Sierra Leone: The Temne People and Democracy

By Alpha B Kamara

Before Sierra Leone was colonized in 1787 and freed slaves arriving from England and other groups from Nova Scotia (1792) and Jamaica (1800), the Temnes already practiced a democratic form of government.

The paramount chief, the leader of all the local chiefs in the jurisdiction is chosen through an electoral process that involves representatives of various clan members of the chieftain voting for a leader.

After thorough assessment of the various people vying for the position, which includes right to a chieftaincy house, the clans’ representatives (Gbolies), voted their choice.

“The Temne are divided into numerous independent chiefdoms, each governed by a paramount chief. Chiefdoms are divided into sections governed by subchiefs and containing one or more villages or hamlets. The village in turn is under the authority of a headman, formerly a descendant of the village founder but now an elected official.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica’).

Like in modern Democracy, election processes involves lobbying, information sourcing, campaigning, and disqualification of contestants that fall short of the required standards. within the process, election of section chiefs are also held and go through a ceremonial process guided by traditions. The practice is still ongoing and cherished by the people.



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