Chieftaincy research committees unable to combat conflicts
By: RICHMOND PESEU
IN line with article 270 (1) of our constitution, various bodies were established to safeguard the customs and traditions of the chieftaincy institution.
These are the Traditional Councils, Regional Houses of Chiefs and the National House of Chiefs elected from each region. However, in a region where there are fewer than five Paramount Chiefs, that region shall elect such number of Divisional Chiefs as shall make up the required representation of chiefs for the region. These bodies were authorized (even though not explicitly stated) to set up research committees to perform the mandatory role of research in the various houses of chiefs.
Article 272 (b) and (c) enjoined the National House of Chiefs to undertake the progressive study, interpretation and codification of customary law with a view to evolving in appropriate cases, a unified system of rules of customary law, and the lines of succession applicable to each stool or skin.
Also to undertake an evaluation of traditional customs and usages that were outmoded and are socially harmful.
Article 274 (f) mandates Regional Houses of Chiefs to undertake the compilation of the customary laws and lines of succession applicable to each stool or skin in the region.
The methodology used in the codification and compilation exercise basically involved interviews and the administration of questionnaires usually designed to capture areas such as the origin of the stool, title of stool, name of present and past occupants, history of the stool including, names of the kingmakers and their background, names of clans eligible to the stool etc.
In chieftaincy, field investigations or interviews, more than any other are the focus of attention.
Field investigations including the administration of questionnaire, is a process whereby the researcher collects data or information from informants and then processes it into a report. This places an enormous responsibility on the research committees.
However, owing to lack of funds, the research arm has recoiled – concentrating its attention only on the processing and approving of chieftaincy declaration forms. The research arm has thus become an armchair offshoot of the institution relying essentially on the report received from the traditional councils.
The research committees have not been able to live up to this constitutionally mandated role which also included the study, compilation and refinement of customary laws.
Besides, not much has been achieved in the study, evaluation and compilation of “socially desirable” customary laws and usages, and the unification of customary laws and usages.
The financial outlay required to undertake the studies of that magnitude is non-existing and in the era of shrinking financial support for welfare services, one should not expect the government to support such studies throughout Ghana.
The numerous unending conflicts over succession and land ownership can be attributed to the inability of the research committees to discharge their constitutionally mandated duties with perfection. But who can blame the research committees for not living up to their responsibilities when they are logistically handicapped?
Chieftaincy conflicts represent a serious threat to democracy and the rule of law and need to be tackled before they wipe out the gains made in our fledgling democracy and the rule of law.
The chieftaincy institution has existed for centuries, but never has there been so much confusion about succession as there is today.
Such conflicts are potential recipe for disaster and can have dire consequences on our quest to forge an integrated national identity and cohesion.
In an editorial entitled “Gbese Chieftaincy Issue” sometime back, the Ghanaian Times expressed disquiet about the spate of chieftaincy succession disputes in the country.
The Times believed the root cause of these succession disputes emanate from unethical claims by pretenders who think they could circumvent the laid-down customary rites and use the power of their wealth to appropriate what is not theirs.
This problem of “unethical claims by pretenders” would not have naturally occurred if the research arm had been given the opportunity to effectively discharge its functions since it could have so easily ferreted out names eligible to the stool or skin and lines that are due to mount the throne any time there is vacancy.
This is why, as a nation, we must strive to make every frantic effort to adequately resource the research arm so that it can rise to the occasion to nip in the bud the looming chieftaincy conflicts which could tear the nation apart.
It is therefore imperative, in the face of declining government support for welfare services, to look for alternative sources of finance to resource the research arm of the institution.
This writer wishes to suggest strongly that two per cent of timber and mineral royalties emanating from the regions which are retained by the Forestry Commission and the Minerals Commission be given to the respective Regional Houses of Chiefs to fund their research activities.
This will go a long way to help put at bay or reduce to the barest minimum, the chieftaincy conflicts.
It will also help the research arm of the various Regional Houses of Chiefs to be able to educate chiefs on traditional governance and good leadership.
The writer can confirm that the kind of traditional governance and leadership training given to prospective chiefs during their seven days confinement is woefully inadequate and might account for some of the outrageous and arbitrary decisions taken by some chiefs.
There have been instances where destoolment charges filed at regional houses of chiefs betray a crass ignorance of what constitute destoolable offence. There are also instances where the youths, who do not have the capacity to destool chiefs, have carried out or attempted to carry out unorthodox destoolments. The recent purported destoolment of chiefs of Teleku-Bokazo and Anwiaso in the western Region by irate youth is a classic example.
The research arm of the chieftaincy institution needs to intensity its education on traditional governance so that chiefs will become well-equipped to handle issues enterprisingly at their various traditional areas.
I dare say that given the needed resource, the research arm can confidently deal with the root causes of the ever increasing incidences of chieftaincy conflicts. This arm can be well-equipped intellectually, historically, traditionally, culturally and administratively to sniff the root causes of conflicts and more importantly, ward off such conflicts.
The writer works with the
The Ghanaians Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2007 Page: 9
Western Regional House of Chiefs.