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1.1 The traditional cardinal role of Paramount Chiefs has been the protection and defence of the people under their care. Each Paramount Chief organized his Chiefdom as a closely-knit unit the safety of which was the Paramount Chief's sole responsibility as well as the adjudication of disputes and the upkeep of their defence. The Paramount Chief was both the Chief Administrator and defender, and settled all disputes within his Chiefdom. He was responsible for the maintenance of law and order. Over the years, this order broke down after independence. Indeed this breakdown of traditional order in the Chiefdoms gave rise to discontent and consequent unrest culminating later in a civil strife: the rebel war.

1.2 The desired new policy will now attempt to restore the past, and where necessary modernise the governance structure of the chieftaincy to make it more effective, relevant and democratic. This vital role previously played by Paramount Chiefs, contributed immensely to our stability.

1.3 Many people may know my Government Service background in which I served as District Commissioner in those days. This gave me much insight into Chiefdom administration and Chieftaincy affairs. However, since this happened a long time ago, it is possible that I may overlook certain important aspects in my presentation which you can identify, analyse and make recommendations on in due course.

1.4 As earlier said, the role of the Paramount Chief in settling disputes was very important, a position, which he exercised with the assistance of his Sub-Chiefs and elders including the Speaker. However with the enactment of the Local Courts Act of 1963, Chiefs ceased to preside over courts and this function has since been exercised by Court Chairmen, appointed under the Courts Act while Chiefs jurisdiction has been limited to land and boundary disputes. In the past, the Paramount Chief's obligation included the entertainment of strangers as well as providing assistance to the needy in his chiefdom.

1.5 The last but not the least role of the Paramount Chief in those days was that he was Chief Patron of all Secret Societies in his Chiefdom.

1.6 The source of sustenance for the Paramount Chief in performing all this roles and of upholding the dignity and prestige of the office was from Customary forms of service and dues from the Chiefdom including communal labour in the Chief's farms, building, maintenance and repair of his compound, gifts and fines from court cases.

2. How Chiefdoms Developed

2.1 The earlier pioneers of established settlements were mainly hunters, farmers and warriors, which grew with the arrival of new family groups, war-refugees and slaves, into small towns. The towns, in expanding, developed surrounding villages, each of which was connected through certain ties.

2.2 In simple terms, each of these towns and its dependent villages were regarded as a single community. At the head of each of these separate communities was a chief who, in the old days, was essentially a warrior. During the period of the "tribal wars" many of these chiefs did not have authority that extended beyond their own towns and their environs. Over a long period of time these basic communities and towns developed, and the result is that, today, the basic political unit is a "section", made up of a number of towns and villages, and a number of sections make up the present-day chiefdom.

2.3 Each section is headed by a section chief, or sub-chief, who is supposed to be the oldest and most suitable person in the male line from the original "founders" of the territory in question.

2.4 Similarly, the chiefdom is headed by a Paramount Chief, who is supposed to be the oldest and most suitable person in the male line of the descent group, claiming jurisdiction over the various sections contained within the chiefdom as a whole.

2.5 The basis therefore of authority at the chiefdom level rested mainly on the term "founder", about which there should be no misunderstanding. To found a chiefdom, or the section of a chiefdom, had two implications which go together. The first involved the question of settlement. A person who opened up a new area or territory is considered to have rights over it. In the course of time, with the growth of the original area, these rights took on a form which included jurisdiction over the people living there. This explains why most people who held authority in a chiefdom were descended from the earlier settlers in the area.

2.6 The other or further implication of "founding a chiefdom" involved judicial and administrative rights which had been obtained in one way or the other through linkages with the original settlers.

3. Influence of British Colonial Rule

3.1 In declaring the Protectorate over the Sierra Leone hinterland the British consolidated what they believed to be the existing territorial boundaries between the various local rulers with whom they had signed treaties and made other forms of contact. British recognition of indigenous arrangements put the native rulers whom they recognized as "Paramount Chiefs", separate from section and other sub-chiefs.

1.2 This recognition by the Colonial Administration of local chiefdom authority had its foundation on the principle of original ownership of the land through settlement or by conquest and supremacy. It is through this means that claimants to hereditary right as its rulers and leading officials, is based. Apart from the Paramount Chief, the other important offices in a chiefdom are those of the Speaker of the chiefdom and the section chiefs. These form the political hierarchy at the chiefdom level.

1.3 The Paramount Chief's role as adjudicator and head of the Chiefdom Courts has already been mentioned. The law now is that Court Chairmen preside over local Court proceedings.

