When will one breathe a sigh of relief when finally there is news of the Berekum chieftaincy dispute resolved? The case has been heard in court so many times since the last 13 years without the dispute being resolved. On 19th February, 2013 some citizens of Berekum, went to the House of Chiefs in Sunyani to listen to the court proceedings in anticipation of hearing a judgment pronounced or at least an indication that the case is reaching a conclusive end.
They were however shocked, disappointed and sad to hear that one of the Judicial Council Members who is also a chief, did not show up so the case was adjourned to April 3 and 4th. The announcement came after the citizens had waited from 9am until 2pm. There were professionals such as Medical Practitioners, Farmers, Traders, Teachers and other Public service workers who had left their jobs to attend the court hearing. Could the Chief not have called to inform earlier of his inability to be present at the hearing so the citizens could go back to their work places on time? This has been the trend since the Berekum Chieftaincy dispute went to court over four years ago.
Many questions are being asked and the citizens of Berekum need answers from the Chiefs: Are the Chiefs happy about the deteriorated state of affairs of Berekum since the last 13 years? Are they happy about under-development and indiscipline in the Berekum Municipality in the absence of a recognized chief? Are they happy to bring professionals to Sunyani each time and adjourn the case with flimsy excuses? Are they aware that their actions are contributing to financial losses to the state? The irony is that most of the lawyers and Chiefs on the Berekum Chieftaincy dispute are from the Brong Ahafo region and know very well the implications the conflict has on the development of the Brong Ahafo region and Ghana generally. They have forgotten that as much as the wider society will be feeling the effect of their actions, somewhere in the society, are their families and friends who will be suffering the same consequences.
It is believed that politicians are also influencing the resolution of the conflict. It cannot be disputed that politics and chieftaincy have had a form of marriage since pre-colonial times and indeed most of the political elites that emerged after independence were royals. We can only hope that politicians acknowledge the importance and the benefits of not meddling in chieftaincy affairs. As stated by Johannes (2011) if the population doesn’t accept a chief, not even the various courts, and the politicians can change the situation.
Many cases are reported of the deteriorating situation in the Berekum township: girls offering themselves nude for photographs to be taken for pornography on the internet and other commercial purposes, young men and women are indulging in drug abuse, many school children are failing their BECE examinations due to lack of discipline and checks and balances. The once beautiful layout of Berekum township is now dotted with all kinds of structures which make it difficult for people to drive to their homes. In times of fire outbreak, one wonders what will happen to the whole town as the Fire Servicemen cannot gain access to many houses in the town.
The ambiguity of the role of chiefs and the lack of laid down succession rules governing different stools can among many factors be cited as some examples that have contributed to this situation. The President, H.E John Dramani Mahama, in 2012 expressed his frustration at the alarming rate of chieftaincy disputes in the country. It is imperative to note that as much as these disputes are localised they affect all areas of our national development and therefore, chieftaincy cannot not be said to be mutually exclusive of our national issues. The report of the National House of Chiefs conference on sources and resolution of chieftaincy conflict (2011) stated that the inclusion and co-existence of traditional chieftaincy system inside and next to the post-colonial state contributes to Ghana’s stability and success. The President noted that these chieftaincy disputes can only be settled amicably by the chiefs themselves. As much as we have tended to confide in the judicial system to dispense justice, one can even be permitted to exaggerate that the chieftaincy apparatus is or was bigger than the judicial system. Gone are the pre-colonial and even a substantial part of the post colonial days when people quaked and shivered when they were brought before their traditional rulers. Majority of Ghanaians at the time were convinced that the traditional judiciary system was indeed incorruptible and impartial.
The situation in the Berekum is counterproductive and all loving people of Ghana should help the good people of Berekum to appeal to the litigants of the Royal families to settle the dispute amicably with dispatch. We are also appealing to the Honourable Minister of Chieftaincy Affairs to lead a crusade against chieftaincy disputes in Ghana for selfish gains and politicization of traditional leadership.
We call on the Judicial Committee of the Brong Ahafo Regional House of Chiefs, to dispense justice speedily irrespective of where their allegiance is in the matter. We need this judgment passed within the next few months in 2013 so that Berekum citizens can have the appropriate leadership to channel their development issues for a brighter future for the Berekum citizenry.
It is encouraging to know that the various media houses have promised to do away with propaganda on their different airwaves and propagate the good news about the issue. The pressure groups have agreed to meet more frequently and monitor closely the proceedings. Mothers and fathers are being educated to advise their ignorant children on how to stay away from the violence associated with the dispute.
By the Berekum Peace Committee