Temne people

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The Temne
[[File:• Notable Temne people


Total population
2,250,015 – 36% of Sierra Leone’s population [1]
Regions with significant populations
Temne language
Islam (85%), Christianity 14%
Related ethnic groups

The Temne people are currently the largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone, at 35% of the total population [2]. The Temne are predominantly found in the Northern Province and theWestern Area, including the capital Freetown.

The Temne are rice farmersfishermen, and traders. Temne culture revolves around theparamount chiefs, and the secret societies, especially the men’s Poro society and the women’s Bondo society. The most important Temne rituals focus on the coronation and funerals of paramount chiefs and the initiation of new secret society members. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th century hundreds of thousands of Temne were shipped to theAmericas as slaves.

Today the Temnes are mostly Muslims at about 85% of their population who interweave Islamic beliefs with traditional African practices (syncretism). About 15% of Temne are followers of Christianity.

Before British domination, Temne were ruled by a king called the Bai or Obai. In 1898, the Temne fought in one of the most brutal rebellions in the history of West Africa against British rule, known today as the Hut Tax War of 1898. The war was initiated by Temne chief Bai Bureh against British colonialists. The cause of the war was the perceived overtaxation of the Temne people by British tax-collectors.

The English word cola (as in Coca-Cola, which originally contained extracts of the kola nut), is said to derive from the Temne word aŋ-kola ‘kola nut.’ The Temne people speakTemne, a language in the Mel branch of the Niger–Congo languages. The Temne language, along with the creole Krio, serve as the major trading language in northern Sierra Leone. As well as being spoken by the Temne people, Temne is also spoken by other Sierra Leonean ethnic groups as a regional lingua franca, especially in Northern Sierra Leone; the language is spoken by around 40% of Sierra Leone’s population.

Sierra Leone’s national politics centers on the competition between the north, dominated by the Temne and their neighbour and political ally, the Limba; and the south-east dominated by the Mende, who are a Mande people like the Mandinka, Bamana, and Malenke (of Guinea, Senegal, Mali, etc.). The current president of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma is the first Sierra Leonean president from the Temne ethnic group; he receives most of his support from Temne-dominant areas in the north and the western regions of Sierra Leone.


According to some oral traditions,the history of the Temnes’ migration toward present day Sierra Leone begins in Israel. From Israel the Temne migrated to Ethiopia, from Ethiopia to the Mali Empire. After the Mali Empire they migrated to Jalunkandu Empire. In the 11th and 12th centuries, mainly due to the fall of the Jalunkandu Empire in what latter become Fouta Jallon, in the High Lands of present day Republic of Guinea. In fact most Temnes up till now acknowledged their ancestral home to Fouta. There is also a great amount who are aware of their Hebraic origins. Like other minorities ethnic groups in Fouta such as the Yalunka, the Susu, the Kurankohs, the Temnes started to migrated from the Fouta into what is now Sierra Leone to secure a settlement along the salt trade route from the coast to the north and north east. On their way downwards, the Temnes fought and forced the Limbas northeast and the Bulloms southwards to secure the new trade route from Bakeh towards the northern part of the Pamoronkoh River which is today known as the Rokel River. They followed the Rokel River from its upper reaches to the Sierra Leone River, the giant estuary of the Rokel River and Port Loko Creek which forms the largest natural harbor in the African continent. Historians believe the Temnes were involved in the long-distance kola nuttrade during the period of the Mali and Songai Empires when West African trade was directed north across the Sahara Desert, and that they used their commercial expertise gained during that earlier period into the new coastal trade when the Europeans arrived.

There were Temne speakers along the coast in what is now Sierra Leone when the first Portuguese ships arrived, in the 14th century. Temne were indicated on subsequent Portuguese maps, and references to them and brief vocabularies appear in the texts. Tradebegan, albeit on a small scale, in the fifteenth century with the Portuguese and expanded in the late sixteenth century with the arrival of British traders, and later traders of other nations. Slaves, gold, ivory and local foodstuffs were exchanged for European trade goods—mostly cloth, firearms, and hardware.

