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CARVING AN HONOURABLE AND DIGNIFIED ROLE FOR CHIEFS IN GHANA’S LOCAL GOVERNANCE: A PROPOSAL.

6 November 2021

Chiefs play a pivotal role in the life of Ghanaian communities. Every post-colonial constitutional arrangement has therefore attempted to define a functional position and role for chiefs in local governance, that accords with their honor and dignity. Ghana’s 1992 Fourth Republican constitution is not an exception. Like the 1969 and the 1979 constitutions before it, the 1992 constitution of Ghana guarantees the institution of chieftaincy and insulates it against interference and manipulation by elected governments. The constitution also identifies chiefs as one of the key stakeholders to be consulted by the central government in the appointment of not less than 30 percent of assembly members. Chiefs nonetheless consider themselves marginalized and excluded from the governance architecture of Ghana’s Fourth Republic. Therefore, at this particular moment and momentum when IDEG’s advocacy for multi-party local governance has captured sustained attention of government and the public, the issue of position and role of chiefs once again must take center stage.

The Fourth Republican Constitution And Position of Chiefs. 

The 1992 Constitution, following the 1969 and the 1979 constitutions guarantees the institution of Chieftaincy and preserves the National House of Chiefs, the Regional Houses of Chiefs and Traditional Councils and their roles and functions. The Constitution further allocates a number of roles to Chiefs at the national level. 

The President of the National House of Chiefs is a member of the Council of State whose main role is to provide advice to the President. The Constitution also provides for a representative of the National House of Chiefs to be appointed to the Lands Commission and another to the Judicial Council. Every Regional Coordinating Council must also have two members from the Regional House of Chiefs. Things are very different at the local government level. The 1992 constitution does not provide for chiefs to be made automatic members of the District Assemblies. Instead, the constitution requires the President to consult traditional authorities when appointing not less than 30 percent of assembly members. Article 242 (d).

This constitutes a sharp reversal of a provision in the 1969 constitution which restored the pre-independence policy of reserving one third of local council seats to chiefs. The general complaint of most chiefs of today is that even the consultation in the appointment of the 30 percent of assembly members has been largely ignored. This constitutes part of the persistent complaints about exclusion and marginalization of traditional rulers from the governance arrangements of Ghana’s Fourth Republic. Their involvement in governance has been largely reduced to tokenism and symbolism. Article 276 prohibits chiefs from taking part in active partisan politics. 

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