways of funding the country’s Ebola, social and wider health requirements.

Because, on the 3rd March, 2015, the Sierra Leone Telegraph published a report on the IMF’s approval of a total of $187 million for Sierra Leone; with $85.45 million coming from the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement, as well as an augmentation of access under the ECF arrangement of 50 percent of Sierra Leone’s quota of $72.94 million.

On the 3rd March, 2015 also, the IMF Board approved $29.18 million in immediate debt relief, under the catastrophe containment window of the Catastrophe Containment and Relief (CCR) Trust. The IMF said then, that these funds will support the government’s fight against the Ebola outbreak by covering urgent budgetary and balance of payments needs, and strengthening international reserves which have been severely eroded by the declining exports revenue.

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Koroma says ‘I tore up the constitution just like Tejan Kabba did’ – Sumana says ‘See you in court’

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 March 2015

Zhao Yanbo, Ernest Bai Koroma, Samuel Sam-SumanaSierra Leone’s constitution crisis, engineered by president Koroma and a handful of senior ruling party grandees supported by China, has now taken on a new twist, as the ruling party continues to display its communist credentials.

There are unconfirmed reports that the country’s chief justice, is uncertain as to whether he should be conducting a swearing-in ceremony of the new vice president in parliament, as is traditional, given the current legal arguments that have now reached the Supreme Court.

And with the growing opposition to president Koroma’s unilateral dismissal of the vice president, civil liberty groups and opposition politicians are calling upon the president to pull back from the brink.

But the highly politicised Chief of police is bellicose, and now threatening to muffle dissenting voices through the use of police violence.

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Koroma and his failed government must be held to account

Ted Balls

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 March 2015

Zhao Yanbo, Ernest Bai Koroma, Samuel Sam-SumanaNotwithstanding his country’s ongoing struggle with Ebola Virus Disease, the criminal who calls himself president of Sierra Leone, continues to play politics with the lives of his citizens.

Ebola will soon be history in both Liberia and Guinea. Yet Sierra Leone has been unable to shake the disease – a full year after the first cases in the country were discovered.

It is criminal that the Koroma-led government deliberately underplayed and covered up the initial spread of the Ebola outbreak last year, allowing the virus to spiral out of control, as has been alleged in yesterday’s report by Medecins Sans Frontiere (MSF).

A February, 2015, report by the Sierra Leone Auditor-General, uncovered massive fraud of almost US $14 million, through bogus procurement processes used by the ministry of health and the Ebola Response Centre, blatant theft, and misuse of funds donated to combat the Ebola outbreak.

The president of Sierra Leone who headed up the national task force established to combat ebola at the time the fraud was perpetrated, is yet to explain what has happened to the funds.

Millions of dollars donated to State House and the office of first lady in response to the Ebola crisis, remain unaccounted for.

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Sierra Leone constitutional crisis – Yumkella says “constitutionalism must prevail”

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 March 2015

kandeh2014As tension continues to rise in Sierra Leone, over the vexatious issue of the sacking of the vice president Sam Sumana, citizens at home and abroad have strongly made known their views on the constitutionality of president Koroma’s actions.

Legal scholars and practitioners too, have also made their views known.  But until now, the views of Kandeh Yumkella (Photo), an eminent citizen of Sierra Leone, are yet to be unveiled.

Until recently, Dr. Yumkella was the  Under-Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sustainable Energy for All. He was the chief executive officer of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. He was also the Chairman of UN-Energy and a two-term former Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

So where is Yumkella now, and what has he been up to, whilst this constitutional crisis has been brewing, and is now poised to derail the country’s hard-won peace?

The editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Abdul Rashid Thomas, caught up with Yumkella who is now in Freetown, via telephone. (Here is the unedited recording of the full interview. We apologise for the temporary break in sound).

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‘This is payback time’ – says new vice president of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 March 2015

Victor Foh and President Xi Jinping of ChinaSpeaking to APC party faithful during a rally at the party’s office in Freetown, the newly coronated vice president Foh (Photo: Left, with his Chinese benefactor), told party officials to be patient, and that their rewards will soon come.

He spoke about how APC rewards loyalty, but said nothing about how – if at all, he would help fight Ebola, bring poverty to an end, create jobs for the youths, improve sanitation and health.

Is Foh employed to serve the people of Sierra Leone? No. ‘I am here to serve president Koroma, and this is payback time for loyalty’, he said.

The people of Sierra Leone are starting a new week in a country, whose controversially appointed vice president Victor Bockarie Foh, is believed to be carrying a much more bigger corruption baggage, than all of the unscrupulous ministers in the Koroma government put together.