1.4 The Paramount Chief, Speaker and Section Chiefs form the political hierarchy which is assisted by Town Chiefs and Village headmen.

1.5 Throughout these chiefdom positions the rule of patrilineal inheritance holds good, though there is room for some further modification to accommodate today's realities.

1.6 We made 1961 the cut off date for the recognition of ruling houses because of the important role the British played in the establishment of the institution of chieftaincy in this country. By independence in 1961 the issue of ruling houses was already well settled. The problem arose when politicians were later alleged to have interfered with the institution of paramount chieftaincy by the recognition of families as ruling houses even though such families were perceived as not having the right or claim to paramount chieftaincy. This created problems and unrest, and has been referred to as some of the causes of the rebel war.


4.1 On the death of a Chief in the past, the family could only appoint a successor with the approval of the Chiefdom people. The family of the deceased selected the successor who was introduced to the whole Chiefdom for recognition, usually the choice was made by the dying Chief on his death bed which was kept secret for fear of harm to the successor. The choice could be the son of the late Chief; in some cases, sons of the same deceased Chief could be appointed in succession. Appointments could be independent of wealth; hence a poor man could be chosen. The rationale of the succession of brothers to the Chieftaincy in turn was based on the idea that the brothers were closer to the dead Chief than a son of the first brother who became Chief. This was based on the guiding principle of inheritance.

4.2 In the event of failure to get a suitable successor, a woman could be chosen (particularly in the Mende areas) such as the daughter of the late man. In some instances, even a Chief's daughter's child had a chance to succeed in the absence of nearer eligible male successors (Compare with North)

4.3 A powerful warrior or sons of an influential person could be appointed Regent Chief during either the ill health or demise of a Paramount Chief but this conferred no right on such appointees or their descendants to inherit the Chieftaincy rights.

5 Need for Reform

5.1 After independence the institution of Paramount Chieftaincy has undergone some changes, due largely to its politicisation. Its primary role of maintaining law and order at the chiefdom level became badly eroded as political interference in chiefdom administration matters undermined the influence and dignity of Paramount Chiefs.

5.2 As the basic political unit in the country is the chiefdom, there is every reason to ensure that this basic unit functions effectively, and consistent with its traditional role as the foundation of the overall national political structure.

5.3 My Government has embarked on Local Government Reform and Decentralization for which a Task Force under the chairmanship of the Vice President is now in place to review existing legislations of local councils and to come up with a consolidated Local Government Act and Legislation on Decentralized Administration. The Task Force will also map out and monitor the process of the Local Government Reform and Decentralization. The approval and enactment of the new legislation will form the basis on which Municipal, Town, District, and Rural District Council elections will be conducted this year. Therefore, Paramount Chiefs and other important stakeholders in the Local Government System are required to give their fullest cooperation and support to the Reform Exercise especially during District consultations on the Legislative Review. Crucial areas of consultation will include the decision on the type of local council election, that is, either partisan as it was the case in Sierra Leone or non-partisan as is done in some other countries, and whether all Paramount Chiefs are to be ex-officio members of the District Councils or on proportional representation.

5.4 An important element of my Government's programme is to move away from the highly centralized system of administration that we inherited from previous Governments and to restore democratic governance at the local levels. The new local councils will have enough authority in decision making as service providers to the people in their localities. The decentralized administration will encourage and promote grassroot participation in decision making and in the development objectives of the communities.

5.5 I want to seize this opportunity to recognize the invaluable support that my Government has received from our development partners, especially DFID and UNDP, in our Local Government Reform and Decentralization programme. The local elections will be a vital benchmark in the restoration of decentralized democratic governance. Such elections require resources in terms of equipment, logistics and finance. Government will need the support and assistance of the International Community and our Development Partners to conduct the elections.

6. Council of Paramount Chiefs

6.1 As part of our idea of restructuring the local Government of this country and in order to ensure the effective coordination of participation and transparency in the affairs of state, we intend to set up a Council of Paramount Chiefs which shall serve as an advisory body on Paramount Chieftaincy matters. The Council shall not have any legislative or executive role.

6.2 I have so far tried to capture the role and importance of the institution of Paramount Chieftaincy before it became heavily politicised. My personal opinion is that Paramount Chieftaincy should remain an integral part of our administrative culture. However, there is need for a major reform and improvement so that this very important institution can become more people-friendly and be able to play a more meaningful role in the country's recovery, reconciliation process, security and development.

