Participation of chiefs in decentralised local governance in Ghana

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Emmanuel Debrah


This article examines the lack of participation of chiefs in Ghana’s decentralised local governance. After analysing data from interviews with 280 respondents, personal observations and relevant literature, the study found that chiefs are core members of neither Ghana’s district assemblies (DAs) nor their subsidiary structures, and have no formal role in local development. Chiefs’ formal exclusion from the current local government system has been attributed to the idea that the chieftaincy institution is at variance with democratic decentralisation. Also, the protracted communal conflicts that have devastated many communities, and the disputes, accusations of fraud and litigation which have characterised land sales and acquisitions in the country, have their roots in chieftaincy rivalries. Nevertheless, given that chieftaincy is entrenched in Ghanaian society, chiefs’ closeness and familiarity with rural people in their area, and their cooperation with DA members to aid the performance of the DAs (albeit with some challenges), the study concludes there is a need to re-examine the current decentralisation policy to enable chiefs’ participation. Options proposed include reserving for chiefs the 30% of DA seats currently nominated by the president; appointing paramount chiefs as ceremonial heads of the DAs with the right of address; or ceding some of the non-representation functions of elected DA members to chiefs in order to support local democracy and development.

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How to Cite
Debrah, E. (2022). Participation of chiefs in decentralised local governance in Ghana. Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, (26), 53-73.
Research and Evaluation (peer-reviewed)