Using The Chieftaincy Act To Resolve Nagging Issues

Dr Siedu DaanaChieftaincy related problems are of great concern to all well meaning Ghanaians. One therefore wonders what concrete steps there are to be taken to ensure that the institution of chieftaincy is free from conflict.

Before I delve into the role Chieftaincy Act 2008, Act 759 has played in resolving chieftaincy issues; we need to understand the term Chieftaincy Act and what I mean by chieftaincy issues

An Act is a formal written law by the legislative arm of government or parliament that governs state institutions. Chieftaincy Act, therefore, is a formal written law by the Parliament of Ghana to govern the institution of chieftaincy.

As a matter of fact, since independence, Ghana has witnessed the coming into force of three different Acts that were enacted by parliament to govern chieftaincy. The first is the Chieftaincy Act 1961, Act 81; the second is the Chieftaincy Act 1971, Act 370, and the third, which is still in use, is the Chieftaincy Act 2008, Act 759.

Chieftaincy issues or disputes are serious disagreements or arguments among rival chiefs or members of a royal family, and oftentimes result in violence or the destruction of lives and property.

It is essential for one to raise legitimate questions about the existence of the law governing chieftaincy. For instance: Why the need for Act 759 of 2008? Has the Act succeeded in curbing chieftaincy related issues? An attempt will be made to identify the problems plaguing the institution, and the way forward.

The seven hundred and fifty-ninth Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana entitled Chieftaincy Act, 2008 is an Act to revise and consolidate the Chieftaincy Act 1971, Act 370 to bring its provisions in conformity with the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.

It is important to note that Act 759 of 2008 was necessary because in the year 1992 Ghana had a new Constitution. Thus, there was the need to pass a new Act to conform to the provisions of the 1992 Constitution. As a matter of fact, a nation’s law needs to be revised from time to time in order to align its provisions with current trends. Let us bear in mind that where the law is not in touch with social reality, the law becomes a mere spectator of tragedy.

I will highlight some provisions in the Act that have provided possible solutions for resolving chieftaincy disputes. For instance, Customary Arbitration of disputes is an important tool used by chiefs to ensure peace in their jurisdiction. Section 30 of the Act guarantees the power of a chief to act as an arbitrator in Customary Arbitration in any dispute where the parties consent to the arbitration.

Again, section 25 of the Act provides for the establishment of judicial committees in Traditional Councils and Houses of Chiefs to adjudicate in chieftaincy disputes. As a result of this provision, the National and Regional Houses of Chiefs as well as Traditional Councils have set up judicial committees to sit on cases affecting chieftaincy, and in some instances have succeeded in resolving some vital chieftaincy disputes which could have, otherwise, resulted in violence.

Also, where a party involved in a chieftaincy dispute is unhappy with the decision of the judicial committee in a Traditional Council, the Act, in its section 29 permits the aggrieved party to appeal to the relevant Regional House as of right against the judgment or order.

In like manner, section 23 (1) of the Act stipulates that “the National House has appellate jurisdiction in a cause or matter affecting chieftaincy which has been determined by a Regional House. What this means is that a party in a chieftaincy dispute who is not satisfied with the judgment of the judicial committee in a Regional House may appeal to the National House, which has the authority to make legal decisions on the said judgment.

Furthermore, section 24 of the Act has it that an appeal against a decision of the National House of Chiefs, be it original or appellate jurisdiction, lies to the Supreme Court. What Section 24 seeks to clarify is that it is only the Supreme Court that have the authority to look into a decision by the judicial committee of the National House of Chiefs.

You will agree with me that it is essential for any form of law to provide avenue for one to seek redress in a situation where a decision goes against the one in question. In like manner, as highlighted above, sections 29, 23 (1) and 24 of the Act has indicated the respective bodies that has the legal mandate to hear an appeal of a judgment. By so doing, disgruntled parties in chieftaincy disputes would rather be compelled to use the appropriate channel, than take the law into their own hands and cause mayhem.

One major problem that the institution of chieftaincy is facing is inadequate funding. To begin with, Article 270 (1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana guarantees the institution of chieftaincy, together with its Traditional Councils as established by customary law and usage. Subsequent provisions in Chapter 22 of the Constitution spell out the functions of the National and Regional Houses of Chiefs. In spite of this recognition, the institution has not been provided with the requisite funding to carry out its responsibilities.

Secondly, Section 3 of the Chieftaincy Act enjoins the National House of Chiefs to undertake progressive study, interpretation and codification of the customary law with a view to evolving, in appropriate cases, a unified system of rules of customary law, and compiling the customary laws and lines of succession applicable to each stool or skin. This provision is a vital research function of the National House of Chiefs, which when accomplished will help to put an end to many chieftaincy clashes which arise as a result of succession disputes.

The law provides for the establishment of judicial committees in the various Houses of Chiefs and Traditional Councils but due to inadequate funding and the absence of qualified legal counsels, judicial committees are not able to hear and determine chieftaincy cases.

A careful observation of Ghana’s development agenda reveals that there is inadequate recognition of the developmental role of the chieftaincy institution in national planning. This is what has resulted in the weak support mechanism for the chieftaincy institution.

To begin with, it is my hope that government, non-governmental organisations and donor agencies will strive hard to provide the requisite funding/resources for the chieftaincy institution to ensure that our chiefs take the necessary steps to fulfill their constitutional mandate.

The cost involved in the progressive study, interpretation and codification of the customary law with a view to evolving, in appropriate cases, a unified system of rules of customary law, and compiling the customary laws and lines of succession applicable to each stool or skin is, indeed, a huge and formidable one When compiled, adjudicating bodies, including the courts, will not depend upon oral evidence of the existence of a particular customary law as its primary source of evidence as is presently the case.

This will surely sanitise and enhance the integrity of the judicial process for effective justice delivery. Also, prospective royal lineages and candidates thereof to stools and skins will be clearly identified and documented, and thereby minimise disputes and conflicts associated with the enstoolment / enskinment of chiefs in the country.

To our revered chiefs, my humble appeal to them is that conflict has never succeeded in solving any problem. It would not be wise for an “outsider” to come to your territory and attempt to put your house in order. It would be best if you came together as one and devised effective and potent successive structures in line with your respective customary law and usage.

There is the urgent need for our national planners to strengthen the National and Regional Houses of Chiefs, and to develop modalities to harness the inherent potential of the chieftaincy institution in national development.

Chiefs are the natural rulers of the land, as well as the custodians of our culture. Culture is our identity and our way of life. Let us not tag the institution of chieftaincy as moribund because of its share of problems. Rather, my humble appeal to the general public is that let us realise the essence of chieftaincy. Let us envisage how our dear nation will be like if we all throw our weight behind our revered and sacred institution, the bastion of our tradition.

Print Friendly

Leave a Comment