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Sierra Leone opposition calls for civil disobedience over VP sacking

AFRICA
By Reuters | March 23rd 2015

Freetown: Sierra Leone's main opposition party has called for an indefinite campaign of civil disobedience if the country's sacked vice president is not reinstated within a week, a party leader said on Sunday.

Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, Secretary General of the Sierra Leone People's Party, told Reuters that party members would embark on peaceful demonstrations, civil disobedience and strikes across the West African nation from March 30.

He said the opposition party had instructed its lawyers to challenge the dismissal of Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana in court, calling it unconstitutional.

President Ernest Bai Koroma sacked Sam-Sumana last week saying he had abandoned his duties by requesting asylum at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown. The ruling All People's Congress (APC) had accused Sam-Sumana of creating his own political movement and kicked him out of the party.

The sacking has sparked political tensions in one of the West African countries hardest-hit by the worst outbreak of the Ebola virus on record.

The U.N. special representative in the region, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, met Koroma, Sam-Sumana and diplomats separately in Freetown over the weekend. He said political decisions should be taken with respect to the constitution and called for restraint.

"Nothing should be done which could entail a breach of public order," Chambas said.

President Koroma has appointed Victor Foh as his new deputy, but the opposition said he is not eligible to hold the position.

"Sierra Leoneans want to express themselves clearly that they will not sit back and allow anybody to tamper with the constitution that we have strived so hard with our blood and limbs to protect and to defend over the years" Tejan-Sie said.

He said they would not be put off by police threats to stop demonstrations on the grounds they would be contrary to emergency measures put in place in response to the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 3,600 people in Sierra Leone.

Tejan-Sie said they would "come out on the streets and lie down on the ground if stopped by the police. Let them kill us".

Abdulai Bayratay, a Sierra Leone government spokesman, said people were free to express disagreement over the decision. He warned, however, that "whosoever tried to foment chaos will have to face the full penalty of the law".

Bayratay said the current state of emergency over the Ebola outbreak meant that people were not allowed to gather.

The opposition People's Party said in a separate statement that if it wins the court challenge against the sacking, its parliamentarians will launch impeachment proceedings against the president for violation of the constitution.

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