THE GOVERNMENT is currently considering a new chieftaincy bill which seeks to restore the power of chiefs in settling disputes by customary arbitration.
The bill, which has already been gazetted and currently before parliament, would enable traditional authorities contribute to the development of customary law by the manner in which they would enforce social justice, values and virtues.
The bill reads that “the power of a chief to act as an arbitrator under customary arbitration in any dispute where the parties consent to the arbitration is guaranteed subject to relevant provisions of the legislation on an alternative dispute resolution.”
Speaking on the topic “General role of traditional authorities in the development of customary law” at a forum for judges and magistrates in Accra, Justice S.A. Brobbey of the Supreme Court observed that in both the old and new laws, the power to settle disputes was assigned specifically to chiefs.
He explained customary arbitration as a system whereby chiefs settle disputes among people living in a traditional area.
The system, according to him, is adjudicatory in nature because the chiefs analyze the issues raised by the dispute and hand down decisions to parties after due investigations have been conducted, just as the court does.
Talking about gender balance, he said the traditional authorities have much to show by way of social justice when it comes to installation of chiefs.
He indicated that for many years, customary law allowed women to be installed as chiefs as well as queenmothers or sometimes both at the same time.
He gave instances where two queenmothers, Nana Afia Dokua and Nana Juabeng Serwah were installed chiefs of Akim Abuakwa and Asante Juabeng respectively.
Dr. H.S Daanaa, legal anthropologist and principal research officer of the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture on his part, talked about the constitutional obligation of the National House of Chiefs on codification.
Stressing mostly on some problems the House of Chiefs faces on codification of customary laws, Dr. Daanaa said due to change of governments, there has not been any consistent or sustained programme or policy pursued by successive governments since when they come to power, they adopt some of the programmes and abandon others.
“Also because of bitter feuding and conflict between parties to chieftaincy disputes in some traditional areas, it is hard if not impossible to administer research questionnaires in a manner which facilitates openness, fairness and certainty.”
He noted that key persons who may have to participate in discussions were themselves unable to sit down together and dialogue with one another so that the bare facts of history may be established as common knowledge.
He was however optimistic that if the problem was addressed, it would pave the way for easy codification of the law.