March 19, 2015 / 10:09 PM / in 3 years

Sierra Leone president replaces sacked deputy with ex-ambassador

FREETOWN (Reuters) - Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma swore in his new deputy on Thursday though the ousted vice president has pledged to challenge his removal in court.

Victor Bockarie Foh, the new vice president, was previously Sierra Leone’s ambassador to China. His appointment comes a day after Samuel Sam-Sumana was sacked after he sought asylum at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown.

The power struggle comes as the country is battling to stamp out an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 3,600 people in Sierra Leone and two years ahead of elections at which Koroma is due to step aside.

Sam-Sumana was expelled from Koroma’s All People’s Congress (APC) this month after being accused of stoking violence and trying to create his own political movement.

The president’s office said that as Sam-Sumana was no longer a member of a political party in Sierra Leone he was not eligible to be vice president.

Sam-Sumana, who sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy after soldiers surrounded his house on Saturday, has said his sacking was “unconstitutional and unlawful” and pledged to fight it in the country’s highest court.

The row 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.

The constitution also says a vice presidential candidate must be a member of a registered political party in the run-up to an election but it is not clear whether a vice president must still be a member once in office.

Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Susan Fenton

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