Traditional leaders in the Talensi District have unveiled a new way of solving land-related disagreements, overthrowing the era of natives throwing spears, torching huts and firing arrows at one another to settle land disputes in that part of the Upper East region.
The Talensi Traditional Council and Customary Land Secretariat, where all conflicts relating to land in the area are expected to be resolved henceforth, was inaugurated last Friday amid firm calls from prominent figures to ensure that the ‘crude old way’ did not return. One thing the Head of the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands in the region, John Kwame Larri, did- which probably hammered the message home at the inaugural ceremony- was the emphasis he placed on the positive results the establishment of the Customary Land Secretariat (CLS) had yielded where else it had been accepted and supported to function as expected.
“From 2013 to the first quarter of this year, we have resolved 93 land disputes in the region. With these 93, 17 is coming from the Kusaug Traditional Area- that’s Bawku. Then, 5 is coming from the Bongo Customary Land Secretariat and 71 coming from the Navrongo Customary Land Secretariat.
“What it means is that if the CLSs were not there, these 93 cases would have resulted into maybe some deaths or some burning of houses. So, you see that the CLS is very important in our area and in our country,” Mr. Larri told the inauguration crowd at Tongo, the district capital.
The CLS, an initiative introduced by government in 2003 under the Land Administration Project (LAP), essentially seeks to settle land disputes through mediation and negotiation under the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and to keep accurate records of all land transactions.
Deputy Attorney-General cautions against Pitfalls
The ceremony evoked memories of the gory land disputes said to have rocked the Talensi Traditional Area as told to newsmen by the Chief of Baare, Naba Nyaakora Mantii, long before the CLS was introduced in the district.
“I will just mention a few and the most critical ones. I will mention [the] Gbani issue. That dispute [is among] the people of Gbani themselves. Other parties [are] claiming ownership especially at the mining area. We have not been able to resolve it. The case is now in court. It’s in court now. Then, Yameriga and Wologo. They even nearly went to war. We were able to resolve that one amicably.
“Another one was [among] Pwalugu, Balungu and Duni. We have been able to pass our judgment, our ruling. We’ve dealt with Winkogo-Pusu-Namongo. We gave our judgement. Winkogo wrote a petition back that they didn’t accept whatever judgement or ruling we gave. And you all heard of Tindongo-Namolgo one, where people lost their lives. To me, they (the land disputes) are serious. The Winkogo one for instance; you know we ruled in favour of Pusu Namongo. Then, Pusu Namongo gave a piece of land out to some US nationals who came in to put up a school. Then, the people of Winkogo went and stopped them, not to work. The Balungu one and Pwalugu the same. They nearly also went into a serious conflict,” the chief once said.
Probably guided by that history, the Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Joseph Dindiok Kpemka, who was among the public figures present, warned strongly against potential lapses that could upset the LAP and cause the ‘new way’ of resolving disputes to relapse into the gruesome ‘old way’.
“The Customary Land Secretariat will function. It will do its work. They will function within a certain remit of the law. They have their core mandate and functions they will carry out. But [in] the end, the state institutions and agencies ought to ensure that they liaise with this secretariat to ensure that, in registering land for developers, things are done in consultation with the traditional authorities to avoid multiple registrations at the Lands Commission. My caution is this: that we go beyond the inauguration of the traditional council and put in place all the necessary committees of the judicial council and get them gazetted appropriately so that reference can always be made to these when we have traditional issues to resolve,” Mr. Kpemka stressed.
Chief cites Confusion as Minister spots Corruption
The event, which also had in robust attendance all divisional chiefs in the area, traditional landowners (locally referred to as tindanas), religious leaders as well as officials from the land administration sector, saw the Paramount Chief of the area, Tong Raan Kugbbilsong Nanlebegtang, decry some attempts to create a chaotic public impression that there was an administrative separation between lands controlled by chiefs and those controlled by clans or tindanas.
The overlord, who is a member of the Council of State and until recently the lawmaker for the Talensi Constituency, affirmed that all lands belonging to clans or tindanas formed part of the Stool or Skin Lands, quoting some acts in several versions of the country’s constitution to back his points.
“There is confusion among Land Administration Professionals in this country as to what is a skin or a stool land. Some have sought to separate Clan and Tindana Lands from Skin or Stool Lands. This move is clearly against the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
“Article 295 (1) of the 1992 Constitution provides as follows: ‘Stool Land’ includes any land or interest in, or right over, any land controlled by a stool or skin, the head of a particular community or the captain of a company, for the benefit of the subjects of that stool or the members of that community or company. Section 18 of the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands Act, Act 481 of 1994 also carries the same message,” the Paramount Chief stated.
He also cited the Administration of Lands Act, 1962, Act 123 Section 31 to reinforce the earlier reference and urged the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources as well as the Ghana Land Administration Project to “include this definition of skin or stool land in any enactment that affects Customary Land Administration in Ghana and not to segregate them”.
Of deep concern also to the highly revered monarch was the replacement of the “family land” in the 1979 Constitution with the “captain of a company” in the 1992 Constitution.
“I would, therefore, call on you, Hon. Regional Minister, to convey to the President of the Republic of Ghana to amend the Article 295 (1) of the 1992 Constitution to include family land as it used to be in the 1979 Constitution of Ghana and was replaced with ‘the captain of a company’ in the 1992 Constitution. The provision in the 1979 Constitution at Article 213 (1) provides as follows- ‘stool land includes any land or interest in, or right over, any land controlled by a stool, the head of a particular community or a family for the benefit of subjects of that stool or the members of that community or family’,” he remarked, attracting a prompt answer from the Deputy Attorney-General who pledged (as the government’s legal adviser) to ensure the amendment proposed by the chief was effected.
Inaugurating the secretariat, the Upper East Regional Minister, Rockson Ayine Bukari, descended heavily on the Lands Commission and the Town and Country Planning for failing to pay some ‘remittances’ he said were due government.
“Land acquisition in Upper East is very serious. People are selling lands, bringing confusion. And the Town and Country Planning, the Lands Commission and Survey [Department], there are certain monies that should be paid direct to government. They have not done it to government. We are aware of that. We are very serious about it. You must change your attitude.
“I will not hide [it]. Those who are collecting these monies through the back door and not paying to government’s chests, you should advise yourselves. They are on the way coming to audit you. I must make sure everything is exposed and those affected [are] named and shamed. We need money to develop this country,” the minister boomed as an admiring crowd showered him with open applause.