Sierra Leone Replaces Sacked VP

Sierra Leone leader Ernest Bai Koroma has appointed and sworn in a new vice president, the presidency said Thursday, a day after the sacked deputy vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In a statement it said Victor Bockarie Foh, a veteran powerbroker in the ruling party and most recently ambassador to China, had been named "due to the vacancy of the post".

Koroma axed his vice president Samuel Sam-Sumana on Tuesday, almost two weeks after he was expelled from the ruling All People's Congress (APC) and went into hiding, claiming he was in danger and asking for asylum in the United States.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Koroma said Foh brought "a wealth of experience in administration and politics".

"I have no doubt with your experience over the years, you will join the administration bringing in your experience and value to our efforts to build democracy and work for the end of Ebola," the president said.

Foh, who made an unsuccessful run for vice president in 1996, said he was committed to the fight against Ebola and thanked China for its assistance to Sierra Leone to combat the disease.

Koroma, who was re-elected in 2012 for a second term with Sam-Sumana, cannot stand again in 2017 elections under Sierra Leone's constitution.

The president said Sam-Sumana's asylum claim showed "a willingness to abandon his duties and office as vice president of our beloved republic".

Sam-Sumana has accused Koroma of acting unlawfully, telling reporters the president "does not have the constitutional right to sack me because I was not appointed by him but elected under the constitution of Sierra Leone".

"I have instructed my legal team to pursue this matter in the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court," he said in a statement to the nation broadcast earlier this week.

Foh was APC secretary general for more than a decade until he was appointed Sierra Leone's envoy to China, when he was praised for strengthening ties with Beijing.

The appointment is seen as particularly significant as Koroma has just two years of his final term left to serve, making his deputy a favorite to become the country's next leader.

The APC announced on March 6 it had kicked out Sam-Sumana, accusing him of fomenting violence in his home district of Kono, deceit, fraud and threatening key party officials.

He denied all charges and fled into hiding -- with aides reporting he had voiced fears for his safety -- before briefly reappearing at his residence on Monday to speak to reporters.

The action against Sam-Sumana has been seen as part of a wider crackdown on "anti-party activities" which saw expulsions, reprimands and fines for several other senior members.

Source: Agence France Presse

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