As Temne traders were in contact with the permanent European factories in the river mouths, so did they establish and maintain relations with the settlement at Freetown after its founding in the late eighteenth century. This settlement, inspired by philanthropicabolitionists, was regarded ambivalently by Temne traders, who had long been involved in the profitable export slave trade. In the nineteenth century, following abolition, Freetown became the primate trade entrepot, attracting trade caravans from Temne and beyond.Creoles from Freetown moved progressively up-county to trade in the second half of the nineteenth century, and relations with the Temne and other ethnic group in the country were not always amicable. The British colonial government at Freetown followed a policy of “stipendiary bribery” punctuated by threats to use armed force in an attempt to prevent Temne and other chiefs from hindering trade from and with areas farther inland. When diplomacy failed, British expeditions invaded the Temne area of Yoni in 1889 and then at Tambi in 1891.

The Protectorate of Sierra Leone was proclaimed in 1896, and, subsequently, a colonial overadministration was instituted. The traditional Temne chiefdoms became units of local government, and a hut tax was levied to support the colonial administration. Armed rebellion broke out in 1898, when a Temne chief, Bai Bureh, led a successful campaigns and became an instant hero.

The Temne rebellion of the Hut Tax War of 1898[edit]

The Hut Tax War of 1898 was a war initiated by Temne chief Bai Bureh against British colonialists. The cause of the war was the perceived overtaxation of the Temne by British tax-collectors.

Britain’s imposition of a hut tax sparked off two rebellions in Sierra Leone in 1898, the most notable one led by Temne chief Bai Bureh. To pay for the privilege of British administration, the military governor, Colonel Frederic Carthew, had decreed that the inhabitants of the new “protectorate” should be taxed on the size of their huts. The owner of a four-roomed hut would pay ten shillings a year, those with smaller huts would pay five shillings. Colonel Cardew was not an administrator, but a professional soldier who had spent years in Indiaand South Africa. First imposed on January 1, 1898, the hut tax aroused immediate and intense opposition, led in the first instance by the sixty-year-old Temne war chief Bai Bureh who was the top warrior of Northern Sierra Leone. The operations against him, from February to November, involved “some of the most stubborn fighting that has been seen in West Africa, that left several British troops dead. When the British Governor to Sierra Leone Sir Frederic Cardew offered the princely sum of 100 pounds as a reward for his capture, Bai Bureh reciprocated by offering the even more staggering sum of five hundred pounds for the capture of the Governor. Bai Bureh had the advantage over the vastly more powerful British for several months of the war. By 19 February, Bai Bureh’s Temne warrior fighters had completely severed the British line of communication between Freetown and Port Loko by blocking the road and the river from Freetown. Wrote Colonel Marshal, the British commander. “No such continuity of opposition had at any previous time been experienced on this part of the coast.

The colonial era began again after 1898, with a more effective administration and increased penetration of the hinterland. Railwayconstruction and, later, feeder roads were pushed in an effort to increase exports. Towns developed to meet the needs of government and increased trade, and expatriate firms and Sierra Leonean-Lebanese and Krio traders expanded their activities throughout Temne areas. Schools developed slowly under Christian missionary.


Temne children in Koinadugu Districtin 1968

The Temne have long been predominantly farmers of dry rice, intercropped with a variety ofsecondary crops. Some of the Temne people have grown wet rice from at least the nineteenth century in inland swamps, seasonal ponds, and in cleared overflow areas along the lower Scarcies River, a development pushed by the colonial administration from the 1930s. Rice surplus to household needs was exchanged. Peanuts, cassava, and other crops were planted on the previous year’s rice farm, and around and behind the house were gardens. Oil palms and fruit and other trees provided additional foodstuffs. Through most of the nineteenth century, wooden farming tools (hoes, digging sticks, and knives) continued to be used, although they were progressively being replaced by iron hoes, cutlasses, and knives made by local blacksmiths and, subsequently, imported. Most village households keep chickens; some also keep duckssheepgoatsdogs, and cats. A few maintain cattle, at least part of the time. Nearly all of the cattle are bred outside the Temne area. Hunting, formerly of some significance, has decreased as the human population has increased. Fishing in the interior rivers and permanent ponds is more important, and a wide variety of techniques is used; off the coast, the Temne engage in fairly intensive fishing activity, dry the catch, and trade much of it inland.

Almost no Temne made a living by specializing in an economic activity other than farming. Some farmers, male and female, possessed one or more specialized skills and made some supplementary income from them. For men, the main specialized skills were those related to iron smelting and working, weaving, woodworking, leatherworking, fishing, hunting and trapping, and drumming. The twentieth century brought new forms of specialized knowledge like carpentrystonemasonrysewing and tailoring and imported manufactured goods that precipitated the loss of some traditional craft skills.


