Ghana's Chieftaincy Institution: Setting the pace for Africa

Accra, Feb. 27, GNA - The Chieftaincy Institution in Ghana has become the toast of many nations and the pace setter in Africa, attracting scores of friendly visits to under study the system. Unfortunately, the irony of the situation is that whilst the institution is locally being seen as the stone unfit for the building, it is becoming the very cornerstone of the building for other countries.

In recent times, some individuals have even advocated the abolition of the chieftaincy institution on grounds that it has outlived its usefulness. Others too argue that it has become outmoded, a historical and cultural relic of the past.

By and large, the chieftaincy Institution is gaining prominence in spite of these unfavourable impressions. Since the establishment of that Ministry, many delegations of prominent chiefs and people from traditional authorities across Africa have been here to see how our chieftaincy system works.

Last year, 2013, two such delegations from Sudan and Zambia were in the country.
The Zambian delegation was by far the largest comprising11 prominent chiefs and officials from the Zambian Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs led by the sector minister, Professor Nkandu Luo. The visits were in recognition of the important role the chieftaincy institution has played, and continues to play towards peace and national development in Ghana.

There are indications that this year similar delegations from other countries including Malawi and possibly La Cote d'Iviore will also come to visit.
The chieftaincy institution in Ghana is described as the kingpin of our culture and heritage. According to Professor Irene Odotei, a distinguished scholar on chieftaincy, the institution is one of the most enduring traditional institutions in Ghana, and has displayed remarkable resilience from pre-colonial through colonial and post-colonial times.

Chiefs combine executive, legislative, judicial and religious/traditional roles. Boafo Arthurs also contends that chiefs are political and social power centres in their areas of jurisdiction. The Institution symbolizes socio-political and even spiritual power in many parts of Ghana and Africa.

The story is told of a couple who lost their way into a strange community at dead of night. Having no relatives or friends in the community, they requested to be sent to the chief�s palace. There they had the best of attention. They requested for a few more days at the palace even though they had originally not planned to stay that long. This shows the security and comfort the institution provides.

With the exception of very few cases, the institution has been able to hold many societies together from falling apart. It has also played a key role in bringing development to various communities over the years.

The interest of many African countries to come and understudy our chieftaincy system and also share their experiences with us is as a result of several factors. First is the fact that our chieftaincy system has been able to withstand the influence of foreign cultures and values. It has remained the fulcrum and the anchor of our traditional governance and heritage.

Professor Luo echoed this observation by describing it as vibrant and robust. The Ambassador of the Republic of La Cote d'Iviore to Ghana, His Excellency Bernard Koutou has also observed that Ghana's chieftaincy system is a great model.

Another factor for the attraction is the way the chieftaincy system has effectively been blended and integrated into our formal political governance system and administration. One recalls the British Colonial Administrative policy of Indirect Rule where chiefs played a key role. This has been the practice since then though with some modifications here and there by successive governments.

For instance, Article 276(1) of the 1992 Constitution states that a chief shall not take part in active party politics; and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin. There are good reasons for this. The caveat, however, is that notwithstanding the above cited clause of the Constitution, a chief may be appointed to any public office {(Article 276 (2)}.

The system and practice is different in some other African countries. This is certainly one of the beauties of our country's democracy.
It suffices to state that during the interventions with the various foreign delegations, the Minister for Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs, Dr Henry Seidu Daannaa emphasized that in spite of the mutual relationship between the Government and the chieftaincy institution, government does not interfere in chieftaincy matters by determining who becomes a chief or otherwise.

This is the opposite case in some African countries, with its attendant consequences. The chieftaincy institution in Ghana, albeit the challenges, has been able to hold itself together for decades, and provided leadership at all levels in our national life.

There were times when the intervention of Nananom was the panacea to national crisis. The nobility and reverence accorded the institution in Ghana has also contributed significantly to its positive image on the local and international scene. Our chieftaincy institution over the decades continues to play the unifying role in our diverse socio-cultural, political and religious society, projecting our values and culture.
Unlike the practice in many other African countries where the structure and operations of the chieftaincy institution is not well defined, we have a well-coordinated structure and system, starting from the Divisional/Traditional Council through the various Regional

Houses of Chiefs to the National House of Chiefs.
Again, the chieftaincy institution in Ghana is anchored firmly under Article 270(1) of the 1992 Constitution which explicitly states that The Institution of Chieftaincy, together with its traditional Councils as established by law and usage is hereby guaranteed. Again, though the process of installing a chief may differ from one traditional area to another, the ceremonies often associated with these events are most often national in character.

A lot of dignitaries and other traditional rulers attend such colourful festivals and durbars.
Interestingly, our system in Ghana does not permit Parliament, the highest legislative body in the country, to enact any law which confers on any person or authority the right to accord or withdraw recognition to or from a chief for any purpose whatsoever or (b) in any way detract or derogate from the honour and dignity of the institution of chieftaincy {(Article 270 (2)}.

The purpose of the Chieftaincy Act, Act 759 (2008), an Act to revise and consolidate the chieftaincy Act 370 (1971) is to bring the provisions of the institution in conformity with the constitution and to provide for related matters. The Act has since become a reference document for most African states on matters of chieftaincy.

Currently, the chieftaincy institution in Africa is going through reforms. These reforms, according to one renowned scholar on chieftaincy, are to make the Institution of Chieftaincy stronger, enduring and more responsive to the needs of modern times. The chieftaincy institution in Ghana is not left out in these reforms. Dr Daannaa has noted significantly that: if the institution of Chieftaincy will survive the next century, it depends on chiefs themselves.

One of the major reforms executed by the National House of Chiefs, and facilitated by the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs, was the development of the Code of Royal Ethics for chiefs which was launched last year. In his preface the President of the National House of Chiefs, Wulugu Naba Pugansoa, Naa Professor John Sebiyam Nabila stated that 99 per cent of chiefs (as respondents) agreed to having a code for the institution. This is a demonstration of the fact that this code of royal ethics for chiefs has a phenomenal support of both chiefs and non-chiefs, he said.

The representation of Queenmothers at both the Regional and National Houses of Chiefs is another reform by the National House in collaboration with the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs and other stakeholders.

It is expected that these reforms will go a long way to improve the chieftaincy institution and its administration in the country. The undeniable fact is that our chieftaincy institution and Administration has made a tremendous positive impact on the continent of Africa. It behoves on the entire Ghanaian society, therefore, in our individual and collective capacities, to uplift the image of the institution which is perhaps the last remnant of our cultural heritage.

A GNA feature by Laary Dasmani Issifu

Source: GNA Story (
Published: 2014-02-27 13:16:38
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