The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles said the training is the first in a series to be organized by the Board in the coming months. She acknowledged the pivotal role of Tribal Heads in promoting access to justice because they dispense justice in an affordable and speedy manner.
She said the Tribal Heads are being trained as Paralegals to empower their mediation skills. Also, it will enable them to work with the police and the courts to assist their tribe’s men and women in accessing the formal justice system and do referrals for matters which fall outside their remit.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said the training is part of efforts by the Legal Aid Board to recognize their status in the justice delivery system. ‘We want to lobby government to have Local Courts in Freetown but first have to train you as Paralegals to build your capacity to dispense justice to address issues people, especially lawyers, have against you.’ She said. ‘This will address complaints you have against lawyers relating to undermining your authority.’
She encouraged the Tribal Heads to hold community level meetings to preserve some of the good tradition, one of which relate to the upbringing of children which was seen as a community affair. She noted that youths make up more than eighty percent of the prison population and that such meetings could go a long way to reverse this trend.
Papers were presented by staff of the Board on the work of the Paralegals in the areas of mediation, provision of legal assistance to members of the community accessing the formal and informal justice system, organizing legal education through community outreach and monitoring human rights issues in the community.
Contributions were made by the various tribes represented at the meeting. This includes the Susu, Yalunka, Temne, Loko, Mende, Mandingo, Bagga, Limba, Kono, Koranko and Bassa.
A Chief of the Temne community, Ya Alimamy Manso Karama noted that the training has helped them know the difference between matters they can handle and those to refer to the police.
The Kono Tribal Headman, Chief S.O. Gbekie stressed that the training has helped address issues of extortion in the courts run by members of the Council. The Public Relations Officer for the Council of Tribal Heads, Alhaji Kandeh F.M. Kamara said there is a clear line of authority between the Tribal Heads and the sub-chiefs stressing that there is no conflict between the two.