Solve problems ahead of district elections… Kwesi Jonah tells chiefs
The Head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Ghana, Dr. Kwesi Jonah, has challenged chiefs to take up an active role in local governance, and help find solutions to major issues that are likely to hamper the smooth organisation of the 2010 district level elections.
According to him, though Section 57  of the Chieftaincy Act prohibits chiefs from taking part in active party politics, there was nothing in the constitution that prohibits chiefs from directly or indirectly from taking part in local government.
He drew the attention of the chiefs to issues of concern, such as the increase in the number of districts from one hundred and ten to one hundred and seventy, which to him, has its own attendant problems, and the huge numbers of Unit Committees.
In addition, he mentioned voter apathy that translates into low turn out, with a percentage of 44% in 2006, and restrictive campaign, as embedded in Act 473, restricts campaign platforms to only those organised by the Electoral Commission.
Concerning the issue of low participation, he noted: “many social categories, including chiefs, women, the aged/elderly, people with disability, youth and students, and civil society organisations among others, feel left out or not adequately participate in ministries, municipal, and district assembles.”
Dr. Jonah was speaking at workshop for members of the Volta Regional House of Chiefs, on “The Chieftaincy Act and Involvement of Chiefs in the District Level Elections” in Ho on Wednesday.
The programme, which was organised by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung [KAS], was the sixth in a series for Regional Houses of Chiefs throughout the country.
He said there was also the issue of re-alignment of electoral areas, whereby some districts have bigger electoral areas than others, while political apathy in non-functional sub-structures has brought about few or no candidates to contest for unit committee elections.
These, he pointed out, needed to be addressed with the support of chiefs in their various districts, since they fall within their major role of “guidance, counseling, encouragement, support and promotion of democracy and development at the local level.”
He continued that chiefs had to be actively engaged in all major issues in their districts, such as the appointment of District Chief Executives [DCEs], and ensure the accountability by DCEs to electorates and the assembly, as well as assembly members to constituents.
Also, he urged the chiefs to caution the government against the rapid increase in number of districts, and seek consultations with the Electoral Commission, and advise it on the re-alignment of electoral areas, adding, “you must advise and encourage your subjects to turn out in their numbers to vote; educate them to avoid election violence and insults in the district elections, and support independent campaign platforms to inject discipline.”
In an address by the Vice President of the National House of Chiefs, Awulae Attibrukusu III, he expressed joy that the chieftaincy institution in Ghana was protected even from the powers of Parliament, as compared to what pertains in other African countries.
He recalled that before promulgation of the 1992 Constitution, the Chieftaincy Act 1971, Act 370 though in existence, was not in conformity with the provisions of the institution of chieftaincy in the 1992 Constitution.
Thus, various consultations went on to present amendments of Act 370, and new areas were incorporated in conformity with the era of dynamism and improve democratic governance in Ghana, which culminated in the new Chieftaincy Act 2008, Act 759.
Hence, the workshop aimed at educating chiefs on the tenets of the new Act as the specific basic law on chieftaincy, and a tool for use in the adjudication of chieftaincy matters by the judicial committees, he said.
“One major amendment is the tenure of Office of the President and members of the National and Regional Houses of chiefs from three to four years, to be in conformity with the tenure of the Presidency, Parliament and the Council of State,” he added.
Another area of importance to the chief was the Act 30 on customary arbitration, which states that “the power of a chief to act as an arbitrator in customary arbitration in any dispute, where the parties consent to the arbitration, is guaranteed.”