Sierra Leone woman appeals for right to be chief

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2009 11:32 AM

A woman barred from running for chief of her district because of her gender said Tuesday she has appealed for a new election and a place on the ballot.

Elizabeth Kumba Simbiqa Torto said she wants a new election because she believes the officials' decision barring her from running is discriminatory. She said local officials told her custom and tradition prevented her from running for the post in the Dec. 5 election in Kono District, in the eastern part of the small African country.

"I will not allow myself to be discriminated against and humiliated because of culture and tradition, which should not interfere with my right," she said.

Her nephew was elected to the post from nine male candidates. The local chief is responsible for collecting taxes, is in charge of local administration and settles minor local disputes.

Torto said she was harassed and threatened by officials and residents after she returned from a trip to the capital to complain and couldn't go home because protesters attacked her house and threw stones at her convoy.

Sierra Leone's Human Rights Commission says it supports Torto's petition with the Appeals Court for a new election. Commissioner Yasmin Jusu Sheriff described Monday's attack on Torto's convoy as "not culture and tradition, but hooliganism."

Torto, a nurse in her 60s, has worked in Kono District for some 30 years. She maintains she is eligible for the position because her father was a chief.