The nature of chieftaincy has been identified as one of the causes of Sierra Leone’s civil conflict, but the institution has largely retained its pre-war privileges and conflict triggers. Using evidence from ethnographic research, this piece investigates the tensions between chiefs and NGOs in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Chiefs perceive NGOs as undercutting their powers and livelihood, resulting in strains. Given the entrenched nature of chieftaincy, current attempts by NGOs to ensure better judicial outcomes for the poor will produce limited success, if the prevailing atmosphere of mistrust persists. A trustful and congenial relationship between chiefs and NGOs is proposed.