Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio on Friday announced a minor Cabinet reshuffle which has seen him effectively demote one of the most powerful people in his administration.
According to a statement from the presidency, Prof David Francis was redeployed from the office of chief minister to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Prof Francis was considered the most powerful man in the Bio administration.
The former professor at the UK’s Bradford University came to the limelight after Bio's election in 2018. He was Bio's academic supervisor while he was pursuing his doctoral studies, which has been put on hold following his election.
The post of chief minister was specifically created to fit Prof Francis’ influential position, replacing that of the presidential chief of staff. The decision provoked a huge debate at the time.
The new chief minister is Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa, another staunch ally of the president. Saffa will oversee the Finance ministry “until further notice,” according to the statement from the presidency.
Nabila Tunis, who was the Foreign minister, was dropped from the Cabinet.
There were also changes and redeployment in Information, Agriculture and Gender ministers, as well as in the office of the country’s permanent mission to the United Nations.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Alie Kabba, who was instrumental in Bio's presidential campaign, was named as the ambassador to Egypt, sparking fresh speculation about the relationship between the two.
Bio also appointed a substantive head of the National Covid-19 Emergency Response Center (NaCoverc). Sheku Fantamadi Bangura replaces Defense minister Brig (Rtd) Hassan Kelly Conteh, who was previously the interim coordinator.
The Cabinet reshuffle comes three days after Sierra Leone celebrated its 60th independence anniversary.
At the event President Bio, called for a review of the country’s system of political representation to address increasing division along regional and ethnic lines.