(2007) JLP 55: 123-161
In Ghana a large proportion of the land is vested in ‘stools’ (customary communities). The current Constitution recognises the traditional authorities as custodians of this land, and customary law as the regulating order. In the Ashanti Region it is the chiefs who are caretakers of the customary lands. Peri-urban areas, such as peri-urban Kumasi, are arenas of severe struggles over land between chiefs, local government and community members and families. These actors are all trying to manage the rising demand for residential land, attempting either to profit from conversions of agricultural to residential land or to resist the demand and hold on to their farmland. Chiefs are often the main beneficiaries of land conversions, although they are customarily and constitutionally obliged to administer land in the interest of the whole community.
This paper reports on research into the little-studied question of popular perceptions of chiefs and chiefly rule. It finds that in the study area there is support for chieftaincy, but that this is not based on high satisfaction with the way chiefs perform their tasks. The reasons are rather found in common perceptions that chieftaincy is essential to the culture and to the identity of the communities. People can simultaneously support the institution of chieftaincy and be highly critical of the performance of certain chiefs or certain tasks.