Okyenhene Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin says there must be a deliberate attempt by governments to involve traditional authorities in legislative decisions in the various countries in the West African sub-region.
According to him, chieftaincy is the most decentralised institution in the ECOWAS sub-region.
He also noted that despite the enormous resources of the region, much attention has not been given to harnessing them for national and communal development.
This, he added, has resulted in populations in the sub region thrown into the abyss of mass poverty, hopelessness and degradation.
The Okyenhene made the call at the opening of the Consultative Meeting with Traditional and Religious Leaders on the ECOWAS Vision 2050 at Kyebi, in the Eastern Region.
He made reference to the myriads of challenges Africa faces, partly attributing the situation to the neglect of the chieftaincy institution and the denial of its legitimate place expected in the development of communities, especially the rural areas which account for 80 per cent of its population.
“It might be important to relate that the colonial era left certain birth marks on newly independent countries. The colonial system did not recognise the necessary and inseparable bond between culture and development,” he said.
“The chieftaincy institution is embedded in the psyche of our people. It has the respect, legitimacy and direct relation to their daily lives, materially and spiritually. Chieftaincy is the primary source of political socialisation that integrates all aspects of religious, economic, environment, traditional medicine, marriage, self-identity and public peace,” he added.
Colonial cultural yoke
The Okyenhene further noted that the socio-economic progress in Asia has come about as a result of the fact that economic programmes, technology, science and innovation are implemented within the cultural context of those societies.
“This situation accounts for the increasing economic strength of China. These include their customs, language and religious beliefs of the people,” he said.
He believes “chieftaincy is the melting ground and matrix of the aspiration, beliefs, mobilisation, motivation, social identity of our people and it is indispensable in any developmental effort to alleviate our people from poverty and destitution.”
“ECOWAS VISION 2050 looks at the sub-region in the next thirty years. Today must be a starting point of throwing away the colonial cultural yoke by ensuring a far reaching measure that will integrate chieftaincy into the governance process of all the fifteen member countries,” he added.
The Okyenhene pointed out that it is not enough that politicians troop to the palaces of traditional authorities when contesting elections.
“They must be forced to commit to institute legislative measures to ensure the inclusiveness of traditional actors at all levels of governance in the spirit of decentralisation and popular participation,” he maintained.
ECOWAS Vision 2050
Taking her turn, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration-designate, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, explained that ECOWAS Vision 2050 envisions a borderless, peaceful, prosperous, cohesive region, built on good governance, where the citizenry has the capacity to access and harness the region’s enormous resources.
She said the realisation of the vision depends, to a large extent, on local actions taken by community citizens with the support of traditional and religious leaders who are the custodians of societal norms.
“To effectively support these local actions, it is important to forge partnerships with relevant stakeholders, including Your Royal Majesties and our Eminent Religious Leaders in view of your extensive outreach and presence in the region.
“It is acknowledged that your views are highly respected, further underscoring the importance of your inclusion in this regional assignment to develop a dynamic and implementable ECOWAS Vision 2050,” she said.
Ms Botchwey was satisfied that the consultative meeting was taking commendable steps to correct this wrong impression about ECOWAS.
The ECOWAS Vision 2020 was adopted in June, 2007 by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS as the development blueprint for the transformation of West Africa into a borderless, peaceful and prosperous region by 2020.
It came to an end in December 2020, necessitating the development of a roadmap for the preparation of the Post-2020 Vision, now referred to as ECOWAS Vision 2050. The processes to fashion out the ECOWAS Vision 2050 commenced in January 2019, and the meeting is part of that ongoing process.