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15th August 2018

Position of Paramount Chiefs in Sierra Leone Parliament, Unique in West Africa!

By Francis Gabbidon (17/04/18)

The position of Paramount Chiefs in Sierra Leone parliament is unique. It is the only country in West Africa that has Paramount Chiefs as MPs.


1. Sierra Leone is unique as being the only country in West Africa where chiefs are members of Parliament. Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and the rest have no such provision where chiefs sit in their Parliament. (Photo: Paramount Chiefs in Sierra Leone).

2. Some Paramount Chiefs during the late Justice Cowan’s Constitutional Review had openly advocated that chiefs should no longer sit in Parliament.

3. Regrettably Paramount Chiefs still sit in our Parliaments as the Justice Cowan’s Report was virtually abandoned by the former administration.

4. Since this is still the status quo, the question now is, who should the Paramount Chiefs support in the new Parliament?

5. Since 1961, 1971, 1978 and 1991 the Paramount Chiefs have always consistently as a matter of constitutional convention, practice, custom and political expediency supported and voted with the government of the day. This convention has been implemented when both the APC and SLPP governments have been in power, since independence.

Paramount Chiefs are not actively involved in politics in the sense of “declaring for parties” their role is to support the government of the day.

Paramount Chiefs can still be considered an integral and essential part of Parliament. They represent their Districts and not Constituencies in Parliament and as a matter of custom and practice are expected to throw in their lot with the party in power, the SLPP, as they are part and parcel of the government.

There is no provision for my views whether express, constitutional or statutory, but there are precedents in practice since 1961 to support my views.

But I submit that constitutional conventions govern such a situation and therefore in accordance with Parliamentary practice and custom the Paramount Chiefs in Parliament should support the government, even if the APC has more seats in Parliament.

Courtesy: By Francis Gabbidon, Barrister-at-Law and Lecturer in International Human Rights Law Fourah Bay College


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