Some Temne in the Western Area were involved in export trade from the late fifteenth century on, whereas many Northern and eastern Temne were little involved before the late nineteenth century. Trade operated on basically three levels in the nineteenth century: first, horizontal exchanges between households in a village or a group of neighboring villages; second, interchiefdom or regional trade; and third, long-distance trade. The latter two were usually bulking and break-bulking marketing chains. Spatially, long-distance trade patterns were usually dendritic in form. Nineteenth-century trade depended upon canoes and porters head-loading goods over footpaths. The colonial administration brought changes to facilitate a growing volume of trade goods. The construction of a narrowgauge railway (the SLGRR) brought the establishment of towns along the route, which served as bulking and break-bulking centers and locations for marketplaces. The building of feeder roads extended the areas served by the SLGRR; the completion of an integrated, nationwide road system subsequently led to the closing of the railway. Government programs to increase agricultural productivity were begun; the rice research station at Rokupr in Port Loko and government-run oil-palm plantations and oil mills were the most important of these efforts. The establishment of the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB) was of pivotal importance for exports and for income possibilities for the government. Gold, most of it produced further inland than the Temne are, had been traded from Sierra Leone since the fifteenth century but had its last peak in the 1930s; iron was first exported in 1933, from the mine at Marampa, by the Sierra Leone Development Company (SLDC/DELCO); and diamonds were exported after the formation of the Sierra Leone Selection Trust in 1935. Although the diamond areas were outside Temne country, large numbers of Temne migrated as wage laborers in this initially illegal business in the eastern Sierra Leone in Kenema, a predominant Mende land and Kono, an area largely inhabited by the Kono people.

Division of labor[edit]

In farming, the traditional gender division of tasks, which never held for domestic slaves, has substantially broken down in the twentieth century, although men still do most of the clearing and hoeing, and women do most of the weeding. Basically, Temne have always had—and have today—a household mode of production: most farmwork is done by members of the household on the household’s farmland. At times of peak labor input, cooperative work groups are utilized when possible, for hoeing (Kabotho) harvesting (Ambira), and so on. Domestic slavery in Sierra Leone ended in 1926, but, before then, wealthier Temne used slave workers as well. A household’s food and income production is augmented by selling or bartering surplus products locally, in the marketplaces of provincial towns, or to builders. Remittances from household members who have migrated also help. Little wage labor is used in agriculture.

Land tenure[edit]

The chief of each chiefdom is said to “own” the land comprising it, given that he “bought it” and the people on it during that part of his installation ceremonies usually called “Makane.” The land or chiefdom was originally secured by the chiefly kin group by occupation of vacant land or by conquest. According to tradition, chiefs “gave” portions of land to farm, and the receivers reciprocated with a return gift, to the grantor-chief as seal on the agreement. The receivers, in turn, could reallocate portions of their land to others, receiving a lambe from them. Such transfers were regarded as permanent. After 1900, as the best farmland became shorter in supply, temporary land-use rights were negotiated with the chief to seal the deal.


Today, the Temne are rice farmers, fishermen, and traders. Temne culture revolves around the paramount chiefs, and the secret societies, especially the men’s Poro society and the women’s Bondo society. The most important Temne rituals focus on the coronation and funerals of paramount chiefs and the initiation of new secret society members. Most Temnes are staunch Muslims though, like other West Africans, they combine their Islamic faith with a strong adherence to traditional African religious beliefs and practices.

Temne culture places great emphasis on individualism, hard work, and personal initiative. Indeed, Sierra Leoneans sometimes refer to their Temne neighbors affectionately as “Germans” because of their reputation for aggressiveness.


Sierra Leone’s national politics centers on the competition between the north, dominated by the Temne and their neighbors and allies, the LimbaLoko and Kuranko and the south-east dominated by the Mende and their political allies, the SherbroKissi and Kono, etc. The current president of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma is a prominent member of the Temne ethnic group.


