Several Civil Societies in the country have urged all Parliamentarians not to pass the Draft Chieftaincy Bill into law until some of the recommendations proposed are considered.
Some of the recommendations are that, procedures for the removal of a Paramount Chief from office needs to be revised, broaden representation on the Chiefdom Council or Electoral College to include women and youth; introduce elections of Traditional Administrations or councilors to be supervised by National Electoral Commissions ; all adults over the age of 18 to vote for chiefdom councilors as part of the local government elections, introduce professional management of the PC election process, by enabling NEC to lead, introduce universal adult suffrage in Paramount Chieftaincy elections and that PC elections are public elections and should therefore be supervised by NEC.
In a press briefing on Monday at the Talking Drum Studio in Freetown, Mohamed Sillah from Sierra Leone Youth Network on Population and Development (SaLYAN) stated that,” the draft Chieftaincy Act preserves status quo and does not reflect principles of accountability and good governance”.
He noted that, the Draft Act reiterates the status quo regarding the constitution of the chiefdom council and its function as an Electoral College is undemocratic, unrepresentative, and lends itself to political interference and manipulation.
Sillah said that if adopted, it would enshrine into law the same old practices that have over the years undermined the dignity, security and independence of the institution of chieftaincy.
“The current composition of chiefdom councils which acts as the Electoral College for PC elections, is not representative of the people in the chiefdom as all members on it are either there by virtue of their position, or in reality , appointed”, he said.
Sillah stressed that, the Electoral College system is skewed in favour of elderly males, women, and youth are marginalized.
If the chieftaincy system is to survive, accountability needs to be shift downwards. He reiterated that the elections are not conducted by a professional election body, but by administrators from the Ministry of Local Government, and there is a lot of room for discretionary interpretation of processes by these officials; this can facilitate corrupt decision making for private or political gain.
Ibrahim Sesay Assistant Program Officer for Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) reiterated that, civil society organizations welcome sections 7(1) and (2) of the draft Act, which seek to give paramount chieftaincy elections greater protection from political interference, these are seriously watered down by subsequent provisions of the Bill. He observed that the Draft Act contains worrying clauses that appear to be designed to curtain litigation in respect of allegedly fraudulent chieftaincy elections and insulate the government from legal challenges to its decision making with regard to such elections.
The Bill which is an eight part proposed legislation is expected to be enacted today.