FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Sierra Leone's vice president sought asylum from the United States on Saturday, 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. He said he was not at his residence and declined to disclose his whereabouts.
Sam-Sumana was expelled from the ruling All People's Congress political party last week, accused of "orchestrating political violence" and trying to form a new party in his home district of Kono, located in the country's Eastern Province.
Upon hearing that soldiers were heading to his home Saturday morning, Sam-Sumana said he tried and failed to contact President Ernest Bai Koroma. Instead, he said he reached top officials at the presidential guard who informed him his security team was being disarmed on orders from the president.
Sam-Sumana said he then called U.S. Ambassador John Hoover and requested asylum. "They're having a meeting and they will get back to me," the vice president said.
U.S. embassy spokeswoman Hollyn Green said Saturday that embassy officials, including Hoover, had "seen the news" but could not provide any reaction.
"There is no comment at the moment and there is no action on our part," Green said.
Green confirmed Saturday afternoon that Sam-Sumana was not in the U.S. embassy in Freetown.
A government spokesman said he could not immediately comment on the situation.
At the time of Sam-Sumana's expulsion from the ruling party, an announcement read out on state media accused him of "harboring a group of thugs" while preparing to foment unrest. "The decision was taken to preserve the integrity of the party and discourage political violence in the country," the statement said.
Sam-Sumana is currently under Ebola quarantine after a member of his security team died of the disease, which has ravaged Sierra Leone.
Despite his expulsion from the party and his quarantine, he officially remained vice president, meaning responsibility for running the country falls to him if Koroma travels abroad.
Corey-Boulet contributed reporting from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.