Min. Of Local Govt., Maya Kaikai (R) Handing Over New Map To President Koroma (L)
Chiefdom is the basic unit of administration and an integral part of the Governance of the state of Sierra Leone. Chiefdom Administration started with the advent of colonial rule.
The British Colonial Government divided Sierra Leone into two main blocks, namely the Colony, which is now the Western Area and the Protectorate, which is now the Provinces.
The Protectorate was divided into Provinces and the Provinces were sub-divided into Districts and the Districts were further sub-divided into Chiefdoms.
At that time there were thirteen (13) districts and two hundred and seventeen (217) Chiefdoms in the Provinces of Sierra Leone. The Colonial Government ensured that each chiefdom had its own Paramount Chief elected by the Chiefdom Authorities of the Chiefdom, a practice that has continued up to date.
A Paramount Chief is a chief that is not subordinate to any other chief within the jurisdiction of the Chiefdom. Chieftaincy is deeply rooted in the culture of the people of Sierra Leone and is a respected and honoured institution.
Chieftaincy and chiefdom administration played and continues to play an important role in the socio-economic development of the country.
Chiefs provide leadership and guidance to their people, uphold the customs and traditions of the people and contribute meaningfully to the maintenance of law and order and national development.
During colonial rule, the Colonial Government decided to amalgamate some chiefdoms, with a view to reducing administrative cost. Some chiefdoms were considered to be small in size and economically not viable to survive as administrative units on their own and were therefore amalgamated to suit the convenience of the then British Colonial Government.
Rationale For De-amalgamation
The reasons and factors that may have justified the amalgamation of these chiefdoms at that time no longer apply to modern day Sierra Leone. A lot of changes have taken place. People are now more enlightened and the socio-economic and the political landscape of the country has changed considerably.
Ethnic and cultural differences in some amalgamated chiefdoms are causing conflicts which is not helpful to the people and for social harmony needed for development. Some of the former Chiefdoms in the amalgamated chiefdoms have not been able to produce Paramount Chiefs since the time of amalgamation to date because of their size and population.
Some Paramount Chiefs do not have interest and control over the parts of the chiefdom they do not hail from thus resulting to the neglect and underdevelopment of those areas.
In some cases, people in the affected parts of the amalgamated chiefdom resorted to civil disobedience as a way of expressing their dissatisfaction with the unhappy union they found themselves in.
Over the years there have been tensions, animosity and instability among the people in some amalgamated chiefdoms. Some parts of the amalgamated chiefdoms have experienced domination and oppression by the larger parts of the amalgamation.
Paramount Chieftaincy Elections in these chiefdoms were often characterised by rancour and the marginalisation and victimisation of ruling houses from smaller components.
Some Ruling Houses have become virtually extinct. There is now greater recognition for self-determination and self-rule in most of the amalgamated chiefdoms.
Even though the Chieftaincy Act of 2009 made provisions for Rotational Crowning of Paramount Chiefs in amalgamated chiefdoms, tensions and animosity still manifested themselves at Paramount Chief Elections.
The wide spate of pre and post-election protests and judicial injunctions were testimonies to the rancour that surrounded Paramount Chief Elections.
Representations from people in amalgamated chiefdoms were made to the Ministry of Local Government over the years; to put an end to the unhappy marriage they found themselves in.
In other words, many appeals were made to Government to de-amalgamate chiefdoms to foster peace, stability and social harmony among the people in the chiefdoms.
Key Observations And Preliminary Conclusions
The amalgamation exercise undertaken by the British Colonial Government took place mainly between 1945 and 1961 resulting to the reduction of the then existing 217 chiefdoms to 147 chiefdoms.
Some years later after independence in 1961, Debia Chiefdom was de-amalgamated from the then Thainkatopa Makama Safroko Debia Chiefdom and Masimira from the then Marampa Masimira Chiefdom, thus increasing the number of chiefdoms to 149.
The amalgamation of chiefdoms by the Colonial Administration was not evenly spread across the country. More chiefdoms were amalgamated in the northern province than in the southern and eastern provinces combined. Although the Northern Province is bigger in size in terms of land space than the southern and eastern provinces combined yet after the amalgamation, the Northern Province was left with 53 chiefdoms while the South with 52 and the East with 44.
