Deputy Minister urges Paramount Chiefs to 'Strive to become modern chiefs of the 21st Century'
Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon Hadiru Kalokoh has called on Paramount Chiefs and tribal headmen to “Strive to become modern chiefs of the 21st century … chiefs who administer their subjects using modern tenets of democracy and human rights as against the old ways of absolute monarchy coercion” at the launch of the Government’s newly formulated Chiefdom and Traditional Administration Policy in the four major cities of Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Freetown. He added “A Paramount Chief should be a symbol of unity, not a symbol of fear.”
Hon Kalokoh also noted that the development and launch of the policy is a demonstration that the government is still very much committed in the chieftaincy institution culminating in the development of the new policy that will regulate the chieftaincy and traditional authority. He said the Government sees it as a “… major custodian of the culture and tradition of our people” adding that the role of traditional rulers like Paramount Chiefs is also “ … to maintain peace and harmony among the various ethnic groups, end conflict between ethnic groups and respect and promote law and order.
Addressing over eighty Paramount Chiefs and sub-chiefs in the northern city of Makeni, Hon Kalokoh noted “In the old days chiefs came to power through war and conquest and ruled with an iron fist. But now, chiefs come to power though the ballot box making it necessary for a change of leadership style and for accountability.”
The Director of Local Government at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. Aiah Lebbie explained the aspects of the Policy to the Paramount Chiefs, observers and journalists present stating that the new policy completely outlaws forced labour as it contradicts the freedoms and human rights of citizens stipulated in Sierra Leone’s 1991 Constitution. “Now, forced labour is completely forbidden” Mr Lebbie bluntly told the chiefs.
He added however, amidst delight and thunderous applause from the gathered Paramount Chiefs in Makeni city, most of whom were clad in their traditional attires that the policy stipulates for them to be paid by the government through the Consolidated Fund.
In Freetown, where the final event was held to launch the policy, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr. Kalilu Bah told tribal headmen, representing all the ethnic groups in Freetown that the new policy took the views and concerns of the Paramount Chiefs into account.
PC Massa Paki Kebombo II, of Paki Massabong Chiefdom in the Bombali District said the last time there was a written chiefdom policy was in 1938. “This new policy will help us as chiefs, it will guide our actions as Paramount Chiefs. We will look at the policy and discuss it and ensure that our views are also incorporated as time goes on, especially during the process of passing it into law. I think it is a good policy and a gradual process of development.”
Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) identified autocratic and abusive chiefs who levied exorbitant fines on their subjects, the unaccountable and undemocratic nature of the chieftaincy institution and the practice of forced labour in rural areas, as some of the major reasons that contributed to the outbreak of the war between 1991 and 2002. The reform of the chieftaincy and traditional administration is seen as the government’s attempt to address one of the root-causes of the war in Sierra Leone.
The institution of chieftaincy and traditional administration remains a major aspect of Sierra Leone’s local governance structure. The 1991 Constitution recognizes the institution but when the Local Government Act (2004) was enacted into law for decentralization of governance in Sierra Leone, there remained many unanswered questions on the relationship between the local councils and chiefdom authorities leading in some instances to conflict and duplication. The new Chiefdom and Traditional Administration Policy, together with the amended Local Government Act, will provide a clear legal administrative framework for the two tiers of local governance to work together better.
UNDP’s Local Governance and Economic Development Joint Programme (LGED - JP) seeks to support the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development’s decentralization process through the capacity building of local governments to enhance pro-poor local economic development. LGED programme provide technical support as well as strengthens financial management and planning at local level to stimulate local economic development through public-private partnership initiatives.
Abdul Karim Bah, Communications Analyst, UNDP Sierra Leone. Tel: + 232-167428