The relevance of the chieftaincy institution in a democratic dispensation
By Kofi Mensah Adome
In attempt to deal with this subject, we need to subject the laws to vetting to have a clear understanding of the issues.
Article 270(1), the institution of chieftaincy, together with its traditional councils as established of customary law and usage, is hereby granted.
Article 11 (3) for the purpose of this article, customary law means the rules of law which by custom are applicable to a particular community in Ghana.
Article 276 (1), a chief shall not take part in active party politics; and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin.
What we seek to understand is “why a chief shall not take part in party politics.”
On the basis of Article 11 (3) customary laws are limited to a particular community.
In Ghana, how do these reports reflect the generality of laws of the land which warrant a chief being limited to a parliamentary status?
Subject to article 55 (2), every citizen of Ghana of voting age has the right to join a political party.
Again, Article 62, a person shall not be qualifier for elections as president of Ghana unless (a)he is a citizen of Ghana by birth; (b). He has attained the age of forty years; and (c)he is a person who is otherwise qualifier to be elected member of parliament, except that the disqualifications set out in paragraph (c), (d) and (e) of clause 2 of article 94 of the constitution shall not be removed in respect of any such person, by a presidential pardon or by the lapse of time as provided for in clause 5 of that article.
Article 94 (5), a person shall not be taken to be disqualified to be a member of parliament under paragraph (c) or (d) of clause 2 of this article 1 (f).
(a) Ten years or more have passed since the end of the sentence or the date of the publications of the report of the commission or committee of inquiry; or he has been pardon.
(b)Finally, article 94 (1) subject to the provision of this article, a person shall not be qualified to be a member of parliament unless (a)he is a citizen of Ghana, has attained the age of twenty one years and is a registered voter;
(b) He has a resident in the constituency for which he stands as a candidate for election to parliament or has resided there for a total period of not less than five years out of the ten years immediately preceding the election for which he stands, or hails from that constituency ; and
(c) he has paid all his taxes or made arrangement satisfactory to the appropriate authority for the payment of his taxes.
(e) Of clause 2 is under sentence of death or either sentence of imprisonment imposed on him by any court.
Now, it is abundantly clear that, chiefs can get to parliament and to the highest office of the land with reference to the laws, thus, should customary laws in one geographical area grant them the right to do so without recourse to their stool or skin in relation to article 276 (1).
The care of human life and happiness is the only legitimate object of good government. It is regrettable to allow such an important institution with all its rich values and human resources to be washed away with a law-to restrain an institution which have proven positive in their endeavors over the years.
Our chiefs are the custodians of the land and they should not be crucified whilst their subjects wallow in poverty and ignorance chiefs are citizens of Ghana and by the requirements they have the qualification except that, they are being discriminated against.
If article 62 (c) opens the window in relation to article 276 (1) can again, restrain the chief getting involved in active party politics.
Taking the laws in totality, it is common knowledge that the country is having a set of laws for one institution and other sets of laws for the other groups but the question is, how the two impact on the governance of the country is what one needs to look out for.
While the institution of chieftaincy is under the wings of the ministry of local government and rural development and the ministry of chieftaincy and culture ruining alongside the District Assembly concept or on the other hand, the decentralization policy, one wonders how the chieftaincy institution strives in this direction and what it must achieve.
This is an institution running its own administration without clear rules or mandate to the people of Ghana. On the other hand, if the mandate is to enforce article 11(3) of the 1992 Constitution, this will be in conflict with the spirit of the constitution
Whereas the function spell out in relation to article 272 (a), (b), (c), (d) are
issues relating to only the chieftaincy institution yet, the ministry for chieftaincy and culture, chiefs are seeking a second chamber be established in parliament where they will have the right to advance their views in the face of their constitutional duties.
The church have taken a center stage in the scheme of things, education, health and other social services which give the church great influence over and above many of our institution, in situation where customary laws have little room to operate, how can on reconcile issues of the church in relation to the customary laws?
We are not smooth sailing as a country unless we spell out our priorities to bring to bear justice and freedom, rights, obligations and duties imposed on us as citizens without recourse to discrimination.
Our democracy looks undemocratic should this system prevail, as our constitution has created room for the institution in the face of a decentralized system of government where the district or municipal assemblies are the stakeholders.
In which case the expenditure on the chieftaincy institution should impact directly on the citizens, if any.
While we have very critical issues to be dealing with in the area of chieftaincy, one wonders how laws can be promulgated to give right to homosexuality which had not been part of the constitution.
This means, the $2.7 which later balloon to $6.3 million extended to the Constitutional Review Committee have not achieved the needed results.
The country cannot endeavor having two governing bodies running one country, that is the truth. Two captains cannot be in one ship.
To realize the impact of the relevance of the chieftaincy institution in the Democratic dispensation in the 21st century, we recommend the establishment of the commission on chieftaincy, which must have a clearer spectacle to shed light on this all-embracing institution.
The commission on chieftaincy will be able to identifier and deal with the many problems bedeviling the institution and position it in a way that it can support government efforts notwithstanding customary laws, issues relating to land and chieftaincy disputes which creates differences, loss of property and life amongst families and tribes, where women and children lost out in the end result.
We have situations where some chiefs will want to champion the cause of development and they impose levies on their subject.
A case study in Vane-Avatime in the Volta Region of Ghana for instance- the Vane Citizens Association and the chiefs use Easter celebrations to raise funds and levies for development, over the years no one have accounted for and how much have been received from the citizens of the town.
These levies are collected even if one passes on, the family of the dead are ask to pay all outstanding arrears including those of the family members before the departed is allowed to be laid to rest, on occasions where one want to perform any rites, one is under the obligations to settle all outstanding levies in arrears.
After the Easter celebrations, the town splits into two with one falls under the paramountcy and the other under the chief of the town. They continue with the collection of these levies from the bereft families as and when the need arises. These are some customary laws under article 11(3) of the 1992 constitution, more so, how united are we under these customary law as a republic in the democratic dispensation?
Similarly, article 174 (1), no taxation shall be imposed otherwise than by or under the authority of an Act of Parliament. We have some customs which permit for the removal of the clitoris of females (Female Genital Mutilation) and force marriage, what advice have the House of Chiefs tabled in this direction? “Life is a transition; living in the past is ignorance.”
As it is now, Ghanaians are serving two masters which should not be the case and we are paying dearly for it. The chiefs were the custodian of the land, before independence chieftaincy played a very important role in the governance of this country, today they have been held hostage, meanwhile, the chiefs and the politicians who should govern Ghana, which of them can turn the wheel of fortune for the country?
1Samuel Chapter 20 vrs 30-31Sual’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him “you son of a perverse rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to you own shame and to the shame of your mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die.”
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