Town Chief of Kenema, Chief Momoh Gombolongo, has in a an exclusive interview with Concord Times last Sunday called on the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to swiftly intervene into what he referred to as 'persistent disrespect' meted out on the institution of chieftaincy by certain individuals and media institutions in the township, adding that they are not fairly treated as traditional authorities in that part of the country.
"We are operating as a traditional institution and our critics must understand this. We are not a threat to the operations of councils but rather we are complementing their efforts in building our communities," he said.
The institution of chieftaincy is currently faced with enormous challenges in Sierra Leone since the re-introduction of Local Councils in 2004.
Some people have challenged that the position of Town Chief and other secular chiefs should not exist where Local Councils operate with a seating mayor. This development has generated a lot of debate among locals in the eastern township of Kenema, where there is a Mayor and Paramount Chief.
"We are experiencing a very bad press and I want the Local Government Minister to know about this ugly situation in Kenema. It is disheartening to note that in Kenema journalists and other educated elites are in the habit of lambasting us because they think the institution of chieftaincy should not exist where there is a mayor. This situation is getting out of hands especially when the media is bent on inciting our people against us. As chief of this township, I have engaged a lot of people within the township for them to understand our roles and responsibilities as chiefs," says Chief Gombolongo.
He claimed that some people, aided by certain media institutions in Kenema, are on a daily basis molesting them on the pretext that town chiefs should not exist in a city that has a Mayor and Paramount Chief, adding that even though they were not paid for services they render in the communities, including maintaining peace, stability and justice, they are not commended but rather ill-treated by some educated elites.
He added: "I must say that chiefs are very important in the local governance process. We must be treated with respect. My office is always open for people to come and ask questions regarding my office. We are not eating government money but rather we strongly rely on settling disputes among people."