The role of the Manhyia Palace in traditional land resource conflict management in Kumasi, Ghana.

Author:Diawuo, Francis


Natural resource utilisation is being recognised both in terms of the socio-economic benefits and in terms of their contribution to other aspects of human well-being, through direct and indirect use. By implication, a community's or an individual's access to natural resources often determines their wealth and status in the world economic system. Natural resources can be categorised as land, water bodies, oil and gas, timber and other minerals (such as gold, diamond, manganese, copper, bauxite, etc.) among others. The World Bank for that matter has affirmed water, air, land, forest, fish and wildlife, topsoil, and minerals as natural resources useful to the human survival (United States Institute of Peace (USIP), 2007), indicating the value of land not only at the individual levels (such as for livelihood), but also at the national levels for the growth of the national economy (such as mineral resources found on and beneath the land). Hence, land resource is the focus of this study.

According to Dale and McLaughlin (2003), land is defined to include the surface of the earth, the materials beneath, the air above and all things fixed to the soil. It is also defined to comprise not only the land itself, but also things on the soil, which are enjoyed as naturally belonging to the land, such as rivers, streams, lakes, lagoons, woods and wild vegetable (Mechthild, 1987). Specifically, Ollenu (1962) argued that, lands in Ghana are defined to include any estate or right in or over the land or over any of the things which land denotes, for example right to hunt, to collect snails and firewood, and other resources etc. Finite as it is, land is becoming increasingly a scarce resource because of the appropriation for personal, industrial or agricultural purposes coupled with the rapid population growth and environmental degradation. As a result, the possession of adequate land means access to many other resources, such as minerals, timber and animals with a high economic value (USIP, 2007).

Essentially, national economies depend on land as an input for growth and development. It is almost hackneyed to say that land is the greatest resource that society has. Therefore, access to land and secured land rights are instrumental to the socio-economic development of a village, town/city, or nation. This is why lands in Ghana have become a valuable asset passed down to future generations, hence it is a source of identify (UN-HABITAT, 2012). Many societies see land and identity in tandem where the history, culture and ancestors of communities are tied up in the land. Therefore, without land, a community may lose its classifiable identity due to its economic, social and emotional importance (ibid). Significantly, land is also an important source of power and authority. The United States Institute of Peace (2007) indicates that communities often have a strong authority, emotional and symbolic attachments to land and the resources on it. This typifies why competition for control of valuable lands, including issues of government authority and regulation, multiple sales of land, lack of proper documentation, encroachment etc. have eventually led to violent conflicts in many parts of the world.

Many conflicts in Ghana for instance, are land-induced conflicts. These conflicts emanate from the high demand for land, encroachments, the government's refusal to fulfil his institutional bargain process with local leaders, high illiteracy rate among traditional leaders, corruption, poor documentation etc. According to Acquah (2013), land clashes and litigations in Ghana have become rampant, causing troubles within and among families, communities and ethnic groups all over the country. He adds that the problems may be due to mismanagement and lack of education, delays in adjudicating land disputes in court, improper documentation, and lack of understanding between tenants and landowners or Chiefs (Acquah, 2013). However, while many of these lands-induced conflicts remain protracted in other regions, in the Ashanti region and Kumasi (1) to be precise, most of the conflicts are either resolved or sufficiently managed owing to the Otumfuo's (2) structures at the Manhyia Palace (3).

In the Kumasi Traditional Area, the majority of the land conflicts relating to traditional management had been resolved by the Otumfuo's structures (Aikins, 2012). The paper explores the role of the Otumfuo's Manhyia Palace in the traditional land conflict management in the Kumasi Traditional Area. The first part of the paper takes a brief review of literature on statutory and state land management systems in Ghana; customary land management systems and customary land tenure rights. The second part looks at land conflicts in Ghana, with specific reference to the Alavanyo/Nkonya, and Nawuri/Gonja land cases as protracted land resources conflicts in Ghana. Discussion of findings is treated in the final part of the paper along with the conclusion and recommendations.

Literature Review

Statutory and State Land Management System in Ghana

Using its power of eminent domain, the Government of Ghana has amassed considerable amounts of land in Ghana since colonial times under various enactments. The eminent domain used here refers to, "The power possessed by the state over all property within the state, specifically its power to appropriate private property for public use" (Larbi, 2008:1). Government has the right of compulsory land acquisition, with compensation, for the good of the public (Deininger, 2003). Such power, however, is not without controversy (Kotey, 2002). The exercise of the power of eminent domain has resulted in the state owning 20% of land in Ghana, while 2% is owned by the state and customary authorities in a form of partnership (split ownership) (Larbi, 2008).

The constitution of Ghana recognises the idea of trusteeship in land ownership by indicating that those with responsibility for managing land must act in the wider interests of their communities. Article 36 (8) of the 1992 constitution states: "the state shall recognise that ownership and possession of land carry a social obligation to serve the larger community and, in particular, the state shall recognise that the managers of public, stool, skin and family lands are fiduciaries charged with the obligation to discharge their functions for the benefit respectively of the people of Ghana of the stool, skin or family concerned, and are accountable as fiduciaries in this regard".

Furthermore, Article 257 (6) of the constitution provides that "every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon any land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water, courses throughout Ghana, the exclusive economic zone and any area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic of Ghana and shall be vested in the President on behalf of, and in trust for the people of Ghana".

Principally, it is worth noting that, with lands that have been compulsorily acquired, all previous interests is eliminated. Both the legal and beneficial titles and rights are vested in the President, and chunk sum compensation should, under the law, be paid to the expropriated victims. In the case of "vested land", the instruments create dual ownership where the legal title is transferred to the state, whilst the beneficial interests rest with the community (Kasanga & Kotey, 2001), i.e. split ownership (Larbi, 2008). Meanwhile, under the vested lands, the state does not pay compensation. Any income accruing however, is paid into the respective stool land account and is dispersed according to the constitutional sharing formula (Kasanga & Kotey, 2001). While Article 20 (1) provides that "no property of any description, or interest in or right over any property shall be compulsorily taken possession of or acquired by the State unless the taking of possession or acquisition is necessary in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning or the development or utilisation of property in such a manner as to promote the public benefit ' and the compulsory acquisition is made under a law which makes provision for the prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation " (Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992). Kotey (2002) argues that acquisition in the public interest could mean not only the acquisition by the government for public bodies and statutory corporations, but also for private companies and individuals for purposes, which, although they may contribute to public welfare, confer a direct benefit, including profit, on the user.

It is crucial to note that in theory when customary lands are vested the beneficial interests rest with the community whilst the legal estate is transferred to the President. However, in practice, both the beneficial interests and the legal domain are transferred to the President, who then passes the management functions to delegated authorities, including the Lands Commission and its Secretariats (Kasanga & Kotey, 2001). In such instances, the customary landholders are wholly stripped of their legitimate land management functions at the local level. This incidence can and normally becomes a stressor for land disputes and conflicts.

Customary Land Management System in Ghana

Land management under customary law is expressed in terms of rights established within a particular tradition of society. The land in many traditions is alleged to be an ancestral heritage with a spiritual affinity attached and which defines the identity of such society. Customary land tenure is simply defined as the set of rights in land that derive from customs or practices handed down from generation to generation (Paaga, 2013). More so, customary land tenure is believed to be a communal arrangement of land ownership where trustees on behalf of the whole community hold inalienable land rights.

According to Ollennu (1962:4), "Land belongs...

To continue reading