Regent Chiefs in various chiefdoms in Sierra Leone are long overdue having spent over a year in their caretaker capacities.
Overstay of regent chiefs in their various offices is a clear contravention of the chieftaincy law which says no regent chief shall exceed one year after appointment by the Minister of Local Government.
“The term of office of a regent chief…shall not exceed twelve months,” section 3(3) of the Chieftaincy Act of 2009 says.
The chieftaincy law confers powers on the Minister to appoint a regent chief whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of a substantive paramount chief.
“Until the election of the new paramount chief, the Minister shall after consultation with the chiefdom committee…appoint a regent chief to oversee the administration of the chiefdom in a caretaker capacity,” the law reads.
By virtue of the provisions, the regent chief should not exceed a year after the appointment.
“Not later than twelve months after a vacancy occurs in the office of paramount chief whether by the death, removal or otherwise of the previous holder of the office, the chiefdom councillors of the chiefdom shall elect a new paramount chief for the chiefdom in accordance with the Act,” a portion of the law reads.
The above provision supports the claim that after a year, the people should do away with a regent chief and have a paramount chief.
It is right to argue that all the regent chiefs that were appointed by the past government were removed on the grounds that they had spent over a year in their offices.
They were replaced by regent chiefs appointed by the current government.
The appointed regent chiefs have also spent over a year without conducting elections for substantive paramount Chiefs.
The absence of paramount chiefs has led to the stagnation in the development of chiefdoms in the country.
Some sections in certain communities do not see regent chiefs as their own since they are appointed by government.
As they remain as appointed officials, regent chiefs as ones that always act in the interest of government.
As such situation prevails; the authority of regent chiefs is considerably undermined as they are not accepted by all sections in the community.
Some experienced Sierra Leoneans who are privy to Sierra Leone’s history explained that SLPP had a history of using paramount chiefs in elections.
By all indications, SLPP seems to be losing grounds even in their strongholds owing to their failure to deliver the much-needed services to the people.
The party being elitist in nature finds it difficult to come down to the level of the masses.
The only hope is to allow regent chiefs to stay permanently in office to do the bidding during the elections.
But, as the regent chiefs continue to reign, the potential for conflict is high since they are seen as officials of government and not traditional rulers.
As they continue in office indefinitely, regent chiefs have come to be seen as warrant chiefs created during the colonial period.
The warrant chiefs came into being when substantive paramount chiefs were arbitrarily removed from their positions by the colonial government.
Those chiefs who were removed from their offices were seen recalcitrant ones that were totally opposed to the policies of the colonial government.
At that time, any paramount chief that refused to serve government as footstool was deemed recalcitrant and removed from office.
The warrant chiefs created by the colonial government came to be seen as a foreign imposition, a move that provoked intermittent waves of conflicts in the colonial period.
Some chiefs who continue to oppose the colonial government owing to maladministration were humiliated, arrested and exiled.
The situation, at that time, did not augur well for the colonial government owing to the bad blood between the government and the communities whose chiefs were humiliated.
Now the same situation continues, regent chiefs have overstayed and they are still maintained in their offices to the anger of communities.
A survey that is conducted in chiefdoms where regent chiefs are operating would likely indicate that the people need paramount chiefs and not regent chiefs.
The main reason usually advanced by the people is that the regent chiefs do not come from them, but they come from government.
Why do we still have regent chiefs after they have spent over a year? The question has been frequently asked by a great many people.
The Minister of Local Government is quite aware of the existence of the law but turns a blind eye and embarks on a wilful blindness.
The ministry’s failure depicts a blatant disregard for the chieftaincy law in the country, an institution held in high esteem.
Why do we have laws which are not respected? It is better not to have laws than to have them, but trampled with impunity.
In a modern and civilised state, it is the law that is supreme and not man.