And this sad reality is destined to further damage Sierra Leone’s already battered image globally.

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Sierra Leone Trades Union may strike in protest at president Koroma’s bad behaviour

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 March 2015

victor foh - new vpNever before in the history of Sierra Leone, has the tearing up of the country’s constitution by a sitting president, brought so much chaos and outrage. (Photo: Koroma – right and the new VP – left).

President Koroma’s decision to summarily sack the country’s elected vice president and to then oversee the coronation of his handpicked replacement, is far worse a constitutional violation than any of the misdemeanours committed by his demagogue and former dictator – Siaka Stevens, in the 1970s and 1980s.

But there is a marked difference this time, accentuated by a strong condemnation of Koroma’s leadership, by no less a person than the son of former president Stevens himself – Dr. Jengo Stevens.

On Wednesday, former minister and Attorney General in the Stevens APC regime, who is also regarded as one of the architects of the country’s constitution – internationally acclaimed constitutional lawyer – Dr. Abdulai Conteh, strongly criticised Koroma’s dictatorial decision.

Dr. Conteh described president Koroma’s unilateral decision to set aside the provisions contained in the country’s constitution – only to dismiss the vice president by the wave of a hand, as unconstitutional and unlawful.

Yet, despite massive criticisms at home and abroad, president Koroma has shown what happens, when a despotic ruler arrogates absolute power to himself, in the self-belief that his supreme leadership and authority are above the constitution.

President Koroma has become a danger to his own people that elected him to the office, whose sacred authority he is now disrespecting and abusing.

By his side, ready and waiting for the president’s call from State House to brutally crush any peaceful demonstration is his newly formed and highly paid personal armed militia – most of whom are from neighbouring Guinea, courtesy of his close friend – Guinean president Alpha Conde.

But the overwhelming message which keeps coming – loud and clear is simply: ‘Not in our name, Mr. President.’

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Breaking News: Lawyers in Freetown arrested for discussing president’s sacking of Sumana

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 March 2015

Police Inspector General - MunuThere are shocking reports from Freetown of the arrest and detention of one of Sierra Leone’s senior lawyers belonging to the Bar Association, at a meeting where they were discussing the decision of president Koroma to relieve vice president Sam Sumana of his duties contrary to the constitution.

The storming of the meeting by armed security militia is seen as a further attempt by president Koroma and his cronies to squash dissent and opposition in the country by the use of brutal force.

President Koroma’s decision is now widely regarded by all independent constitutional experts as unconstitutional and illegal. The president on Thursday appointed a new vice president.

Police brutality is not uncommon in Sierra Leone, but the use of police violence against peaceful barristers going about their constitutional duty has brought the country close to dictatorship and anarchy.

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Lord, Sierra Leone – we are back in ‘Egypt’

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 March 2015

victor-b foh- cowboyMy God! My God! Why have you forsaken us? Why have you allowed us to be taken back into political captivity?

Why have you allowed those who play with the dark arts of politics to have their way with us and forced us to watch their macabre dance helplessly, whiles singing songs straight from the grim-reapers hymnbook?

Why Lord have you left us at the mercy of power-drunk, fifth columnists whose interests supersede our Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land? (Photo: Our new Veeeep)

Right now, like errant fireworks, the selfish, egocentric and pantomime villains, whom we selected to be the Moses, Aaron and Joshua of our deliverance, have turned round and are exploding in our faces.

Our voyage into this tedium is being completed by a political maneuvering, that is conjuring results guaranteed not to push our lives to the much-needed new plateau.

Being stuck in outrage does not even solve anything; nor does comforting ourselves with the fact that those pulling the strings of our existence are either products of our mischief industry; or pitiful ignoramus, whose shallowness is so pervasive that they have forgotten the ebb of their noses.

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‘Dr Kandeh Yumkella bids farewell’ – A rejoinder

Alan Luke

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 March 2015

kandeh yumkellaLike many Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad, the long awaited decision of Kandeh Yumkella to return to Sierra Leone, presents the nation with renewed hope, especially given the ridiculous situation going on at State House at the moment.

Kandeh by far and a long way, currently towers above any Sierra Leonean public figure and has the integrity, credibility, strategic thinking, political experience and drive to drag Sierra Leone kicking and screaming from the decay, malaise, stupor and wretchedness in which the country has been for more than forty years.

As such, he has a tremendous capacity to bring hope to the hopeless and help the majority of Sierra Leoneans to fulfil their hopes and dreams for themselves, their children and future generations.