6.3 It is for this reason that we have decided to set up a Council of Paramount Chiefs as an advisory body. It is expected that the Paramount Chiefs themselves would be able to restate and re-examine their roles against the background that I have sketched out and taking into consideration the post-conflict realities in Sierra Leone. We further believe that ways could be found to solicit and obtain the views of the adult population in the chiefdoms, as part of the consultative process.

6.4 Such a process of consultation is made necessary because, regrettably, it must be remembered and admitted that some Paramount Chiefs, through their own conduct and the manner in which they administered chiefdom affairs, contributed in one way or another to the political injustice, corruption and mismanagement that plagued Sierra Leone for many years. Some of those Paramount Chiefs were not democratic and administered their chiefdoms without due regard to traditional rules and the welfare of their people.

6.5 One of the main reasons therefore for a Council of Paramount Chiefs is for the chiefs themselves to consult among themselves and then provide advice to government as to how their institution could be made to play its rightful role not only in chiefdom matters but in overall national affairs as a group of traditional leaders who have a special role to play. That role, among others, is to encourage, foster and maintain national cohesion through upholding law and order, as well as traditional norms and values.

6.6 In maintaining law and order, one of the matters I would advise Paramount Chiefs to reconsider is the question of re-instating the "landlord-stranger" concept which existed in this country long before Colonial times. This arrangement exists and still works well in other countries such as Guinea. According to that arrangement all adult male strangers visiting a community were required to stay with an indigene or a well-respected non-indigene in the community, who acted as his host or landlord. Under the arrangement the landlord was expected to present the stranger to the chief with a "greeting kola" and to explain the purpose of the stranger's visit.

6.7 Throughout his stay the landlord was responsible for the actions of the stranger. The landlord therefore had to ensure that the stranger behaved in conformity with the norms of the community. In that way, it became difficult for outsiders to easily infiltrate a community and later cause havoc, as the former rebels did, for example in Pujehun, Kailahun and many other places, where they had entered posing as innocent visitors or bona fide travellers.

6.8 In considering this idea, the Chiefs may wish, in this day and age, to consider dropping the "greeting-kola" tradition from the custom.

6.9 I am aware that in constituting a Council of Paramount Chiefs where chiefs must consult among themselves to reconsider their role, some may ask the question: how can one be a judge in his own cause? Well, we have given a lot of thought to the idea. That is why the Council is only advisory and at some stages in their work as a Council, the chiefs will be expected to hold consultation among the adult population in their chiefdoms.

6.10 It would be recalled that during British Colonial rule the Protectorate Assembly and District Councils were set up in 1946 in order to address the many questions and problems which arose as a result of the complex nature of native administration. Questions such as customary law and practice, the role of Paramount Chiefs and the relationship between local and central government. All these issues required a consultative framework and arrangement in order to address them properly.

6.11 Our attempt in setting up a Council of Paramount Chiefs to address certain aspects of local administration is therefore very important and timely. Important because the institution of chieftaincy is a tradition for which I have the highest respect. Also of equal importance is the fact that in order to maintain peace and consolidate it after almost eleven years of war, the role of Paramount Chiefs, chiefdom elders and sub-chiefs needs to be revisited so that through our chiefs, sub-chiefs, elders and all stakeholders within the chiefdoms, government would be able to put in place a mechanism to detect early warning signs to address possible and potential conflicts before they can escalate into serious problems.

6.12 It is my view that the new chiefs in concert with their older colleagues carry the greatest responsibility of upholding the values, norms and respectability of their institution. Government's responsibility in chieftaincy matters is to provide the opportunity and enabling environment to make chieftaincy effective. In that regard, my Government's priority is to encourage and facilitate the creation of a Council of Chiefs at District, Provincial and National levels. The Council will be non political and will cut across ethnic, cultural and religious lines in advising Government on national issues and on chieftaincy matters.

6.13 An interim Council of Chiefs has been in existence at the District and National levels through the auspices of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development. The aims and objectives of the new arrangement would be as follows:-

6.14 to foster good relationship among Paramount Chiefs

irrespective of tribe, religion, district or province, and between them and their peoples;

6.15 to act as a medium of communication between

Government, the Chiefs and the Chiefdom People on important issues of national concern;

6.16 to promote the wider interest of Paramount Chiefs

especially on matters affecting their welfare and those of their chiefdom people;

6.17 to promote public sensitisation at chiefdom level on the essence of forgiveness and reconciliation as pre-requisites for sustainable and lasting peace;

6.18 to ensure good governance at the chiefdom level, including security and development.

