Chiefs in Postcolonial Governance and Development in Africa: Issues and Options

Convener: Prof. Geoffrey I. Nwaka (Abia State Univeristy, Uturu, Nigeria);

A strong anti-chieftaincy lobby in Africa maintains that traditional rulers have now outlived their usefulness, and are no longer relevant to modern day society; that such traditional institutions are incompatible with democratic practice, and could in fact reinforce ethnic differences, and undermine nation building. On the other hand many critics of African development blame state failure and the governance crisis in the continent on “the structural disconnection between formal institutions transplanted from outside and indigenous institutions born of traditional African cultures”. There is now renewed interest in an alternative approach to governance and

development which emphasizes the cultural dimension of development, and the overlooked potentials of indigenous knowledge and traditional institutions. The challenge is how best to reconcile democracy and tradition, and enlist traditional institutions and values in the effort to promote good governance and sustainable development. Many now believe that by building on the indigenous we can make governance and development more participatory and sustainable, and also bring the full weight of customary restraints and cultural values to bear on public policy and public life. The panel considers how successive post-colonial constitutions and governments in Africa have tried to evolve a suitable chieftaincy policy, and to manage relations with chiefs at the state and local levels. The panel invites papers which discuss:
- relevant background issues on chiefs and traditional authorities in pre-colonial and colonial
- constitutional provisions on the place of chiefs, and on chieftaincy management in post- colonial African countries;
- the role of chiefs in customary law, and in judicial reforms; and how to strike the right balance between Western jurisprudence and indigenous concepts of justice and conflict resolution;
- chiefs and traditional leaders in the practice of democracy;
- chiefs in local government, decentralization and grassroots mobilization;
- traditional rulers and institutions in environmental protection, natural resource management, and response to climate change;
- chiefs and land control in traditional and contemporary African societies;
- should chiefs and traditional rulers take part in politics?
Other proposals that relate to the general theme of the panel will be considered.