FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — 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 him, including that he was instigating unrest. Sam-Sumana has rejected those accusations.
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. instead urged all sides to resolve the problem through the rule of law, and Sam-Sumana returned to his home earlier this week.
In dismissing the vice president on Wednesday, Koroma said that by seeking asylum, Sam-Sumana showed "a willingness to abandon his duties and office as vice president of our beloved republic."
Sam-Sumana has long been a colorful — and sometimes problematic — figure for the ruling party, including accusations he was involved in corrupt deals and bought votes, said Kieran Mitton, an expert on Sierra Leone at King's College London. But his firing comes as a surprise since the All People's Congress has depended on him to deliver his home district of Kono, which is key in presidential elections.
"Both Ebola and now this current debacle with the vice president are going to affect the next national elections" to be held in 2017, said Mitton. "We could see a tighter election and that always means a greater chance of instability and violence during the election itself."
The opposition party has criticized the ruling party for playing politics while the country is trying 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 died of Ebola. Sam-Sumana's 21-day incubation period ended on Tuesday.
Associated Press writer Sarah DiLorenzo contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.