By Hassan Bruz
Northern Bureau Chief
The Sierra Leone Peoples Party [SLPP] led Government has been urged to fast track the process of conducting Paramount Chieftaincy Elections in the Country. The call for the conduct of Paramount Chieftaincy Elections became topical over the weekend in the Northern District of Port Loko where lots and lots of top government Officials including the Vice President – Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh witnessed a Traditional Function. It was a Ceremony marking the return of Paramount Chief Alikali Mella 2nd of Bekeh – Loko Chiefdom. The Paramount Chief became unwell a couple of months ago and had to be flown out of the Country for advanced Medical Treatment. His health condition deteriorated while in Senegal. A Concession to have him returned home for Traditional Treatment was reached upon the realization that a Native Treatment could be of better assistance. He has since been flown back to Sierra Leone and subsequently conveyed to Port Loko, where the intervention of every Traditionalist was solicited.
As outlined by the Chiefdom Speaker – Mr. Malapay M. A Tarawali, the Paramount Chief is yet to regain his health. In fact the Acting Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs in Port Loko District – Hon. PC Bai Salu – Lugbu of Kasseh Chiefdom said his brother – Pc. Mella is so seriously unwell that it would require a miraculous miracle for him to recover. The Acting Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs was addressing the Vice President and a galaxy of Well-wishers which comprised the Executive of the Old Bo School Boys Association led by its President – Professor Alpha Tejan Wurrie. Paramount Chief Lugbu used the opportunity to inform the Gathering about the prevailing pattern of choosing a Regent or Caretaker Chief for Bekeh – Loko Chiefdom in the eventuality Pc Mella does not regain his health. The Acting Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs based his admonition on what appeared to be an escalating tension in Bekeh – Loko as to who should be appointed as Chiefdom Care Taker. It now appears to be a tussle between Political Party Stalwarts versus Traditionalists and Masters of Cultural Ceremonies.
Interestingly, Port Loko District had 11 Chiefdoms before the De – amalgamation and now maintains a total of 13 Chiefdoms. Approximately 9 out of that figure are Chiefdoms that can only boast of Care Taker or Regent Chiefs. As a result, Government assured the conduct of Chieftaincy Elections to ensure that there is a Substantive Paramount Chief for all Chiefdoms. It is worth noting that a timetable for the conduct of these Elections was issued out nearly one year ago. Some Chiefdoms had even gone ahead to identify potential Candidates from the respective Ruling Houses while many more were on the Declaration Stage, when a stop was put from the Local Government Ministry. There has since been no proper information with regards the continuation of the Process. Apart from the indefinite suspense in which most Aspirants have found themselves, there is also the scary pattern of imposing Regent Chiefs. As observed by members of certain Chieftaincy Ruling Houses, such a pattern has the tendency to undermine Traditional Practices. This was substantiated by what is said to have obtained in the Maforki Chiefdom, where ‘Pa Kehkorr’ – the person who is traditionally entitled to the Ceremonies was deposed and replaced by someone from afar.
It was the more reason why the Acting Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs has hasten hastened to inform the Vice President and the other Government Officials present that, Bekeh – Loko has a different tradition and it would be proper for that tradition to be upheld in case Pc Mella does not regain his health. Paramount Chief Alikali Mella was elected Paramount Chief of Bekeh – Loko Chiefdom on the 12th May 2014 at a keenly contested re – run election. He hailed from the Mella Bangura Ruling House and as was rightly put by Professor Alpha Tejan Wurrie while addressing the mammoth gathering on behalf of the Old Bo School Boys Association, this Paramount Chief is a product of the great Bo School and has been a lovable character. Actually there is not much to be stated here in terms of development either because he is a young Paramount Chief or he is yet focusing on something else. But one of the versions taking the rounds during this Traditional Ceremony is that he is so much devastated by the death of his wife – Ya Bomposseh Mella who passed away barely 10 months ago, and it is practically impossible for him to make it from this particular sickbed.