03.05.2020 Feature Article

Resolving The Akuapem Chieftaincy Dispute

Resolving The Akuapem Chieftaincy Dispute
03.05.2020 LISTEN

First, I am not from Akuapem but from Anlo where we have the protracted Awoamefia dispute which is still in the courts, thanks to the abysmal failures of the VR House of Chiefs to act honourably and the ordinary courts shameful dilly-dallying due to political chicanery and arm-twisting too. I am therefore interested in how chieftaincy disputes are handled in Ghana in general, as I have a vested interest in the Anlo case due to family background and as a student of political governance systems.

Secondly, I congratulate the ER House of Chiefs for reaching what is clearly a very sound and correct judgement. They have performed far much better than the moribund VR House of Chiefs. With the creation of the Oti Region from the Volta Region, I hope they gather a new sense of purpose to contribute to resolving not only chieftaincy disputes in the VR but also the development of the VR which is now linguistically more unified, as even all the members of the Central Togo tribes states remaining within it can speak Ewe and are very much intermarried with Ewes.

However, I am sorely disappointed that it took them a whole three years before reaching such a simple judgement based on the traditions of Akuapem. That case should not have taken more than a month to decide on. The dictum that justice delayed is justice denied has no meaning for the judges, lawyers and legal system in Ghana, a country of developing people not yet classified as civilised in which suspects are kept in jail for up to over ten years without being tried and found guilty! Damn! The Houses of Chiefs and the ordinary courts of the land have thus become major tools of fostering and prolonging chieftaincy disputes in the country and something needs to be done about this asap. Really, really pathetic and unacceptable!

Thirdly, I am very disappointed with the position of the spokesperson of the Abrewatia of Sakyiabea Royal Gate of Akuapem, Ohene Nana Bennet Smith Opoku, for saying they could go ahead with the installation of the new chief without going through the Queenmother.


Such an action is just as lawless and against the traditions of Akuapem as what the Queenmother did in the first place. It may succeed in the past when Akuapem was independent but may not under the modern laws of Ghana with an appeal system to the Houses of Chiefs and the ordinary courts. Even if the opponents did not resort to an injunction, it’d leave intractable bad feelings which will plague the rule of the new chief. What is supposed to be done was clearly spelt out by the ER House of Chiefs. Not following those procedures to install a new chief will make anyone installed illegitimate as well. I understand they had already done that, without waiting the next day for the Queenmother to receive them. Too bad!

In any case, was it the Asonahene that went to the Queenmother or representatives of the Abrewatia? The procedure is that the Abrewatia should give the name of the nominee to the Asonahene who then presents it to the Queenmother. If that is not what was about to be done before the Okuapehemaa claimed she was asleep, then they have also behaved illegally by breaching customs and traditions, regardless of the fact that they were in the majority. In any case, even if they had followed the procedure and it was the Asonahene who went to present the nominee’s name, a wait to see the Okuapehemaa next day would still have been necessary. Plenty of drinks, foodstuffs, appellations to recognise her and some money to greet her in these days of coronavirus and self-isolation would have melted her heart and create the basis for a cordial and peaceful resolution of the dispute. Now, they have blown it and created a new crisis! Very disappointing!

Way back in the 1990s, before I dropped out, a Sudanese researcher who graced our State Formation and Building Seminar group expounded on how African traditional systems are actually consociational, more than consensual democracy. He gave an example of how when the British took over Sudan and were establishing their indirect rule system they merged two kingdoms which were formerly independent of each other. They tried to make the king of the bigger kingdom the leader of the new unit but the smaller kingdom chiefs and people objected and insisted vehemently that an election must be held, with the sub-chiefs as the electoral college. The British, used to their majority carries the vote system, thought it'd be a ridiculous waste of time but were forced to agree, as, after all, no harm was expected by humouring the supposed idiosyncrasy of “savage” Africans anyway. The election was held and the candidate of the bigger kingdom with more chiefs expectantly won. However, he ruled badly, followed by his son who also ruled badly. On the third occasion when the son died, the sub-chiefs of the bigger kingdom voted overwhelming for the candidate of the smaller kingdom, whose conduct was above reproach, as they primed themselves for the next election and endeavoured to rule their part of the kingdom well. He ruled so well that his son was also voted to become chief after his death. Majority of ethnicity or group did not count, something else did: an intangible idea or principle.

In this case, they did not establish a rotation to gate system but a democratic field comprising both ruling houses are presented each time a vacancy occurs. The initial principle established which the British failed to understand is consociationialism, a governance system adopted by different conflicting interests or groups which otherwise would have been irreconcilable.

Now, if we take the history of Akuapem into account, it'd become clear why the ancestors of the Akuapems of today, comprising the original Guans and the Akyems they asked for help to fight off the marauding Akwamus, devised the system of choosing a new Okuapehene from the Akyems who assumed that role for helping the Guans. By not following the procedures, all the parties in the dispute are upsetting a time honoured principle which bide the people together, achieve consensus and gain the approval of all. Yes, even if it appears idiosyncratic to some today, rituals, mores and symbols are important in system maintenance. That's why I am very much disappointed with the faction led by the Abrewatia not following the traditional procedures too, after winning the case.

Shame on the miseducated big shots and midgets alike behind their decisions and penultimate actions. They should quickly go back to the drawing board and do the right thing. If we must continue to maintain chieftaincy as part of our governance system, then advocates of chieftaincy must learn to respect and obey one of the very reasons they often give for maintaining what many see as an archaic anachronism, that is, it serves as the custodian of our culture and traditions. If they cannot, then we can pack what is left of the much debased institution in the museums and archives and study it from there if the need arises. It is possible to design a new governance system with their relics as we forge ahead in the post-coronavirus and Pax Americana and new king in town China era. We cannot afford to be bogged down by endless chieftaincy disputes.

Andy C.Y. Kwawukume
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