By Kemo Cham
Sierra Leone’s former Vice President, Samuel Sam-Sumana, has questioned the legality of the removal of his personal security detail, describing it as an act of “corruption.”On Tuesday armed police officers stormed his private residence and ordered the disarming and removal of his four personal security guards. The move has provoked widespread condemnation from opposition supporters, with some pro-democracy activists questioning the new government’s commitment to democratic principles.
According to a constitutional provision, Mr Sam-Sumana is entitled to the privilege as a former VP. But the police say because he was dismissed from office he lost that privilege. Sam-Sumana served in office from 2007 to 2015, when he was sacked by former President Ernest Bai Koroma in a controversial move that sparked a constitutional crisis. He later resorted to the regional court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria, which ruled in his favor.
Sam-Sumana later formed his own party, the Coalition for Change (C4C),under which he contested the presidency in 2018 and emerged with the 4th highest votes. C4C, which has the third largest number of seats in the country’s parliament, was partly credited for the victory of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) as many of its supporters are
believed to have voted for the then main opposition leader, Julius Maada Bio, in the run-off.
But many in SLPP were unhappy with Mr Sam-Sumana for not openly declaring for their party, as had been expected. And last week, following speculations around his relationship with his former boss, pictures of the former VP meeting with Ernest Bai Koroma emerged on social media. That meeting which was held in the former
President’s northern home town of Makeni intensified the conspiracy theories about a planned political merger between the two. And many critics of the SLPP government believe the police’s action was influenced by that. Such critics point to the fact that there are currently three other living former Vice Presidents in the country,
all of whom have their personal security details intact.
According to Mr Sam-Sumana himself, the police who went to his residence said they were acting from “orders from above.” He said he therefore refused to grant them their request until he established the source of the order.
“This is corruption because they are not going by the dictates of the constitution,” Sam-Sumana was quoted by the Freetown daily Awoko Newspaper on Wednesday, noting that he would challenge the decision until his “last blood drops.”Deputy Inspector General of Police, Foday U. K. Dabo, admitted that the police command did give the instruction to “interview” Mr Sam-Sumana’s security detail and he said it was a routine move. He claimed that they didn’t intend to remove the security personnel immediately, and that they only wanted to provide them orientation pending further instructions.
But the deputy police chief went on to argue that Mr Sam-Sumana did not have the right anyway to have a personal state security as he lost that privilege when he was sacked.“He is not a retired Vice President, he is a dismissed Vice President,” he said in a radio interview.
Following his controversial dismissal in 2015, Mr Sam-Sumana’s security details were restored during the electioneering period. Dabo said that happened because he was a presidential candidate and that at a time he had claimed that his personal security was at risk.
The issue has sparked public debate, particularly on social media where Sierra Leoneans have been questioning President Bio’s commitment to his words. As opposition leader, he criticized the actions of the APC under Koroma, particularly the then president’s alleged abuse of power. Bio, in his last State of the Nation address in Parliament in May, promised to uphold the rule of law. He notably mentioned the former VP’s sacking and the “embarrassment” it caused the country when it ended at the ECOWAS Court. Bio is also on record in the same statement promising to respect the regional court’s ruling. Sam-Sumana said this should have warranted the restoration of all his
benefits as a former VP, which is yet to happen.