A meeting of about 50 traditional rulers, academics and civil society experts to evaluate the chieftaincy institution over the past 50 years and its relevance to the future development of the country began in Accra yesterday.
The two-day conference has the theme 'Ghana @ 50 — Resolving the duality in governance — The future of the chieftaincy institution.
It was organised jointly by the Nana Kobina Nketsia IV, Trust and Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Development, both local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dedicated to the promotion of traditional governance systems.
It was sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German political NGO.
Delivering the keynote address, Professor Daniel Adzei Bekoe, Chairman of the Council of State, said since the colonial era, Ghana had been running a dual governance system where a modern or formal governance system has been superimposed on a traditional or informal system.
Presenting an overview of the institution, Prof. Bekoe said chieftaincy had evolved from instruments of the colonial government to govern communities in the interest of the colonial authorities to being relegated to the status of custodians of the traditions and customs of their people in the post colonial era.
He noted that in spite of the adoption of western model governance systems, chiefs still play important roles in local governance and development 'as mediators, drivers of education and social development.'
He noted however, that the role of the traditional rulers in the local government system was quite limited, citing the law forbidding traditional rulers from active participation in party politics to buttress his point.
Prof. Bekoe also noted that though there have been official statements on the indispensability of traditional authorities in promoting peace and development, 'there has not been sufficient policy environment to support traditional authorities to play a meaningful role in the local governance system.'
'For example, under the 1992 Constitution and the Local Government Act, there is no provision for the automatic membership of chiefs on the district assemblies.
'This lack of institutional representation has diminished the influence of the traditional authorities at the district assembly level and negatively affected their capacity to lead the processes or enhancing the participation of the rural poor in local development,' he said.
Prof. Bekoe tasked traditional authorities to reform their colonial tendencies and be proactive in addressing the development needs of their people rather than 'lording it over them.'
He also called for a review of Ghana’s decentralisation to remove the ambiguities that make it difficult for the traditional authorities to be mainstreamed into the formal local governance system.