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05.12.2005 General News

Chiefs to help in administration of justice?

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Kumasi, Dec 5, GNA - The Judicial Service is initiating a reform programme to improve the customary adjudication capacity of chiefs in order to involve them in the administration of justice at the community level.

The programme, which is being funded by the World Bank and the GTZ of Germany, would also determine the extent to which the country can incorporate chiefs and other traditional leaders in the administration of justice and in so doing, prepare the ground for formal recognition and incorporation of such responsibilities and assignments into the judicial system.

The programme also aimed at reconciling traditional and modern jurisprudence in the overall administration of justice in the country, the Chief Justice, Mr Justice George Kingsley Acquah, has said. He was speaking at a forum of the Judicial Service, World Bank and the National House of Chiefs (NHC) in Kumasi on Monday. The two-day forum, which is under the theme: "Extending the Reach of the Judicial Service through Strengthening the Adjudication Capacity of Traditional Rulers", aimed at offering the chiefs the opportunity to share their vision and ideas on how the initiative could successfully be implemented in the country.

Mr Justice Acquah said chieftaincy was a potent traditional institution that could play a major role in the peace and development of the nation.

He said chieftaincy was now confronted by growing political and social consciousness of the people and it was time to bring the institution in line with the modern norms and practices of the judicial system, which was meaningful, effective and relevant to modern day judicial administration.

The Chief Justice said by strengthening the capacity of chiefs in the adjudication and governance at the community level, the country would eventually reach a point in the administration of justice, which would see the formal incorporation of these roles and responsibilities into modern system of judicial administration and the dispensation of justice in the country.

He said improvement in access to justice was one of the key areas identified in the judicial reform programme and hoped the incorporation of chiefs in the administration of justice would help bring justice to the doorsteps of the people.

Mr Roberto Danido, Senior Vice-President of the World Bank, said access to justice played a crucial role in reducing poverty, ensuring rule of law and enhanced democracy.

He said customary laws played significant roles in shaping the behaviours of the people and hope the involvement of traditional rulers in the justice delivery system would help improve access to justice in all corners of the country.

Mr Mats Karlsson, World Bank Country Director in Ghana lauded the rich and abundant social capital in Ghana.

He said such a resource together with sound economic management would help propel the nation into prosperity, adding that the country's development partners were optimistic about its future. Mr Sampson Kwaku Boafo, Ashanti Regional Minister, said chiefs had a crucial role in dispute resolution and appealed to the House to help resolve the numerous chieftaincy and land disputes in the country. Mr Boafo also urged the chiefs to be circumspect in the sale of land, adding that they should create land banks to provide readily available land for local and foreign investments.

Odeneho Gyapong Ababio, President of the NHC, said the art of reconciling applied customary laws and modern jurisprudence called for a series of learning activities not just for the chiefs but also the judiciary.

This, he said, was the only way that a better understanding and consensus could be reached in fashioning out a modern judicial system, which would incorporate the customary law and traditional practices. Odeneho Ababio said the chiefs were ready to co-operate with the judiciary as well as the development partners to establish a judicial system that would recognise local circumstances, accepted and complied with by all.