6.19 in furtherance of the above-stated aims and objectives of the Council, the National Council of Paramount Chiefs will have the following Terms of Reference:

6.20 to review matters that will enhance the effectiveness of the institution of Paramount Chieftaincy as an instrument for the maintenance of law and order in the Provinces;

6.21 to review the criteria for succession and the basis for the recognition of Ruling Houses;

6.22 to review the procedure for the election of Paramount Chiefs;

6.23 to review and advise on the question of updating all existing amalgamation agreements in chiefdoms;

6.24 to examine the advisability or otherwise of enhancing the role of Paramount Chiefs as channels and instruments of socio-economic development in their chiefdoms;

6.25 to review customary law and practices with a view to developing a national standard;

6.26 to keep under review the various initiatives being

taken to decentralize responsibilities to the provinces, districts and chiefdoms and advise Government on any aspect of those initiatives.

6.27 In light of the present state of development in this country and throughout the world, and in addition to the established qualifications of claimants to Paramount Chieftaincy and other criteria, to advise whether there is a need for any other qualification for contesting for the position of Paramount Chieftaincy.

7. In addition to the matters I have stated herein, I would like the Council of Chiefs to consider and advise Government on the following matters:


7.2 This matter has been spoken about a lot. It is my view that the prevailing system of land tenure in the provinces be discussed openly to enable Government to arrive at a definitive policy position as to whether the system should remain as it is or whether some modification needs to be made in it.

7.3 The prevailing position is as follows:-

(I) In the Provinces, land is in family ownership, and by definition in the ownership of the community which is headed by a Paramount Chief. Thus, land cannot be alienated to any non-native unless with the consent of the Paramount Chief and his Councillors. They are the trustees of such lands. The term "Non-native" is defined to mean any person who does not belong to a provincial tribe. Therefore, the restriction on the alienation of provincial land does not apply to persons belonging to tribes in the provinces. In order to remove the obvious exclusion of persons of Western Area origin, you may say that it is necessary to expand the definition of non-natives to include all Sierra Leoneans while retaining the general restriction on the outright disposal or alienation of provincial land in any case. This may be a way of giving further meaning to our "one country, and people" policy.

(II) Land in the Provinces is at least for now the main source of economic activity of the population. They live on it. They cannot have an income from any other source or be employed in any other way. Therefore land is the basis of the power or wealth of the family or community. To allow the free and outright and unconditional disposal or alienation of provincial land without providing an arrangement whereby the land owners can continue to have an interest in that land and have a living income from it would create serious social and economic problems. It will produce a class of landless and unemployed people who may not even have a place to live or any source of income. It would at the same time create a class of absentee landlords who may purchase large chunks of provincial lands and deal in it like in any other commodity.

(III) We have seen such arrangements producing very explosive social, economic and political problems in other African countries.

(IV) It is therefore my view that whatever you may see as the appropriate land tenure system in the provinces it may be possible to devise a system whereby provincial lands can be usefully employed to bring realistic development to the provinces, especially in the area of agriculture.

(V) A prospective investor wishing to invest in agriculture, may, for instance enter into a joint venture arrangement with a land- owning family whereby the share of the investment on the part of the land owners would be the land itself with a notional value put on it which they would make available while the prospective investor's share would be the machines and other inputs also properly valued. The profits realized from the enterprise can be distributed in accordance with the values placed on the respective contributions to the capital of the joint venture.

(VI) Any length of time may be prescribed for the duration of the joint venture. This will be a binding contractual arrangement between the parties and it should be valid even for attracting bank loans as in the case of other business ventures, as the entire enterprise can be used as collateral for such loans. Refinements on such arrangements could be made while we maintain the present land tenure system in the Provinces intact and still bring development to the provinces through the use of provincial lands


8.1 In all Chiefdoms, one Chiefdom Councillor is appointed out of every 20-tax payer in that Chiefdom. The Chiefdom Councillors assist the Paramount Chief in the administration of the Chiefdom and through them the authority and directives of the Paramount Chief are spread through the length and breadth of the Chiefdom. They also constitute the Chiefdom Council presided over by the Paramount Chief. This Council prescribes for the Chiefdom's byelaws and regulations made for the good governance and proper and effective administration of the Chiefdoms.

8.2 Because of these important roles the Chiefdom Councillors perform within the Chiefdom, it is important that they reside within the Chiefdom so that they are always available to perform their functions whenever the Paramount Chief, the Chiefdom Council or the areas which they represent as Councillors require their services.

8.3. It is for this reason that there may be the need to discourage the appointment of absentee Chiefdom Councillors who reside away from the Chiefdom, and who may not be easily accessible to perform their functions as Chiefdom Councillors.

