Sierra Leone’s vice-president has appeared in public for the first time since his residence was stormed by soldiers, insisting that he is not in danger and suggesting that he has not been in hiding.
Samuel Sam-Sumana had claimed he feared for his life and had applied to the United States for asylum, according to aides, after he was expelled from the governing party.
Witnesses described how heavily-armed men entered his hilltop home in Freetown while he was away on Saturday and disarmed his security guards, leaving with bundles of files.
He had not been seen in public since, but he appeared briefly to address journalists at his home late Monday and said: “I am safe. We are all safe.”
The All People’s Congress said earlier this month it had kicked out Sam-Sumana for fomenting violence in his home district of Kono, deceit, fraud and threatening key party officials.
But the government has repeatedly denied that the vice president is in any danger, claiming his fears for his life were “ludicrous”.
The 52-year-old’s expulsion came a few days after he had put himself in quarantine due to the death of one of his bodyguards from Ebola.
The vice president has dismissed the accusations against him as “a storm in a teacup” and vowed to address them at the end of his quarantine period, which is not officially due until the weekend.
- ‘I don’t feel threatened’ –
He told reporters he could not discuss whether he planned to resign, but added: “I am fine and I don’t feel threatened.”
He faced questions on whether he had been at the residence since Saturday or had fled elsewhere, but would only respond: “You’ve met me here and I am here… Maybe at a particular time, I was not.”
“Why should I hide as a sitting vice president? Why should I do that?” he added.
The action against Sam-Sumana has been presented as part of a wider crackdown on “anti-party activities” which saw expulsions, reprimands and fines for several other senior members.
But religious leaders have voiced fears that the “strained relationship” between Sam-Sumana and President Ernest Bai Koroma was threatening the stability of the country.
Koroma told a cross-party delegation at the presidency on Monday that he had not ruled out using constitutional powers to remove Sam-Sumana from office.
He spelled out four possible solutions to the stand-off, including “the option of resignation, the option of hanging on and carrying on as it is, impeachment and using my constitutional authority to relieve him of his responsibilities”.
Delegation leader Mohamed Bangura said Sam-Sumana had “promised to make his position known in 48 hours” during a two-hour meeting at the vice president’s house on Monday.
“The meeting with the vice president was positive but we cannot talk about the outcome at this time, except that we will have a follow-up,” he said.
Sam-Sumana did not comment Monday on whether he was pursuing his asylum application in light of his assertion that he is not in danger.
The US State Department said on Sunday it was in touch with Sierra Leone authorities to try to resolve the crisis.
Courtesy of AFP