What Kandeh Yumkella needs to do to be successful, is to rid Sierra Leone of the politics of patronage. It is this form of politics that has allowed corruption to become so endemic and become fully woven into the fabric (every fabric) of society.

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President Koroma appoints Victor Foh as new vice president of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 March 2015

Victor Foh - new vice presidentYesterday the Sierra Leone Telegraph published a short list of potential successor to the sacked vice president Sam Sumana. The list included Sierra Leone’s ambassador to China – Victor Bockarie Foh.

In defiance of critics, and despite calls from independent constitutional experts to annul his decision to sack his vice president, president Koroma has stubbornly gone ahead today to appointing someone he regards as ‘a very safe pair of hands’ – Victor Bockarie Foh.

This news will come as another blow to most Sierra Leoneans, who have been hoping that the president would take due cognisance of the weight of chorus, calling his decision to sack the vice president as unconstitutional.

But president Koroma has shown that he is not a leader, but a ruler who dictates, rather than build national consensus. For this, many now believe that history will surely judge him very harshly.

And it seems president Koroma has not heeded the constitutional advice, which was issued to him in an open letter by eminent lawyer – Dr. Abdulai Conteh, who has called his decision to sack the vice president – unconstitutional and therefore unlawful.

Is president Koroma certain of the legality of his decision or does he know something that the rest of the country doesn’t, regarding this ugly crisis?

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International lawyer Dr. Abdulai Conteh says President Koroma’s sacking of vice president is illegal

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 March 2015

President koroma - Feb 2013As criticisms of president Ernest Bai Koroma’s (Photo) arbitrary and unconstitutional decision to summarily sack the country’s elected vice president yesterday continue, one of the country’s most acclaimed international lawyer – Dr. Abdulai Conteh, has strongly condemned the president.

He said he could find no justification in the country’s constitution for president Koroma’s decision to relieve the vice president of his duties. He calls for the decision to be rescinded immediately.

In his open letter to president Koroma, he told him; “Your Excellency, with the utmost respect, as the guardian of the Constitution, as stipulated in sub-section (3) of section 40 of the Constitution, you have not been properly advised or served in terms of the provisions of the Constitution you have invoked for taking this most extraordinary measure.”

“Permit me therefore, to say, and please believe me when I say that it pains me to say so, that the removal from office of the Vice President, as stated in the Release from your office, is nothing short of an exercise of power that can find no validation in the text of our national Constitution.”

Yesterday, the vice president Sam Sumana confirmed that he has instructed his legal team to mount a legal writ in the country’s Supreme Court.

But should the president humbly listen to the growing voices of independent constitutional experts – including Dr. Abdulai Conteh, then it is likely that an expensive, futile and lengthy Court hearing, which may prove extremely embarrassing and damaging to president Koroma and his ruling APC, can be averted.

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Sierra Leone at crossroads – a letter to my countrymen

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 March 2015

Cotton Tree - FreetownI hope this article touches you in a sensitive place, and make you come to a decision as to the way forward for our beloved Sierra Leone.

In my last article, I stated inter-alia that the on-going intra-party saga of the ruling APC party, together with the near-comatose opposition, might just be the catalyst for the sanitisation of our political system – and by extension, our governance and society.

At present we are like a blind man in a dark room, looking for a black cat that isn’t there.

Together with those who are supposed to be leading us, we fan the ember of a slow burning fire in our grotesque caricature of a sane society.

The benchmark symbols to the glory of corruption, impunity, brazen deficiencies, and incomprehensible socio-political and economic derivatives, are emblematic of the sobering precedents that are the poignant error of our country and its democracy.

As some readers have pointed out to me, it is indeed time that we went beyond the rhetoric of analysing the present only, and move to a fundamental rung of the ladder, where we as a people, take our destiny into our hands and face the challenge of how to truly fast-forward our march of civilisation.

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Vice president Sam Sumana fires back at president Koroma’s incompetence

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 March 2015

president koroma sworn-in for second termIn a rather calm, though swift response to president Koroma’s illegal decree – sacking Sam Sumana from the office of vice president of Sierra Leone, the vice president says that the president (Photo) has no right to sack him.

He said that he has spoken with his legal team, who will be taking legal action in the Supreme Court against president Koroma.

The main point of law upon which the vice president will base his legal arguments (inter-alia), is the fact that, he was not appointed as vice president – but rather, was elected along with president Koroma in 2012 by the people of Sierra Leone .

Section 54(3) of the country’s constitution states that: “A candidate shall be deemed to be duly elected as Vice-President if the candidate who designated him as candidate for election to the office of Vice-President has been duly elected as President in accordance with the provisions of section 42.”

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