It is important to note that 80 chiefdoms were amalgamated in the North, 30 chiefdoms in the South and 9 chiefdoms in the East. De-amalgamation is very likely to raise political and or regional sentiments, since more chiefdoms will be de-amalgamated in the north than in the south and east.
The chiefdom people are enthusiastic about the de-amalgamation exercise, with the exception of few chiefdoms, such as Niawa Lenga in Bo District, Soro Gbema in Pujehun District, Bendu Cha in Bonthe District and Fakunya in Moyamba District. They are comfortable with the marriage they find themselves in and the rotational arrangement in terms of election of Paramount Chiefs.
Most of the chiefdom stakeholders welcome the de-amalgamation exercise. They believe that de-amalgamation has ushered in peace, stability, social harmony, self-determination and development, which were fast dissipating.
The outcomes of the consultative meetings, as per the surveys and questionnaires, proved that most of the people want de-amalgamation, but not all amalgamated chiefdoms met the criteria for de-amalgamation.
On the basis of the information gathered from the consultative meetings and desk review work, thirty-three (33) amalgamated chiefdoms have been earmarked to be de-amalgamated to re-establish forty-one (41) additional chiefdoms, thus making the total number of chiefdoms to one hundred and ninety (190) country wide. This will constitute the first group of amalgamated chiefdoms that have been de-amalgamated. As and when the need arises, additional chiefdoms will be considered for de-amalgamation.
It should be noted that de-amalgamation will put some financial burden on Government, given that forty-one (41) new chiefdoms will be added to the existing one hundred and forty-nine (149) chiefdoms. The re-establishment of these chiefdoms has its own financial implications, including the provision of required infrastructure and logistics, election of new Paramount Chiefs and payments of allowances, salaries and wages, etc. However the inherent advantages of peace, social harmony, peaceful co-existence, stability, self-determination and self-rule that the de-amalgamation will bring are priceless, including the advancement of infrastructural development.
It should be noted that even if an amalgamated chiefdom meets the criteria for de-amalgamation, but if the parties are unwilling to divorce, that amalgam should not be considered for de-amalgamation.
It is important to note that the de-amalgamation process will not proceed smoothly without hitches as it is observed that some Paramount Chiefs are reluctant to relinquish power and territory.
Some chiefdoms may want to create new boundaries because of socio-economic advantages and the desire to have more territory. This aspect will be monitored very closely by the Ministry of Local Government.
The Ministry will assemble the original documents of chiefdom boundaries before amalgamation and liaise with other relevant ministries, departments and agencies to ensure that chiefdoms do not encroach on each-other’s territory.
Other Administrative Re-adjustments And Changes Undertaken By Government
After independence in 1961, Sierra Leone has faced and continues to face a lot of administrative challenges accruing from the demands of an emerging and growing democratic nation. The administrative regions left behind by the British Colonial Authorities have largely remained unchanged, which now pose a lot of challenges for the effective governance of the country in the face of the on-going Decentralisation Programme.
It is now necessary to address the long outstanding need to re-organise administrative units left behind by the British Colonial Government to ensure good and effective governance of the country.
The de-amalgamation exercise has resulted in the re-creation of forty one (41) chiefdoms in addition to the existing 149, which now amount to 190 chiefdoms country wide. To ensure effective governance of the country, it is necessary to undertake some administrative re-adjustments and changes.
The administrative re-adjustments and changes to be undertaken by Government are as follows:
- The re-establishment of Karene District and the division of Koinadugu District into two districts.
- The division of the Northern Province into two provinces.
- The creation of Mayoral Boroughs with one Lord Mayor in the City of Freetown.
- Assessment of existing boundaries of provincial cities such as Bo, Makeni and Kenema with a view to making provision for urban growth.
Establishment Of New Local Councils
Before the dissolution of Karene District in 1949, it had its own District Office and District Council like the other districts in the country. With the re-establishment of Karene District and the establishment of Falaba District, Government has declared these two districts as localities. There is now a Karene District Council with its principal offices located in Kamakwie Town and a Falaba District Council with its offices in Mongo Town.
Port Loko Town, which is the Headquarters of the North-Western Province, has been declared by government as a locality in line with the other Provincial Headquarters in the country. There is now a Port Loko City Council.