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General News of Monday, 11 February 2008

Source: Nii Kwaku Osabutey ANNY

Chiefs should be Speakers of Parliament

....says Nana Dr. S.K. Asante
Eminent lawyer and paramount chief of Asokore Nana Dr. S. K. B. Asante is advocating the appointment of chiefs to the position of Speaker of Parliament.

?After all, it was a chief who was the chairman of the Constituent Assembly that led to the drafting of the country?s constitution? says Nana Dr. Asante, who was speaking at a workshop in Accra, organised by the Legal Resources Centre and the Research Department of Parliament.

Traditional rulers are constitutionally not allowed to participate in active politics because of the sensitive nature of their roles as traditional heads in their communities. The position of a Speaker is however considered a neutral position in which the Speaker moderates the deliberations of the house and making a chief occupy that position will be appropriate.

Nana Dr. Asante however says the non-involvement of chiefs in active politics does not necessarily mean that they are completely cut off from participating in any process that relates to governance of the country.

?Some of us are deeply involved in the provision of infrastructure development in our various areas such as education, water and consultations with local assembly officials.?

He however adds that the competence of any chief that could be considered for such a position should be taken into consideration.

Nana Dr. S.K.B. Asante expressed displeasure with the numerous chieftaincy disputes that have docked some traditional areas. He said the National House of Chiefs is determined to ensure that peace is brought to key traditional areas, but is unhappy with the undue interference of the High Court in chieftaincy matters.

According to him, the courts continuous delay of issues relating to chieftaincy has made their work difficult, adding that it is something he personally would like to see end. Though the number of chieftaincy disputes before the law courts is still said to be high, he feels the traditional chiefs have the capacity to resolve such disputes but the problem has always been the non-availability of funds for them to carry out proper research.

He said every dispute that is put before the house of chiefs require that enough research is done from all constituents involved in the disputes but it appears their work has not been duly recognized by state authorities, and this is something he is not happy about.

?We are therefore denounced for our inability to accommodate the numerous disputes that normally come our way.?

In a related development, a Professor of African Studies, Irene Odotei says the chieftaincy institution is an embattled one mainly because of the legacy of colonialism that inherited by post independent Ghana.

Professor Odotei told dailyEXPRESS in an interview that the role of chiefs in the society has been greatly undermined to some extent mainly because their positions were exploited by the colonialists who used them to not only create divisions among them, but use them to disintegrate their own society.

She said such measures were also employed by the various governments that came to occupy political power.

?They all employed the same tactics and eventually weakened the key institution of chieftaincy,? she said.

Professor Odotei said the situation created lots of animosity between the chiefs on one side and their subjects on the other, who accused them as stooges of the system. Most of the chiefs, she said, lost the very respect that is associated with their authority as chiefs.

?Today, chiefs in this country have no authority even over their own minerals,? she said.

?The government tells them though you have the land whatever is underneath it is not yours.?

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