Posted by / Monday 30 October 2017 / No comments

The pre-colonial political organization of the Temne ethnic group of Sierra Leone

The Temne ethnic group is mainly found in the north-western and central regions of Sierra Leone. It is believed that in reaction to the Fulani invasions in the Futa Djallon area around the 15th century, the Temne people migrated southward to settle in sections of the current state of Sierra Leone. Now, they constitute the largest ethnic group in the country.

Chiefdom – headed by a Paramount Chief
The largest group into which the Temne were first organized was the “Chiefdom”. The chiefdom was made up of several villages. There were several chiefdoms but each of these chiefdoms was totally independent of the other. The head of a particular chiefdom was designated a “Paramount Chief”.  He was usually a male and a direct descendant of the founder of the chiefdom. 

The Paramount Chief oversaw the administration of the chiefdom. He ensured that peace and harmony prevailed in the chiefdom. He ensured law and order was maintained and helped in the settling of disputes among warring parties.

The next level of political authority below the Paramount Chief was the Sub-Chief. The entire chiefdom was made up of several villages, and each Sub-Chief headed one or two villages. The Sub-Chief was a male descendant of the founder the village or villages coming under the Sub-Chief. It was his responsibility to ensure law and order in his area of jurisdiction. He also tried to settle disputes brought to his palace. 

The patrician was not necessarily a political division; it was part of the kinship system. The Temne ethnic group was further divided into these patrician all the same. Close to thirty of such patricians have been identified and each Temne citizen belonged to one or the other. Anytime the last name of a Temne was mentioned, one could determine which patrician he or she was affiliated to. A patrician was made up of many patrilineages.

Head of Patrilineage
As typical to many West African ethnic groups, the families of the Temne were extended and may be intricately interwoven. The patrilineages were made up of several extended families. A patrilineage was naturally headed by an elder male member of the patrilineage who was responsible for holding the lineage together. He settled disputes among the members of the lineage.

1. Describe the pre-colonial political structure of the Temne ethnic group of Sierra 

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