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Opinions of Thursday, 20 July 2017

Columnist: Apostle Mawuetornam Dugbazah

Checking Parliament: The chiefs and customary law

The customs of a people are usually a reflection of their past and of course, a strong indication of their likely future. Ghana needs its customary laws in order to chart a more refined and dignified socio-political future.

Today, I would like to examine Ghana’s political focus in the context of the customs of its citizens and traditional authorities. Chiefs are politicians in Ghana despite the fact that they are not elected through universal suffrage. But even though the chiefs are politicians, it looks as though today, Ghana has neglected the role of chiefs in deciding what kind of legislation actually finds its way into the national mainstream.

This article advocates that more power be given to chiefs to promote the customary law that overrides the norms of Western legal culture in Ghana. The author advocates for the National House of Chiefs to be given the pass on deciding whether a bill becomes law or not. In other words, chiefs should be an active and legally-binding part of the Ghanaian law making process, like a senate.

Ghanaian Hereditary Chiefs and Customary Law

There is much to be said about Ghanaian chiefs. And the more said about them, the easier it will be for another generation to comprehend the inherent value of traditional African government in the modern politics of the nation. Ghanaian youths can learn from and apply aspects of custom from the different cultures in the nation.

Ghana is a multicultural nation with customs varying from “ethnicity” or “nation” within the Republic. I am an Evhe by descent and understand mainly the customs of Evheland as opposed to those of the Dagomba people or any other ethnicity in Ghana. Nonetheless, as a West African, I embrace other cultures to the extent that their customs promote righteousness. After all, it is easy to know that some cultures have customs that are not good for humankind.

The notion of customary law is very important to today’s Ghana if the nation’s sanity will persist in Godly righteousness. Why do I say this? It is because in my view there is the impression from the media that Ghana is facing a serious culture clash with Western heathenism. It seems then that Ghana’s cultural institutions will have to do something drastic about the way Western value systems that are at loggerheads with African cultural values, are being rammed down the throats of citizens.

For example, one gets the impression that Ghanaian youths have little regard for people in authority “the way it used to be”. It is not uncommon to find young people outright cursing the elderly and even using social media to perpetrate some of the most disgraceful sexual dealings.

There is a need therefore, to draw the line in terms of the West and its culture teaching Ghana’s children to “sin”, break national laws and to continue on in this manner.

Perhaps the customary law is one way in which the nation will be able to deal with the negative and destructive values that have seeped into today’s Ghanaian culture through Western law, science and pop culture.

The Chief and Legislation Today

In today’s Ghana, chiefs play an integral role in adjudication in accordance with constitutional provisions. This role is significant because it takes into consideration the fact that Ghana was once full of chiefdoms where people obeyed laws when chiefs judged. What happened to these laws of old? Why is Ghana so focused on the preservation of Western legal know-how, its Latin terminology and culture that has come in through public international law and European occupation? Much of this is still foreign to the average Ghanaian. It is a sinful thing to call things like deviant sexual behaviours (i.e. homosexuality) a “human right” in a nation where African custom and legal systems are in existence. Such is the case in today’s Ghana where homosexuality and other nearly accepted norms have become a human rights issue. Hmmm, I wonder what the Big Six would think of today’s Ghanaian norms and laws which even promote the standard of Ghana’s resources being mortgaged to foreigners at the expense of impoverished Ghanaians. Where are Ghana’s customary laws to mitigate this situation?

It seems that customary law in Ghana has now been formally sidelined except that certain international agreements have been signed in the name of codifying customary law. Couldn’t Ghana have done this without international help? And where are these laws today? The nation needs them in order to make sure that Ghana does not lose its distinct flavour of customs and righteousness. I personally believe it is necessary for Ghana to once and for all do away with Western legal and business norms that do not aid the nation in moving forward politically, economically and on the justice front. The Name of the Game is Righteousness and Law It is said that a nation that is democratic is run in accordance with the Rule of Law. This “Law” and its “Rule” is no more than Western thinking that has been used to support a past slave system and international heathenism, in which case Ghana is a victim of international thought gone wrong. Ghana needs to open the door to customary law—at the national level—in order to ensure that its people enjoy the benefits of their natural resources and other endowments. As well, Ghana needs a new brand of law where divine righteousness controls the land and sanctions deviant excesses. If the chiefs of Ghana are righteous then they will advocate for themselves to take back the legal jurisdiction of righteous, codified legal norms that made Africa a place of goodness once. In other words, Ghana needs its chiefs to advocate for “upper house” status of legal proportions in order to check the excesses and omissions of Western-style parliamentary ratification of laws.