A GNA Feature by Richardson Baidoo
Takoradi Sept. 20, GNA --To the hard working and peace loving people of the Western Region, the most significant aspect of the just ended Homecoming Summit dubbed: "Nkabom Afahye" of the Region was the Unity Pact that was signed and ratified by all the 22 Paramount Chiefs in the Region.
Among the dignitaries who witnessed the historic occasion was President John Agyekum Kufuor, and the organisers must be congratulated for bringing the chiefs together in an effort to find lasting solution to the many protracted and energy sapping chieftaincy and land litigations on which much resources that could have gone into development projects had been wasted.
This effort can best be described as a giant step forward for the quest for peace and harmony, pre-requisite for sustained development in every society.
Institutions, like the Judicial Committees of the various Regional House of Chiefs, the Traditional Councils, the Courts and other Departments empowered to deal with chieftaincy and land litigations appear to be helpless in finding amicable settlement to such disputes. And so these institutions with inadequate resources reel under piles of hundreds of such cases, some of which had been pending for decades. Succeeding Governments, perhaps with the exception of the First Republic had treated chieftaincy and land litigations with utmost caution, lest they be accused of dabbling in these matters against provisions of the Constitution.
It is only after the situation had gone out of hand and precious lives lost and properties destroyed when such disputes turned violent that the Government steps in, sometimes rather too late.
It behoves therefore, on all well-meaning citizens of the Region, and indeed all residents to embrace the idea of peaceful co-existence and give it their maximum support to achieve the laudable objectives aimed at accelerated development.
Ironically, chieftaincy, a unique and revered institution, which is the custodian of traditional norms and values that had stood the test of time, has been identified as the major cause of many violent conflicts in our time.
Some communities are so much polarised and waste too much resources on such disputes to the extent that one may be tempted to question the relevance of chieftaincy, supposed to be the unifying body for the people, in a modern society.
The Wassa West District Assembly in the Western region had to channel a chunk of its 2003/04 revenue into peacekeeping operations and the provision of security to hundreds of "refugees" who had to flee their homes in the wake of violent chieftaincy conflicts.
And this is only one example of how the government and many traditional areas in the Region continue to dissipate their energies and waste resources on unnecessary chieftaincy and land disputes to the detriment of the people's well-being.
As a human institution, chieftaincy cannot be perfect at all times, but when it continues to be the cause for strife that aggravates the poverty, misery and agony of its own subjects, then some people have the right to question its relevance in a modern society.
In spite of these, one cannot lose sight of the fact that a few of our chiefs have proved to be dynamic, and striving hard to be at the forefront of development, perhaps to protect and maintain the image of the once respected institutions.
A journey of thousand kilometres, it is said, begins with a step, and the Nkabom Afahye is one giant step in the right direction to achieve peace and harmony for the Region, which is undisputedly the richest in human and natural resources but ironically among the least developed in terms of the provision of infrastructure.
Surely, the Nkabom Afahye, which would be a biennial affair, and also demonstrate the unique oneness in cultural diversity of the Region, had undoubtedly provided the needed forum for the chiefs to think more seriously about peace and unity in relation to the human and resource development for the overall progress of the Region.
The next step to achieve peace particularly in the communities would be how to reconcile present occupants of stools and those challenging their legitimacy.
Land disputes and disputes among paramount chiefs if any at all, is not pronounced as disputes arising from misunderstanding between factions within one royal house over the legitimacy, nomination and installation procedures of some chiefs.
It is no secret that some Paramount and Divisional Chiefs could best be described as "absentee chiefs" because for obvious reasons, they cannot, and actually have not visited the paramountcy or the traditional capital for many years.
Those who decide to do so, go to their "ancestral homes" under heavily armed police and military escort for because of disputes.
It is in this connection that the idea to codify destoolment and ascension procedures to stools and skins, mooted by the Dormaa Traditional Council in Brong Ahafo more than a decade ago, must be pursued and made to work, since it is only when total peace had been achieved that the objective for quality education and employment for the youth and attraction for foreign investments would be enhanced.
By instituting the Nkabom Afahye, Western Region has laid a firm foundation for total peace among its people and it would require selflessness, tolerance and perseverance particularly on the part of the chiefs and political leadership to arrive at a logical conclusion.
And as the Regional Minister, Mr. Joseph Boahen Aidoo rightly said at the grand durbar to climax the Summit, "The pomp and pageantry that characterised the weeklong activity should not be used as a yardstick to conclude that the Nkabom Afahye has been a total success."
It is said that "the best always comes from the West" and chiefs in other strive torn areas in the country must take a cue.