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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)

Chapter 3: The public institutions of the heathen, including their laws and legal arrangements, and the deficiencies of these,   pp. 1-6

Page 2

without respect of persons.
The natives also have officers of the council called solatequis.
These are invested by placing them in a house, and after they have
been thoroughly flogged, a puppy is killed at the door where the
officer to be invested stands. Then they sound a trumpet/made of a
certain sort of hollow wood, and all the inhabitants of the village
assemble. In honour of the solateguis, a great hullabaloo is raised.
Each new solategui is instructed to send for money to pay for the
investment ceremony, or if he lacks money he hands over a servant-girl
or a son as a pledge. When the money comes, it is handed over to the
king, who orders the man to be dressed in the insignia of a solategui,
which is more or less only a single coloured cloth.
They have recognised pleaders or advocates, called arons. Their
costume is made up of different kinds of clothin3. First, one net-
cloth over another, then the skins of various animals including their
tails, and over these breeches covered with more tails. Hanging from
their necks they have chest-bands of many colours, and they cover their
faces with an ugly mask, which has an enormous nose, and which is
partly black and partly other colours. An aron begins his speech,
gives AtongueO, then plays on a freshwater-turtle shell which makes an
extraordinary noise. When a case is opened involving bloodshed or
adultery with the king's wife, it is normally the aron who introduces
the matter and denounces the accused. His insignia is a broom of palm
twigs, which corresponds to our mace or wand. With this broom in his
hand, the king administers justice in court on the most serious
offences, with the solateguis around him, and the advocates from both
sides carrying out their duties. Minor offences are tried separately.
When parties bring an action themselves, or through their advocates, and
advance it to the point of judgment, all of which is done verbally,
then if the king turns the broom during the discussion towards the
accused or the complainant, this is a sign that he favours that one.
But if he turns the broom away, this means reproof and disapproval.
Pleas of all kinds are permitted and employed. When the solatequis
award the sentence, it is submitted to the king before its execution;
and if he does not approve of it, he amends and revises it in accordance
with advice from the majority, the whole matter being gone into again
with great care. Finally, when the order is given to execute the
sentence, if this involves torture the torture is so cruel that it is
a miracle if anyone survives it, since they split a tree-trunk and put
into the cleft the head of the guilty wretch, with the result that his
brains are squeezed out And he dies on the spot.    A thief is impaled


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