Traditionally, Temne resided in villages that varied in size and plan. During the nineteenth century, the village of a Temne chief was larger and included people from several patricians; often it was either palisaded or had a walled fortress/redoubt built nearby, where the population could reside in times of emergency. Other villages in a chiefdom were built by those given land-use rights by the chief; subsequently, other patrikin groups settled if they were given land-use rights by the initial grantee. If a household farmed land at some distance, people would build a hamlet to reduce travel. Paths connecting villages were often paralleled by secret paths used only by local people. During the colonial era, public paths were cleared and secret paths fell into disuse; village palisades and mud walls were left to deteriorate. When the motor road system developed, villages cut paths to the roads, and some Temne villages, in whole or in part, relocated along them. The compact village plan gave way to a linear pattern along the roads, where larger garden areas separated houses.

The traditional Temne house was round, of varying diameter, with walls of mud plastered over a stick frame; the roof frame, of wooden poles connected by stringers, was conical and covered with bunches of grass thatching. Rectangular houses with a gabled roof became more commonplace during the colonial era. Houses became larger—and also fewer—after the “Hut Tax” was instituted. Chiefs and some subchiefs had rectangular, open-sided structures with thatch roofs, which they used for hearing court cases and for variousceremonies. Some associations had small buildings for regalia. Adobe-brick and cement-block structures were introduced during the colonial era, along with iron-pan and tile roofs.



Muslim contacts probably go back several centuries, and fifteenth-century Portuguese were cognizant of Muslim peoples. Early traders, holy men, and warriors brought Islam into the Temne area from the north by the Susu and northeast by the Fula and Mandinka. Through the nineteenth century, as the volume of trade grew, Muslim influences increased; in the late twentieth century a significant proportion of Temne claim to be Muslim converts.

Although 90 to 95% of Temne have converted to Islam, they still practice their traditional religion, as well. Many of the Temne aresuperstitious and believe in witches who can be either male or female. These witches are believed to derive pleasure from causing accidents and spreading sickness among the tribe. As a result, many fear the witches and carry charms or medicines with them to ward off their evil acts.


Portuguese Christian missionary efforts began before the Protestant Reformation but had no lasting effects on the Temne. The Protestant presence accompanied the founding of Freetown in the late eighteenth century; Church Missionary Society representatives were active up the Rokel River and elsewhere in Temne country throughout the nineteenth century. In the 1890s the Soudna Mission was the first American mission in the Temne area; American Wesleyans and the Evangelical United Brethren subsequently joined the field. Today, 5 to 10% of Temne are followers of Christianity.

Traditional beliefs[edit]

A lot of the Temne’s Hebraic customs were loss during migrations and wars. If one is to examine closely there are traces of Israelite influence.The traditional Temne creator God is Kurumasaba (meaning God in English), who, in judging the Temne, is thought to be kind, generous, just, and infallible. Kurumasaba is never approached directly, only through patrilineal ancestors as intermediaries. These ancestors also judge their descendants. Sacrifices are offered to them to obtain help for the living. Various nonancestral spirits, some regarded as good and helpful, others as mischievous and even vicious, also receive sacrifices and make agreements to help or—at least not to harm—the living. Temne also believe in witches (rashir), individuals, both male and female, who can make victims fall idle, have an accident, or even die. The identity of a witch may be determined by several divinatory techniques and, once identified, can be countered by magical medicines. Especially useful are “swearing medicines,” which bring illness and death to an identified witch, thief, or other target. Borrowings from Islam and Christianity have altered many traditional beliefs during the twentieth century.

Traditional diviners used various methods and made protective charms for individuals to protect farms from thieves and to protect a house or farm from witches. These specialists paid for the necessary knowledge from established practitioners during an apprenticeship. Morimen, itinerant Muslims, provided the same range of services with different methods. Officials of the major associations (Poro, Ragbenle, Bundu, and so on) used techniques particular to their group. Confidence in particular practitioners and particular techniques varies over time.


Ceremonies are held for most life-stage transitions for both sexes. For women, circumcision, coming of age, initiation into the Bundu society, marriage, and giving birth are paramount. For men, circumcision, initiation into the Poro society, marriage, and fathering children are most important. The primary public ceremonies are those that mark the end of initiation of groups into Bundu and Poro, both for ordinary initiates and the rarer initiation of officials, and those that are part of the installation or burial of a chief. The principal Christian and Muslim holidays are also marked by ceremonies (e.g., Christmas and the end of Ramadan).

Death and afterlife[edit]

Relatives assemble after a death, and the corpse is washed, oiled, and dressed in good clothing. Burial usually occurs in or near the deceased’s house. Mourning periods and the number and form of sacrifices vary with the status of the deceased. Divination of the cause of death was usual in the past. Witches require special burial procedures, and society officials and chiefs are also prepared and buried in special ways. One common thread in all is the attempt to appease the spirit of the deceased and prevent disturbance of the living in the future.


