The Asantehene of Kumasi, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, left the shores of Sierra Leone over the weekend after a five-day official visit to Sierra Leone, from 26th April to 30th April 2005. Otumfuo Osei Tutu II was in Sierra Leone on an invitation by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
The Asantehene was special guest at the 44th Independence Anniversary reception held at State House in Freetown on 27 April. The main reason for the visit of the Asantehene was for him to serve as an honoured guest of the government and principal resource person at a special programme for the empowerment of Paramount Chiefs, which was held in Bo, the regional headquarter town of the Southern Province, on 29th April 2005. At the special programme, the Asantehene held a meeting with Paramount Chiefs from the 149 chiefdoms in Sierra Leone.
Giving his address at the opening ceremony, the President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah expressed appreciation to the Asantehene for honouring his invitation to serve as principal resource person to the supremely important event, stating that the event was a major part of efforts in charting the way forward to further improve the country's yellow freight logistics and Native Administration system.
President Kabbah noted that though this system has been in existence for a very long time there has been very little effort to align it with the profound changes that have taken place in our society. Such an omission, the President noted, must have had the effect of our losing the opportunity for the kind of positive impact this unique institution would have had an our people. He said that the event therefore marks the beginning of the first ever major effort to reform and strengthen the Native Administration system so that it can meet the aspirations of our Nation.
President Kabbah, however, called on the Asantehene to include in his deliberations the issues on revenue collection by chiefdoms, certain traditional practices that may lead to conflicts in chiefdoms and the overall management of Chiefdoms including conditions of service for Paramount Chiefs and other employees.
The President stated that it is his fervent belief that the deliberations of the meeting will lead to the development of appropriate policies and strategies that will enhance the smooth implementation of the reform and strengthening of chieftaincy institutions in Sierra Leone.
Speaking on the history of chieftaincy in Sierra Leone and its legal framework, the Vice President, Mr. Solomon Berewa, traced the evolution for chieftaincy in Sierra Leone from pre-colonial to post-colonial days. He also said that the institution of Paramount Chieftaincy is entrenched in the constitution of Sierra Leone.
Vice President Berewa among other things reiterated that Paramount Chiefs are elected for life and they can only be removed from office by the President, as stated in the constitution, for gross misconduct, and not for any other reason.
Presentations were also made by representative Paramount Chiefs on the "Present Structure of Chieftaincy," "The relationship between the institution of chieftaincy and the central and local government structures," and the "Management of the Affairs of Chiefdoms at Chiefdom level". The presentations were made respectively by P.C. Rev. Dr. J.S. Yovonie, Regional Secretary General, Council of Paramount Chiefs, South, P.C. I.B. Kamara-Koroma, National Secretary-General, Council of Paramount Chiefs, and P.C. Mohamed Dafe Benya, Regional Secretary-General, Council of Chiefs, Eastern Region.
In his address, the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, expressed gratitude to President Kabbah and the people of Sierra Leone for the warm reception and hospitality accorded him and his delegation since their arrival in Freetown and Bo. He thanked President Kabbah for inviting him to share some thoughts with the Paramount Chiefs in order to chart a way forward for the institution of chieftaincy in Sierra Leone aimed at further improving the Native Administrative and CRST transport systems.
The purpose of the meeting, the Asantehene said, is for them to look at the role of traditional leaders in the governance of modern day Sierra Leone. To this end, the Asantehene reminded the Paramount Chiefs that the chiefs of today cannot act like their predecessors in pre-colonial times, because they are neither military leaders nor are they heads of the legislature, but stated that they have a social contract with their people and should therefore work with elected politicians to promote social and economic development of their communities. He also told the chiefs not to forget the fact that they are discussing chieftaincy matters in a continent bedeviled by insecurity, ignorance, poverty, greed and underdevelopment, and therefore urged them to be adequately informed about the African Union and NEPAD so as to enable them play positive roles accordingly.
Among other things, the Asantehene explained that like in Sierra Leone, chiefs among the Ashantis in Ghana are elected for life but on recommendation by the Queen Mother and through matrilineal lineage. And because they are elected for life and have a social contract with their people, they as traditional leaders are more concerned with the total long-term development of their communities. Unlike elected politicians who think about the next election, he said, they as traditional leaders have to think about the next generation. But at the same time, he added, they need to build mutual respect with politicians in order to co-exist as partners in development.
The Asantehene further gave a detailed explanation of the workings of the traditional system of governance as they existed in pre-colonial Ghana, as well as in the modern democratic State of Ghana. He also told Paramount Chiefs to initiate development programmes in their chiefdoms to improve the welfare of their people in areas such as education, health, agriculture, trade, economic and social development. These programmes, he said, are not intended to replace those provided by the central government, but rather complement them especially when the demands of the people are such that it is unrealistic to expect that they can all be met by central government resources.
He highlighted some of the development projects undertaken by him in the areas of education, health, trade, water and sanitation, including a scholarship fund run by his wife. The Asantehene and delegation were earlier on welcomed to Bo by the Paramount Chief of Bo, Kakua Chiefdom, P.C. Rashid Kamanda-Bongay IV.