Sierra Leone’s vice-president requests U.S. asylum

Sierra Leone’s vice-president abandons his compound in the capital and requests asylum at the U.S. embassy after explulsion from the ruling party.

FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE (14 MARCH, 2015) (REUTERS) – Sierra Leone’s Vice-President Samuel Sam-Sumana has abandoned his compound in Freetown and requested asylum at the U.S. embassy in the country’s capital after soldiers surrounded his home on Saturday (March 14) following his expulsion from the ruling party last week.

Sam-Sumana was expelled from President Ernest Bai Koroma’s All People’s Congress (APC) party following an investigation which accused him of creating his own rival political movement and fomenting violence in his home region of Kono in diamond-rich eastern Sierra Leone.

He has denied the allegations, which also included charges of lying about his academic credentials and his Muslim faith, and has rejected calls for him to resign.

Some security guards and drivers could be seen outside the vice-president’s compound.

“Officers came here this morning saying they were instructed with orders from above to come and disarm the bodyguards of the president, they came and disarmed all the bodyguards and took them away leaving the house with only two officers to guard the house,” said Zeewa Sheriff, the vice-president’s second driver.

“Our livelihood depends on the vice-president, so we are not happy at all with what has happened,” he added.

Sam-Sumana’s expulsion from the party has stirred confusion as Sierra Leone’s 1991 constitution only allows the dismissal of the vice-president with the vote of two-thirds of parliament.

Sources in the security forces confirmed that troops were sent to the vice-president’s home on Saturday to withdraw his security detail but they declined to say who had ordered it.

Sam-Sumana told Reuters that he and his wife fled their house and had reached a secret location while waiting to hear back from the U.S. ambassador.

An embassy spokesperson said they were aware of the situation and were monitoring it but declined to make any further comment.

Sam-Sumana has been vice-president since 2007. Koroma is now serving his second and final term.

In late February, Sam-Sumana said that he was placing himself in a 21-day quarantine after one of his bodyguards died of Ebola amid a surge in new infections in the West African country.

More that 3,600 people have died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, one of the three countries hardest-hit by the worst recorded outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever, along with Guinea and Liberia.

In total, the outbreak has killed more than 10,000 people.