Reflections on the chieftaincy Institution
Story by: Nelson Kofi Akatey
President John Evans Atta Mills, in his New Year message to the nation, declared the year 2011 as the year of action. An action year for the government, organizations both private and public, MSAs and even individuals. In line with the President’s declaration, one of the institution which will certainly not be left out in the Ministry of Chieftaincy not be left out in the nation’s quest for the better Ghana agenda is the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture and its affiliated bodies.
In recent times, there have been many reports especially in the print media about the spate of chieftaincy disputes across the length and breath of the country. Some of the chieftaincy disputes have severely threatened the peace and security of the state; indeed, this does not create a good image for the Chieftaincy institution.
It has created the rather erroneous impression that the institution has become moribund and outmoded, hence the call by some interest groups to scrap it. It Perhaps this is to liken it to the adage the when water is stored in the mouth for too long, it loses it’s taste and value.
But can we really say so of the chieftaincy institution? In or Ghanaian context, the chieftaincy institution is the heart of our cultural heritage. It has even been argued that it is perhaps the soul of our cultural heritage that has survived the test of time.
The uniqueness of the chieftaincy institution is that in Ghana almost every community has a chief. They (chiefs) offer leadership and protection, peace and security for their people.
As traditional heads, chiefs are the first point of call, especially by politicians when on campaign tours. One commentary jokingly asserts that if you find yourself in a town or village as a stranger even in the dead of the night, just walk to the chief’s palace and you are assured of good meal, a place to lay your head.
Our chiefs represent the spiritual embodiment of the people, playing the role between the living and the dead.
From time immemorial, our chiefs have been agents of development. Today, one can cite numerous examples of many development projects which have been initiated and completed by chiefs in their areas of jurisdiction.
Again many chiefs are unifying force in our communities amidst our cultural diversities. In fact, they complement the role of government in running the affairs of state. It is therefore quite worrying when the noble institution of chieftaincy, so much revered is losing its significance and attracting all sorts of negative publicity, largely as a result of chieftaincy disputes and other related problems that have plagued the institution in certain areas of the country.
This is eroding public trust and confidence. Indeed, as a human and social, like any other, the institution is bound to face challenges, but the most important thing is how to manage the challenges, but the most important things is how to manage the challenges.
The question today on the lips of many Ghanaians is, if once upon a time the chieftaincy institution was so revered, then what might have gone wrong now along the line? Research has indicated that many of the chieftaincy disputes are as a result of non-adherence to the laid down rules and procedures governing the selection, installation and enskinment of chiefs.
According to the chieftaincy Act 759 (2008), a chief by definition is a person hailing from the appropriate family lineage, has validly nominated, elected or selected and enskinned, enstooled or installed as a chief selected and enskinned, enstooled or installed as a chief or queen mother in accordance with the relevant customary law usage.
The provisions of the Chieftaincy Institutions are also captured comprehensively in the supreme law of the land – the 1992 constitution, chapter 22.
In 2006, the government established the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture in accordance with section 11 (1) of the Civil Service Law, 1993 (PNDCL 327) and upon the recommendations of the report of the African Peer Review Mechanism.
The ministry is to be responsible for the chieftaincy and culture sector. The Vision of the ministry is to preserve, sustain and integrate the regal, traditional and cultural values and practices of Ghana to accelerate wealth creation and harmony for total national development.
It is also to develop an effective interface between government and civil society on matters relating to chieftaincy and culture.
Besides the ministry, there is the National House of Chiefs, Regional Houses of Chiefs and Traditional Councils which are the direct non-political institutions of chieftaincy working in close relationship with the ministry.
The holistic objectives of such institution are for the promotion, development and effective administration of the chieftaincy and culture sector. The ministry provides the necessary and the required and leadership. Since its establishment in 2006, the ministry had helped to resolve amicably many chieftaincy disputes in the country which has brought about peace and security.
Charity they say begins at home. One of the ways to achieving a better image for the Chieftaincy institution is to adopt comprehensive measures that would reform the institution from the within and make it more adaptable and responsive to the realities of the day.
The various stakeholders should collaborate and ensure that the institution is rid of people whose only desire is to ferment trouble. It is expedient that cases pending before the various Councils, Houses of Chiefs and the courts should be expeditiously dealt with, firmly but fairly.
For peace to prevail there should always be the ingness on the part of all to make peace.
It is also important for the government through the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture to commit more resources and funds to the various projects and programmes being undertaken by the National and Regional Houses of Chiefs to help resolve issue of chieftaincy disputes.
One of such laudable projects is the codification and complication of the customary law on the line of succession. This project when completed will address the problem of succession and the system of inheritance, election or selection of candidates to stools and skins.
One of such laudable projects is the codification and compilation of the customary law on the line of succession. This project when completed will address the problem of succession and the system of inheritance, election or selection of candidates to stool and skins.
It will also provide research materials for the promotion of the country’s cultural heritage. It is hoped that this year, being a year of action, chieftaincy disputes and other related challenges of the institution will be minimized if not completely eliminated.
Indeed, there should be zero tolerance for chieftaincy disputes this year. The obvious fact is, where there is peace, there is development, and where there is development, there is growth to enhance the standard of living of the people.
The focus of the chieftaincy institution in modern times should be the need to foster unity among the people, promote tourism to create wealth, be development driven and reform or abolish negative cultural practices which do not augur well for national pride, individual safety, freedom and development.
It is time to carve a new image for the once revered institution and preserve it for posterity. This must be a collective and shared responsibility on the part of all.
The Ghanaian Times Page: 9 Wednesday, February 9, 2011