Graphic and plastic arts are essentially limited to the adornment of utilitarian objects and the masks and other items used by the various societies. In the past, the Ragbenle masks, especially, were many and varied. The verbal arts are stressed, and Temne use riddles and proverbs in instruction, engage in storytelling that verges on dramatic performance, and employ vocal music and drumming on various occasions. Jewelry is becoming more popular.


Disease and ill health are viewed in terms of obvious surface symptoms (like feverrashswelling) and the “underlying causes” of those symptoms (e.g., witchcraft, being caught by a swearing medicine). Symptoms can be relieved by traditional or Western medicine, but these have no effect on the underlying cause(s), which require divination and the proper supernatural response.


Each Temne individual’s surname indicates the patrician with which he or she is affiliated. There are twenty-five to thirty such patricians. The names are mostly of Temne origin and are also found among several neighboring ethnic groups, especially among their neighbors and close allies the LimbaLoko and Kuranko. Inter-ethnic marriages between the Temne, Limba, Loko and Kuranko are very common, but the child is considered a Temne if his or her father is a member of the Temne tribe. Most patricians have alternative names, and each is usually geographically concentrated, resulting from isolation during migration. In general, however, Temne patricians are dispersed and are neither ranked nor exogamous. Each patrician has several totems—usually of animals, birdsfish, or plants—and prohibitions on seeing, touching, eating, or using that vary considerably from one area to another. Penalties for violating a prohibition are mild, and many adults do not know what the prohibitions are until a diviner diagnoses the cause of a misfortune. Early sources and some contemporary Temne indicate that a common patrician bond was formerly of significant social importance, but that is not the case today. Each patrician consists of smaller, localized segments or patrilineages, each of which comprises a number of (usually extended) families, each of which in turn usually forms the core of a household. Temne kinship terminology is the type that Murdock calls “Eskimo,” in which mother’s brothers and sisters are not differentiated terminologically from father’s brothers and sisters. In discourse, seniority is indicated more often than laterality. A person is usually closest to and receives most assistance from his or her own father’s patrilineage, but often ties with the mother’s patrilineage are nearly as important; Temne speak of their mother’s patrilineage as their “second line of help and protection.”


To be married is strongly desired by adult Temne, especially in the rural agrarian context, where subsistence is very difficult for a single adult, especially if that adult has children. In the traditional Temne marriage system, bride-wealth, composed of consumer goods especially kola passes from the groom‘s kin group to the bride‘s and or to guardians and is subsequently distributed more widely. The exchange of bride-wealth and dowry or counterpayment seals the transfer of rights and obligations from the bride’s father or guardian; this transfer marks a true marriage from other forms, which may be equally permanent but not as acceptable to the kin groups concerned. The rights transferred are those with respect to domestic service, labor and the income from that labor, children, and sexual services. All subsequent major decisions are made by the husband, who may or may not consult with his wife. Marriage ceremonies differ between Temne Muslim, Christian or non-Muslim.

Although the incidence of polygynous marriages has declined since the 1950s, especially in urban areas, nearly four of every ten married men still had two or more wives, and six of every ten married women were part of a polygynous family. A polygynously married man’s first wife becomes the head wife. Co-wife tensions can lead to discord but usually do not. The man is responsible to provide for his whole family.

Since the 1950s, divorce rates have increased in urban areas; There are generally accepted grounds for a husband, and also for a wife, to secure a divorce in the urban areas and among the Temne Christians, but a wife usually do not have the power to divorce her husband in the rural areas, particularly among Temne Muslims.

Domestic unit[edit]

The male or female-headed household is the primary residential unit. There are various types of households, but most have a family (husband, wife or wives, and their children) as the core. Some are complex (two or more married men, either father and son or two brothers), often with other, more-distant kin or even strangers in residence. The household head resolves disputes by mediation and moot proceedings and represents the household in village affairs.

Land-use rights and most portable forms of wealth are inherited patrilineally; women’s jewelry, clothing, and rare other items pass from mother to daughter. Disputes occur between the deceased’s brothers, between his sons, and between his brothers and his sons.


