The Ancestral Spirits Whisper

One would breathe a sigh of relief when finally we hearing news of this chieftaincy bottleneck making some headway. Now the case has been adjourned to be reconvened on the 19th February, 2013. Fingers crossed we hope this time around justice is meted out speedily.

In hindsight we needn’t be in this position in the first place with our hands soiled with the dirt of our actions and inactions for almost over a decade now. Berekum’s situation is not peculiar but can only highlight the fact that, Ghana post-colonially has experienced lots of chieftaincy disputes in different jurisdictions. The ambiguity of the role of chiefs and the blurriness of the succession rules governing different stools can among many factors be cited as some examples that have contributed to this situation. Sutton (1984) also cites that one has the impression that the stool disputes became more prevalent in the colonial period and were exacerbated by the changing social and economic conditions. The then Vice president, 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 sectors and so 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 the Ghana’s stability and success. The vice president noted that these chieftaincy disputes can only be settled amicably by the chiefs themselves. As much 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. The little experience I had of their judiciary system convinced me that they were indeed incorruptible and impartial. But even for our long running local dispute there have been different allegations of corruption being peddled in the judicial process.


Reading the Purdue Peace Project (PPP) report , I was intrigued by the level of knowledge exuded by all the stakeholders involved in the development of Berekum, some of whom have sometimes have been wrongly perceived as illiterates. I believe the ancestral spirits are whispering into the ears of all the different players. They are whispering knowledge to the different civil society groups; direction for consensus building and peace to the different factions; and fairness and speed to the Panel sitting on the case. In the entire research it was evident from the assertions from most of the participants that they suspected some dirty game being  played by the lawyers of the of the factions to stall the process so to increase their financial gains. The irony of this, if it is true, is that most of these lawyers are from the area and have forgotten that as much as the wider society will be feeling the effect of their actions, somewhere in that society are their families and friends who will be suffering the same consequences. It was also clear that some believed politics was also influencing the resolution of the conflict. It cannot be disputed that politics and chieftaincy has had a form of marriage since pre-colonial times and indeed most of the political elites that emerged after independence were royals and even today we have the same situations lingering in the background. We can only hope that politicians acknowledge the importance and the benefits of not meddling with chieftaincy affairs. As stated by Johannes (2011) if the population doesn’t accept a chief, the various courts and I will add not even the politicians can change the situation.

I was mesmerised when I read that some people of different factions also held the notion that their ancestors will not be happy if they let go. One can only appreciate our level of superstition even in the 21st century and conclude that our age of enlightenment if not far, is a little bit far. Yes, our spiritual believes are still core to our humanity as Ghanaians and Africans but such notions which have the potential of being wired to the brain, if not dispelled through education, healthy debates and dialogues can seriously jeopardise the whole resolution process at which point no law or superhuman intervention can broker peace. It was encouraging to know the different media group have promised do away with propaganda on their different airwaves and propagate good news about the issue, the pressure groups have agreed to meet much frequently and monitor closely the proceedings, and most mothers will be educated to advise their ignorant children on how to stay away from the violence associated with or without the chieftaincy dispute.

‘The ancestral spirits huddle around a bonfire in the land of the unknown whispering peace and harmony’



Johannes, G (2011): Chieftaincy and development in Ghana: from Political Intermediaries to Neotraditional systems

National House of Chiefs (2011): Conference on sources and resolution of chieftaincy and land conflict in Ghana.

Purdue Peace Project (2012) : Berekum chieftaincy dispute resolution  

Sutton, S (1984): Law, Chieftaincy and Conflict in Colonial Ghana: The Ade case in African Affairs Vol 83. Oxford.

David Armah Mensah


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