United States denies Sierra Leone’s vice president asylum
By Jibril Ture
The U.S. government has refrained from getting involved in the tug of war between Sierra Leone’s Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana and the country’s ruling party, the All People’s Congress.
The Associated Press on Sunday quoted a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying: “Our embassy has been in contact with all relevant officials, and we urge all concerned to resolve the situation through appropriate procedures that respect due process and the rule of law.” On Saturday, Sierra Leone’s vice president, Samuel Sam-Sumana, had requested asylum from the United States claiming his life was in danger, and went in isolation with his wife in an undisclosed location. This followed his earlier decision to place himself in quarantine after a member of his security detail died of Ebola in February.
“I have fled my house and am with my wife in a place I cannot disclose, waiting to hear from the US ambassador, whom I have asked for asylum,” Sam-Sumana reportedly told the Reuters news agency on Saturday.
On March 6, the embattled vice president was fired from President Ernest Bai Koroma’s ruling All People’s Congress party that accused him of creating his own rival movement and “orchestrating violence,” which, the party felt, raised doubt about his intention to continue to serve as vice president.
Witnesses, including neighbors interviewed by the press, have confirmed security forces’ activity around and in Sam-Sumana’s residence, saying that they have seen items—presumably documents—taken away by law enforcement or officials. The vice president told the press that he knew, from officials in the presidential guard, that they were acting on order from the president. According to several news reports, soldiers went to the vice president’s residence and disarmed his security team.
But the ruling party said the vice president is under no threat. When the situation developed on Saturday, President Koroma was traveling up north in the district of Porto Loko to attend a function about Ebola. After initially refraining from commenting on the development, the All People’s Congress party broadcast a statement on state media on Saturday saying it had been informed of Sam-Sumana’s asylum request, adding that “The party has at no point in time threatened the life of the vice president.” It also denied Sam-Sumana’s residence has been vandalized.