A child is socialized by a comparatively large number of people including parents, older siblings and elders in the household where he or she grows up. For a variety of reasons, fosterage is common; many children are raised outside the parental household. Significant socialization formerly took place during a girl’s initiation into the Bundu society and a boy’s initiation into Poro society. Since about the 1940s, however, initiates into both societies have been younger and have spent little time receiving training in seclusion. Both societies helped prepare adolescents for their roles in adult life. Socialization continued intermittently throughout adult life as people learned from new experiences and patterned their behavior on role models who came to be widely respected and even revered.

Social organization[edit]

Traditionally, chiefly kin groups enjoyed superior status, as elders, such as wealthier farmers and traders, successful subchiefs or village headmen, society officials, Muslim “holy men,” prominent warriors, and the heads of large households. There were wealth differentials between households, based on size, access to farmland, numbers of domestic slaves, and people with specialized skills; the head’s prestige was largely determined by his household’s relative wealth. As the colonial era progressed and the urban population grew, a social-class system developed, based on wealth as traditionally defined, on money, on nontraditional occupations, and onliteracy in English. Elderly males dominated traditional society, and there was a marked “upward flow of wealth” to such men. Slaves, children, junior males, and most females were largely powerless.

Political organization[edit]

The Temne were traditionally organized into fifty-odd chiefdoms, each lead a chief (called bai in the Temne language), whom the British would later call a paramount chief. Some of the larger chiefdoms were sectioned, but usually each large village or group of smaller villages had its own untitled subchief. Each village also had an elected headman. In the chief’s village there usually resided four to six titled subchiefs, who served their chief as advisors and facilitators. One of these, usually titled kapr me se m, served as interim ruler after his chief’s demise. A chief selected his subchiefs, and they were installed with him. Each subchief, titled or not, selected a sister’s daughter as his helper (mankapr), and each chief selected one or more sister’s daughters to help him. These “female subchiefs” had only ritual—not administrative—duties.

In the western and northern Temne chiefdoms, the chiefs and subchiefs are installed and buried with Muslim ceremonies and bear titles such as alkalialimamy, and santigi. Elsewhere, the Ramena, Ragbenle, or Poro societies perform these rites; there is considerable variation. In the “society chiefdoms,” the chief is divine; he has a mystical connection with the chiefdom and the line of previous chiefs. These chiefs have prohibitions—some on their own behavior, and others on the behavior of people toward them.

Chiefly succession systems are either alternating between two patricians or two lineages within one patrician, or rotating among three or more lineages of one chiefly patrician. The fixed rotational patterns were often abrogated. In the nineteenth century it was not unknown for a man who didn’t want the job to be selected.

The intrachiefdom power game was primarily a struggle between the chief and those elders who supported him and those elders who opposed him. In some instances, the chief and his supporters ruled tyrannically; in others, the chief became a manipulated figurehead. Some chiefs were well liked and had a broad base of popular support; others were disliked, distrusted, and generally opposed.

With the proclamation of the Protectorate in 1896, the chiefdoms became units of local government, and the chiefs, on stipend, became low-level administrative bureaucrats. Some small chiefdoms were amalgamated to make fewer, economically more viable units. Each British district commissioner worked with and through the paramount chiefs of the chiefdoms comprising his district. As chiefly administrative responsibilities widened, nonliterate chiefs had to hire literate assistants, chiefdom clerks. After the Native Administration (N.A.) system was implemented, the chiefs’ courts were more closely regulated, and, in the larger chiefdoms, N.A. messengers/police were hired. In 1951 a district council was created in each district, composed initially of the paramount chiefs and an equal number of elected members and chaired by the district commissioner. When political parties were first formed in the 1950s, they dealt with the chiefs and depended upon them as “ward healers” to turn out their voters for elections.

Social control[edit]

Among nineteenth-century Temne, the law did not have the preeminent place in the resolution of disagreements and conflicts in the way court systems do in twentieth-century democracies. There was no separate, largely independent judiciary; sociopolitical leaders tried certain cases as a prerogative of their positions. Rather than applying abstract ideals of justice, equity, and good conscience, these leaders made decisions in light of the particular political and social settings in each specific instance. Disagreements and conflicts between individuals and groups were adjudicated at, first, the kin-group and residence-group level; second, at the association level (especially the Poro and Bundu societies); and third, at the chiefdom and subchiefdom level (in a chief’s court). The first level used primarily moot proceedings, the second usually inquisitory techniques, and the third, a kind of adversarial contest. In the colonial court system, only courts of those chiefs recognized as paramounts served as local courts. Somewhat modified, the system continues today.

