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Opinions of Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Columnist: Akrase, Nana

The Ultimate Court of Asante

What a beauty of a constitutional set-up...how remarkable. Yet, some will disparage these people as not having had a western style education(in their misguided minds, they think such people aren't up to much, intellectually), yet, the same people, are able to craft a constitution, which prevents, any of the land, from awarding himself/herself, powers of dictatorship and finality of word in a judgement, way way before the Akwasi Broni foisted his own upon us, for which, to date, some of us find wholly deficient and unsuitable for our particular environment--with its well noted predilection for dragging out cases, making justice seeking ever so elusive and penury inducing.This is the true Asante, as crafted and known very well by our forebears.

Of all the Akan entities of renown, Asante came last. Yet it is it, that has proven to be most enduring and resilient. Why, owing to the innate fluidity of Akan states, it was/is made up of elements of the other preceding Akan States/Kingdoms, who often were architects of those Kingdoms frame-up, witnesses to its collapse, and as such, alive to the quagmires, that pose a pernicious threat or had brought about the fall of their Kingdoms. With such experiences in mind, Asante was moulded accordingly, with particular attention paid to upholding the right of the citizenry to justice, preventing miscarriages of justice by all and sundry in the Kingdom.

The question is, and the question is, these days, are such fundamental tenets of Asante Jurisprudence, being adhered to? Of course, such appeals, shouldn't be frivolously made, but nonetheless, such fundamental rights of appeal, shouldn't be denied all.

Note how the dignity and honour of the King is protected at all times...the peril of being an Okyeame(who often, are better versed in the laws, customs, practices and usages than the Ahene, owing to their long stay at court, passed down knowledge, innate ability) is that, when push comes to shove, you it is, upon whom the akyer3ma falls.This is for the education of all....the Ultimate Court Of Appeal of Asante, as I've alluded to in some of my posts, is the Court of the Akyeamehene of the Amantuo Num States, as told of below:

"If after a court judgement, the litigant is not satisfied, it is the Okyeame the litigant swears by ntam(the unspeakable word) to challenge, and not the King. As soon as the litigant uses the Ntam to challenge the verdict, the Akyeamehene(Principal Linguists) of Dwaben, Mampon, Nsuta and Bekwai, constituting an appeal jury, are summoned to hear the case. After they have spoken, we also explain the basis of the court's decision.

If on the appeal hearing, the contestant's guilt is upheld, he may be liable to severe punishment.It means, he has wrongly challenged our word. If the contestant is proclaimed innocent, we(the Ashanti King's linguists) are arrested and heavily fined.

Words of Baafour Akoto, Former Senior Linquist of Asantehene.

The unfortunate impression has been created, these days, perhaps, since the revival of the Confederacy, that Kumasi is the final stop for all cases within Asanteman's jurisdiction. This, however isn't quite so, as far as the unwritten Asante Constitution goes.

A fundamental principle of natural justice, is the provision of a right of appeal to in all notable legal jurisdictions. Legalism, its practices and usages, is nothing new to the many an African people. It is in line with this, that the very learned framers of Asante, put in the necessary checks and balances, to be prevent any, within the Confederacy, from a wanton and unnecessary abuse of power.

Just as the Asante constitution allows appeals from the Courts of the numerous Amanhene, inclusive of the Amantuo Num, to Manhyia for a hearing, so does it, in turn, allow cases heard there, to be also referred to the Ultimate Court of the Land, which is that, composed of the Principal Akyeame(traditional lawyers) of the Principal States of Asanteman, Kumasi inclusive.

This is very much democracy at work. It allows aggrieved parties, who feel that owing to one reason or another, a judgement given against them, at Kumasi was wrong, to have a leeway to appeal the decision. Such, allows for a stronger Asanteman, checks grievances from gathering pace and hence constituting a destabilising factor in the Confederacy.

It is about time, we all especially the Principals of Asante, allowed this basic tenet of Asante justice to function. That way, we shall prevent unnecessary resorts to the 'strange' courts of the land, which are crafted upon legal principles, alien to our conception and worldview. This is all the more necessary, since we may want to prevent certain matters, being known to undesirables, as well as, the unnecessary intrusions of these ''Aborofosem" courts--which anyway, are handicapped when it comes to certain Asante/Akan/native matters--into areas or issues, beyond their competence and understanding.

In this era, of some, persistently running to such courts over Chieftaincy and other customary issues, and even the few committing acts of sacrilege by dragging the Golden Stool to the jurisdictions of alien law, it is about high time, our Nananom, did a sankofa.

If however, such is already in practice( I think not, though), then Nananom are hereby commended.

Nana Akrase (Son of Juaben)...akrase200@yahoo.co.uk, www.akrase.blogspot.com