8.4 We have the bad practice of having descendants of a Chiefdom resident, for instance, in Freetown being appointed Chiefdom Councillors to succeed relations of theirs who die as Chiefdom Councillors in the Chiefdom. You may say that if this practice is not discontinued it might defeat the whole purpose of having Chiefdom Councillors.


9.1 Since 1963, the position of Court Chairmen over local courts had been established. The reason for this was to further strengthen and maintain the dignity of the Paramount Chiefs in their Chiefdoms while at the same time ensuring that justice was properly administered in the local courts without any influence or interference from the Paramount Chief. Before that, it was thought that by Paramount Chiefs presiding over local courts in their Chiefdoms, their dignity would be compromised, and there was the tendency of their decisions one way or the other creating divisiveness among their subjects and potential conflicts and revolts against the Paramount Chief.

9.2 By the present arrangement, all matters needing the decisions of the local court are decided by the local court presided over by a Court Chairman duly appointed by the Chiefdom Councillors. It must be emphasized that the role of the Court Chairman is confined to his adjudicating role in the Local Court. This arrangement does not in other respects affect the authority of the Paramount Chief in the entire Chiefdom. The Local Court Chairman is not equal to or in competition with the Paramount Chief in respect of any other matter affecting the administration of the Chiefdom. I wish the Council of Chiefs to express a view on the propriety or otherwise of the present arrangement.


10.1 There is established by law the position of Tribal Headmen in the Western Area, particularly Freetown.

10.2 The main role of the Tribal Headmen in Freetown is to provide a link between the Central Government and the tribes hailing from the provinces. Through the office of Tribal Headmen, the Central Government would communicate and relate with the members of the tribes resident in the Western Area. The Tribal Headmen have never had adjudicating or executive roles and all the members of the tribes resident in Freetown, for example, are subject to the laws and the judicial administrative machinery and other authorities within Freetown. Tribal Headmen in the Western Area only exist because, unlike in the Provinces, there are no Paramount Chiefs or local courts to deal with matters which are not taken cognisance of by the law or the courts in the Western Area, matters which are peculiar to the tribes. Examples of such matters may be those affecting customary marriages where both parties belong to the same tribe.

10.3 In the Provinces: There is no law establishing the position of Tribal Headmen for any town or area of the Provinces. Such positions have over the years come to exist only from informal arrangements between members of any particular tribe resident in the area or major town different from the areas from which they originate. In the course of time the Paramount Chiefs in these areas have allowed or acquiesced in the existence of these positions within their Chiefdoms. In some cases the Paramount Chiefs have even dealt with these tribal headmen or given them some element of recognition by consulting them in matters affecting the members of the particular tribes.

10.4 But there is no law establishing the position of tribal headmen in the Provinces including such areas as Bo, Kenema, Koidu or Makeni.

10.5 There is in principle nothing wrong for the members of a particular tribe living in another part of the provinces to organize themselves under the leadership of one of their members for social reasons. This may even facilitate communication between the Paramount Chief of the areas affected and the other tribes living in those areas. Such communication and consultation between the Paramount Chief and the particular tribal headman will greatly improve and enhance the harmonious relationship between the natives of that area and the members of the tribes which are not natives of the area.

10.6 What is objectionable however with regard to the position of tribal headmen in the Provinces is the power and authority which such headmen seem to arrogate to themselves. They consider themselves and allow the members of their tribes to consider them as alternatives or rivals to the Paramount Chiefs of the area in that they believe that they have exclusive power over the members of their tribes to the exclusion of the Paramount Chief. They even exercise powers of adjudication over their tribes to the exclusion of the Local Courts. This practice is wrong. The Paramount Chief of a Chiefdom has legal authority over all persons within that Chiefdom. There is no other authority in that Chiefdom which shares with him or competes with him in matters within the competence of the Paramount Chief of that Chiefdom. To allow a rival authority in the Chiefdom in the person of a tribal headman would amount to a derogation from the authority of the Paramount Chief. It may also cause an unnecessary conflict or friction between the Communities in the Chiefdom thereby resulting in bad governance in that Chiefdom.

10.7 The Council of Chiefs may wish to express to Government a view on the position of Tribal Headmen in the provinces.

11 Formal Recognition of Paramount Chiefs

By the powers conferred upon me as Head of State and all privileges attached thereto, I now hereby acknowledge and formally recognize you who have been duly and severally elected by your respective Chiefdom Councillors to become "Paramount Chiefs".