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Opinions of Saturday, 2 August 2003

Columnist: RFI

Duality of Power: The co-existence of Civil Governance and Traditional Governance

Even though Ghanaians pledge allegiance to one republic, one government with one constitution, there is in fact a dual government in Ghanaian society with dual power. The civil authority (civil government) and chieftancy (traditional government). This duality of power is creating yet another impediment for our economic growth.

It needs to be diffused. The modern civil administration and authority set up by the British, are without doubt, the best accomplishment of colonial rule, which gradually shifts power from our native groups to the central government, extending a unified civil authority rule throughout the land. However, the co-existence of two governing institutions, chieftancy and civil government blurs the power of hierarchy for the sake of the conveniences of “political gamesmanship”. In other words people who need to make decisions don’t do so because political gains might be impended. The chieftancy system has its own rules and customs within traditional domains that more often than not differ from the civil laws. However, the compatibility of rules and customs with civil law is paramount to a society seeking to achieve uniformity of various rights, especially property rights!

The chieftancy Act section in the Constitution should be practiced and upheld so that there would be transparent accounting of the chiefs and the skins stewardships. Article 267 sec. 2 sub (a) states that there should be:

“… the establishment of a stool land account for each stool into which shall be paid all rents, dues, royalties, revenues or other payments whether in the nature of income or capital from the stool lands;”

Wouldn’t it be in the best interest of the country’s economic development effort if the National House of Chiefs would adopt a uniform bookkeeping and fiscal year policy by which all chiefs would update their “Transactions Books” and make them available for accountability under their own rules? This would greatly assist the diffusion of blurred dual power and hierarchy, which is impeding our economic growth. Information derived from such a fiscal booking policy would be extremely vital for all kinds of planning. In fact, because Ghana is a constitutional republic we cannot continue to be a “Tale of Two Governments”, with pick and choose legal system. How can District Assemblies engage in any meaningful comprehensive planning, such as land usage and zoning ordinances, when the bulk of the land resources fall in the hands of the chiefs and skins who do not provide reliable data? The Chiefs, the Regional and the District Assemblies need a better understanding of their role under the Constitution, from which all derive their proper source of authority. Moreover, President Kufuor has made the notions of transparency and accountability the cornerstone of his administration and as such the chiefs should cooperate.

The civil government power has been so well rooted in the Ghanaian society that it has effectively castrated and cast aside many traditional customs and practices. For less than two centuries, foreign religion has intermingled with the adopted foreign civil rules to the extent that all national holidays are either civil or religious - Christmas Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, even Boxing Day! It appears that we Ghanaians do not have any holidays based upon our own indigenous culture and traditions. Such is the impact of British Colonialism. The National House of Chiefs needs to be proactive before it becomes a cultural menagerie. It is curious that not even the “Ashanti Kingdom” – a traditional area with a King (not a Chief) as its head and whose territory spreads beyond more than one political-civil region, has its “Adeekesee” recognized by the civil authority as a regional holiday. Is there any native pride of any occasion worthy of salvaging? Why not substitute Boxing Day with an “All Traditional and Customs Day”? Another proposition that the Ghanaian Government and the Ghana National House of Chiefs might institutionalize is an acknowledgement of the joint contributions of all the traditional and cultural groups in Ghana that make up the character of Ghana. Why not proclaim December 26th as a holiday in the honor of all of native groups (ourselves). This occasion could also be used for the chiefs and the skins to address the “State of their Domains.” The National House of Chiefs will hopefully seek its majestic place in Ghana annals before they fade away into oblivion.

Litmus Test For Chiefs In Civil Administration

“What is good for the goose is also good for the gander”. In other words, what is good for the civil governance is good for traditional governance. There are many very scholarly and wise Chiefs who have been recruited by the government to service the Nation of Ghana. But their traditional communities need them most. This is an example of another form of “brain drain” on our local community resources. Therefore, there needs to be a “litmus test” placed on each chief or skin playing a dual roles in the two governance, based upon the other aforementioned requirement in the Chieftaincy Act:

“… the establishment of a stool land account for each stool into which shall be paid all rents, dues, royalties, revenues or other payments whether in the nature of income or capital from the stool lands.”

If any chief has not met the above requirements, then what assurance is there that such person is going to perform at the Central Government level? Besides their first responsibility is to meet the “sprite of their oats” to their community.

Without doubt, the Chieftancy and the Skin system and its network in Ghana reach every corner and soul in Ghana, and therefore are the largest network group of Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Ghana. If more attention is paid on the mechanics of modern administration of governance, then most of the foreign NGOs could work in partnership with or subordinate to the Chiefs and Skins instead of the other way around. Ghana has an enviable treasure, let us enhance her potentials. A joint resolution between the World Bank and the NGO Working Group has acknowledged that The Bank mechanisms of dialogue should be flexible and tailored to the specific dynamics and background of the Bank-civil society relationships in each region (and country).

Therefore, let us build upon improving our “Treasure” and not degenerate it.


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