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08.07.2005 Regional News

Educate public on negative effect of chieftaincy disputes


Accra, July 8, GNA - Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, Deputy Minister of Information on Friday called on the Regional Houses of Chiefs, Information Services Department and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to educate the public on the negative effect of chieftaincy disputes and the operations of land-guards. She said "chieftaincy is a sacred institution bestowed on us by our ancestors and that as custodians of our traditions, culture and values and as such chiefs are given much respect and dignity that they deserve. "Unfortunately, there are some chiefs who by some commissions bring this sacred institution into disrepute and ridicule culminating in several litigations and cases of chieftaincy disputes in the courts and the national and regional houses of chiefs."

Ms Botchway said this in a statement to Parliament on chieftaincy disputes, the indiscriminate sale of lands and the activities of land-guards.

"In many communities and towns, one finds that it has become impossible to install a chief for many years due to one dispute or the other.

The Deputy Minister said because the position of chief in Ghana is considered prestigious and in some cases is associated with wealth; many people aspire to the position.

"Unfortunately, sometimes, people of questionable character succeed in becoming chiefs and do not rule justly."

"Some chiefs, in pursuit of their selfish interests, have become the emblem of land litigation by indulging in indiscriminate sale of lands, forgetting that they are the custodians of the land and not owners."

Ms Botchway said these disputes and litigations plunge towns into chaos and stifle development and progress since certain projects and programmes cannot be carried out in an atmosphere of tension and hostility.

She said the livelihood of people in the affected areas, such as farming and other income generating activities are negatively impacted on by such disputes.

"Closely related to these conflicts and disputes is the criminal activities of land guards, which have reached an alarming level with some chiefs employing the services of boisterous and muscled young men as land guards to defend their interest."

She noted that at certain places rival claimants engage their won land guards to protect the same piece of land and when the guards clash, there is mayhem and massive destruction.

The Deputy Minister said the youth are increasingly finding this profession as a quick source of making money with some using firearms in terrorising, harassing and intimidating law-abiding citizens. Ms Botchway cited an example of a chieftaincy conflict between two factions at Tetegu on April 1, this year, which has left more than 2,000 people displaced and 120 houses belonging to members of the feuding factions set ablaze.

"Many of the residents, especially women and children, sustained gunshot wounds and many others have fled the village and eight electricity poles, which I provided for an electrification project were also destroyed."

She said in the clashes at Tetegu and Bortianor some of the weapons used were not locally made, which poses a serious threat not only to the inhabitants of the areas but national security as whole.

"That is why the Ghana Police Service must be encouraged to mount an all-out war against the operations of land-guards and the individuals who hire them."

Ms Botchway said another issue of concern is the encroachment of land earmarked for social purposes such as schools, clinics and even cemeteries, which are sometimes done with connivance of the traditional rulers.

"In my constituency there are reports of graves being desecrated and the parcels of land being prepared for sale for construction purposes."

She said the indiscriminate sale of lands has resulted in some communities, particularly the newly developing ones not having such vital social amenities as such schools, clinics, markets, police stations and recreational grounds even when provision has been made for them in their plans.

"It is very sad to state that these acts of vandalism, atrocities, wanton destruction of properties, arson and killings emanating from these disputes affect the vulnerable in society - women and children greatest."

"Their husbands are either killed or run away while the women and children become the victims and live in abject poverty, dejection and displaced."

The Deputy Minister advised the youth to desist from engaging in acts that are detrimental to their growth and development and should rather channel their energies into useful ventures since they are the future leaders.