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Sierra Leone now has 190 Chiefdoms and a new national map

August 2, 2017

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President Ernest Bai Koroma has formally declared 41 de-amalgamated chiefdoms independent and subsequently installed Regent Chiefs to superintend over the new chiefdoms until Paramount Chiefs are duly elected. The event took place on Saturday July 29 in the northern headquarter town of Makeni.

The occasion attracted government ministers, development partners such as the World Bank and UNDP, traditional leaders, and heads of public and private sector institutions, among others.

According to President Koroma, the de-amalgamation and redistricting would help to deepen the decentralization process, commitment and participation to ensure sustainable development. He described the occasion as very important.

Before the colonial era, there were 217 chiefdoms and 13 districts in Sierra Leone. Owing to the amalgamation concept initiated by the colonial regime, the chiefdoms were reduced to 147 and later to 149. With the de-amalgamation that has now come into effect with standard and informed criteria, the country has now got a total of 190 chiefdoms with 16 districts.

Falaba in the northern Koinadugu District is now a district on its own with Mongor its district headquarter town; while Karene as well a new district under the new dispensation. The North now has seven districts and is therefore divided into two regions – Northern Region comprising of Bombali, Tonkolili, Koinadugu and Falaba, with Makeni as its city; while Kambia, Port Loko, and Karene form North-Western Region with Port Loko its new city.

President Koroma maintained that the process was completely devoid of politics, and therefore called on the Regent Chiefs to remain neutral and ensure they administer the various chiefdoms well as government would soon engage with chiefdom authorities to elect their Paramount Chiefs.

Country Manager of the World Bank, Parminder Brar, lauded the initiative which he believed would lead to efficiency and effectiveness of the decentralization process. Going back to history, he said the British colonized Sierra Leone thus leading to the establishment of the institution of “Paramount Chieftaincy” in 1896, and that the institution has come a long way, existing for 121 years. “It is under the institution of Paramount Chiefs that Sierra Leone was able to successfully fight Ebola,” said Mr. Brar. “Without the full support of the traditional structures, it wouldn’t have been possible to defeat the disease. So going forward, we need to rethink the kind of support that Chiefdom Councils and Paramount Chiefs can receive from development partners.”

He emphasized the need for a clear strategy for aligning the work of traditional institutions such as Paramount Chiefs with democratically elected institutions which are the Local Councils. He stressed that it was critical that revenue sharing arrangements should be streamlined and roles and responsibilities should be clarified. There was need for much more collaboration and less competition, he added.

Mr. Brar commended President Koroma for taking the bold step in the de-amalgamation of chiefdoms across the country as the process “will play a pivotal role in the development of Sierra Leone”. He said the President also needed to be commended for two major policy initiatives. The first is the launching of the National Land Policy that happened in March 2017. This policy is a bold step forward and there is urgent need for a modern land management system to be put in place for reducing land disputes and reducing social stress in rural and urban areas. The second area that the Government needed to be commended about was the finalization of the new Public Financial Act in 2016. Under this Act, the budgets of Paramount Chiefs are now required to be part of the budgets of local councils and financial supervision of these budgets will now be provided by Local Councils.

He said the Bank has spent close to US$50 million on decentralization through local councils since 2004. Going forward, he noted that there will be need to also support the institution of Paramount Chiefs since they are now a part of Local Council Administration. This could be considered during the design of the upcoming decentralization project of the Bank that is currently being planned.

Overall he stated that the World Bank has now supported Sierra Leone for 55 years with the total funding of over US$1.6 billion. In the next three years, Mr. Brar assured the Government that the World Bank would double its support to the country compared to the previous three years.

The UNDP Country Director, Dr. Samuel G. Doe, described the de-amalgamation of chiefdoms as a commendable venture and urged Sierra Leoneans to commend the President for his courage and determination to move the development process forward. Being a good initiative for effective decentralization, Dr. Doe assured of the UNDP’s full support to government at all times.

The ceremony was climaxed with the unveiling of the new map of Sierra Leone, showing 16 administrative districts and 190 chiefdoms.