The Executive Branch
Chief of state:: President Ernest Bai KOROMA (since 17 September 2007); note - the president is both the Chief of State and Head of Government.
Head of government: President Ernest Bai KOROMA (since 17 September 2007)
Cabinet:Ministers of State appointed by the president with the approval of the House of Representatives; the cabinet is responsible to the president
Elections: The President was elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 17 November 2012 (next to be held in 2017)
Election results: Ernest Bai KOROMA elected
Subject to the provisions of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, the executive power in Sierra Leone is vested in the President and may be exercised by him directly or through members of the Cabinet, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Deputy Ministers or public officers subordinate to him.
In the exercise of his functions, the President may act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet except in cases where, by this Constitution or any other law, he is required to act with the approval of Parliament or in accordance with the advice of any person or authority other than the Cabinet.
No person can hold office as President for more than two terms of five years each whether or not the terms are consecutive. The Vice-President of Sierra Leone is selected by the President and is the Principal Assistant to the President in the discharge of his executive functions. There is, in addition to the office of Vice- President, such other offices of Ministers and Deputy Ministers as is established by the President.
The Cabinet advises the President in the government of Sierra Leone and consists of the President, the Vice-President and the Ministers that the President appoints. The Cabinet determines the general policy of the Government.
The Legislative Branch
The legislature of Sierra Leone is known as Parliament, and consists of the President, the Speaker and Members of Parliament. Subject to the provisions of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, “the legislative power of Sierra Leone is vested in Parliament and the Parliament shall be the supreme legislative authority for Sierra Leone”. The Speaker of Parliament is elected by the Members of Parliament from among persons who are Members of Parliament. Parliament may alter the Constitution by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the Members of Parliament
Unicameral Parliament (124 seats; 112 members elected by popular vote, 12 filled by paramount chiefs elected in separate elections; members to serve five-year terms)
Elections: last held on 17 November 2012 (next to be held in 2017)
Election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - APC 69, SLPP 43, Women in parliament: 18 out of 124 seats: (19%).
The Judiciary Branch
Supreme Court; Appeals Court; High Court
Provisions for the structure of the Judiciary are derived from both the Constitution and legislation. According to article 120 (4), "[t]he Judicature shall consist of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, the Court of Appeal and the High Court of Justice, which shall be the superior courts of record of Sierra Leone and which shall constitute a Superior Court of Judicature, and such other inferior and traditional courts as Parliament may by law establish ". More precisely, the judicial system consists of a Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and Magistrates' Courts, and local courts.
The Supreme Court is the ultimate court of appeal in both civil and criminal cases and has supervisory jurisdiction over all other courts and over any adjudicating authority in Sierra Leone, as well as original jurisdiction for constitutional issues.
The Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals of decisions of the High Court in both criminal and civil matters, and also from certain statutory tribunals. Appeals against its decisions may be made to the Supreme Court.
The High Court has unlimited original jurisdiction in all criminal and civil matters, as well as appellate jurisdiction against decisions of Magistrates’ Courts. Magistrates’ Courts have jurisdiction in summary criminal cases and over preliminary investigations to determine whether a person charged with an offence, should be committed for trial. Local courts have jurisdiction, according to native law and custom, in matters that are outside the jurisdiction of other courts.
The Magistrate’s Court is the primary inferior court of judicature. In line with the Courts Act No. 31 of 1965, Sierra Leone is constituted into Judicial Districts and Section 4 states that there shall be constituted Magistrate’s Court in and for every judicial district. The Magistrate’s Courts have limited jurisdiction. The Courts Act provides it jurisdiction to do all lawful acts necessary to enquire into and dispose of or to hear and determine all civil and criminal matters arising within the district, area or place for which it is established or transferred to it by the High Court. Such jurisdiction is exercised by the Magistrate/s duly appointed to such courts.
District Appeals Court
The District Appeals Court does not have original jurisdiction. This means that a summons cannot be initiated in this court. A Magistrate sits as the Chairman in the District Appeals Court. Two Customary Law Officers are assigned to the court to advice the Chairman. However, the Chairman is not bound by the advice proffered by these Customary Law Officers and may even dispense with these assessors if the matter before the Court does not pertain to Customary Law.
Local Courts have jurisdiction exclusively in matters that arise within their geographical area. Local courts cannot hear cases where the government or a company is a party. They are presided over by Paramount Chiefs.
The Constitution suffers from an important institutional problem in terms of judicial independence. According to art. 120 (1), the Head of the Judiciary is vested in the Chief of Justice, who benefits from the same guarantees as Judges of the Superior Court of the Judicature. However, his supervisory power and more generally the independence of the Judiciary are threatened by section 64 of the Constitution, which merges the positions of Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Thus, functions which are innately executive and judicial reside in the same person.