Raiding and warfare among Temne and between Temne and people of other groups were long-standing. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries raids were carried out to steal foodstuffs and people, both disposed of in domestic and foreign trade. People on and near the coast tried to prevent inland traders from having direct contacts and thus preserve middleman profits for themselves. A period of “trade wars” occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century, and a body of professional warriors developed then. These were full-time, itinerant mercenaries, known for their cruelty and fearlessness, who inspired terror and specialized in quick, surprise raids. For defense, Temne surrounded larger villages with walls of tree trunks and mud and built separate fortresses, to which people from several smaller villages could retire in times of emergency. The establishment of the colonial overgovernment put an end to Temne raiding and warfare.

Notable Temne people[edit]


  • Mohamed Wurie, Human rights activist current vice chairman and treasurer SLPU West Vlaanderen
  • King Tom, negotiated the settlement of the Province of Freedom with the British
  • Bai Bureh, Sierra Leonean ruler and military strategist who led the Temne uprising against the British in 1898.
  • Ernest Bai Koroma, current president of Sierra Leone
  • Kande Bureh, Sierra Leone minister of Transportation and Communications from 1962–1967 and one of the founded members that guided Sierra Leone to Independence
  • Foday Sankoh, former Sierra Leonean rebel leader
  • Zainab Hawa Bangura, current Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone
  • Abdul Serry-Kamal, Sierra Leone’s current Minister of Justice and Attorney General
  • Alpha Kanu, Sierra Leone’s current Minister of Mineral Resources
  • Yahya Kanu; Sierra Leone Army officer
  • Momodu Koroma, foreign minister of Sierra Leone from 2002–2007
  • Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay, Sierra Leone’s former minister of Transportation and Aviation and a former member of Parliament from Port Loko District from 2002–2007
  • Kadi Sesay, Sierra Leone’s minister of Trade and Industry from 2002–2007 and the current National Deputy Chairman of the SLPP
  • Soccoh Kabia, Sierra Leone’s current Minister of Social Welfare and Children’s affairs
  • Okere Adams, Sierra Leone minister of Marine Resources from 2002 t0 2005 and minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs from 2005–2007
  • Thaimu Bangura, former Sierra Leone minister of Finance and leader of the PDP political party
  • Edward Mohamed Turay, former leader of the All People’s Congress (APC) and a currently a member of Parliament from Bombali District
  • Abdul Kady Karim, Sierra Leonean politician and leader of the UNPP political party
  • Karefa Kargbo, Foreign minister of Sierra Leone from 1993–1994
  • Alpha Timbo, Sierra Leone minister of Labour and employment from 2002–2007
  • Alhaji Andrew Kanu, the current mayor of the city of Makeni
  • Musa Kamara, Sierra Leonean Belgian,Navigator Ship Captain and School Science Governor in London,England,UK.
  • Andrew Turay, Sierra Leonean politician
  • Abdul Karim Koroma, Sierra Leone minister of Education from 1977–1982
  • Musa Kamara, Sierra Leonean Belgian, Navigator Ship Captain and School Science Governor in London, England, UK.
  • Momodu Munu, former Sierra Leon minister from 1985–1989
  • Aaron Aruna Koroma, Member of parliament for Tonkolili District
  • John Gbla, Former member of Parliament for Tonkolili District
  • Francis Munu, Sierra Leone Police commissioner from Makeni
  • Alie Essa Bangura, Foremer Journalist and Former Ambassador of Sierra Leone to Ghana.Member of parliament for Port loko District
  • Christian sheka Kargbo, Former ambassador to the EU
  • Mohamed Wurie, Human rights activist, current vice chairman and treasurer SLPU West Vlaanderen.
  • Badara Kamara,U S military officer, Auditor Office of Inspector General


  • Isha Sesay, British – Sierra Leone journalist
  • Lans Omar, Canada – entertainment journalist

Football And Sport stars[edit]


This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. Please improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (February 2008)
  • Brooks, George (1993) “Landlords and Strangers: Ecology, Society, and Trade in Western Africa, 1000-1630” Boulder: Westview Press.
  • Rodney, Walter (1970) “A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800” Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Wylie, Kenneth (1977) “The Political Kingdoms of the Temne: Temne Government in Sierra Leone, 1825-1910” New York: Africana Publishing. Company.

External links[edit]


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