The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has advised chiefs, particularly those in Asanteman, to resist the temptation of endorsing political party aspirants for Election 2020.
He said it was important that traditional rulers maintain the sanctity of the chieftaincy institution by doing away with partisan politics and instead maintain their neutrality.
Addressing the Ashanti Regional House of Chiefs (ARHC) at a general meeting in Kumasi yesterday, the Asantehene said chiefs remained the last resort for resolving conflicts in the country, and that if they were seen to be partisan, it would be difficult for anyone to seek their intervention when conflicts or disputes arose.
According to him, it was for a good reason that the Constitution precluded chiefs from partisan politics and explained that not all the people they presided over would belong to the parties the chiefs supported, for which reason there was the need for chiefs to remain neutral at all times and enjoy the support of their subjects.
While pointing out that chiefs had the right to vote in elections, he maintained that their choices should be known only to them and not openly display their political support.
The 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution and the Chieftaincy Act, 2008 explicitly ban chiefs from doing active politics.
While some chiefs have kept to the provisions, others have stayed off them, arguing that they were discriminatory and against their human rights.
In the run up to this year’s general election, for instance, a number of chiefs have made forays into partisan politics with open endorsement of presidential aspirants.
The Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, for instance, has endorsed President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who is seeking a second term on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party, while the chief of Mehame in the Ahafo Region, Nana Owusu Kontoh II, has thrown his weight behind former President John Dramani Mahama, the flag bearer of the National Democratic Congress.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu said if the chieftaincy institution was not that important, it would not have survived all these years.
He, therefore, urged the members of the ARHC to maintain the respect accorded to the institution by staying off partisan politics.
The Asantehene said as chiefs, they ought to work with every government to bring development to their people, explaining that that was why when they showed open bias to a political party, it could affect their relationship with the other political parties.
He also expressed worry over the apparent exclusion of chiefs from the issuance of licences to concessionaires under the community mining programme.
He said even though the law said that all minerals found in the country belonged to the state, “we forget that the land in which the minerals are found belongs to the chiefs”.
He said there should be a way of involving chiefs in the allocation of concessions to miners, be it large scale or small scale, to enable them to monitor the use of lands within their jurisdictions.
According to Otumfuo Osei Tutu, there was the need for the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources to brief chiefs on the modalities for the allocation and the role chiefs played in the process.
He said most of the forest reserves being used for community mining were preserved over the years by chiefs and traditional councils but were now being desecrated under the guise of community mining.
The Omanhene of the Kokofu Traditional Area, Barima Offei Akwasi Okogyeasuo II, complained about the destruction of his plantation, as well as a forest reserve in his area, by persons he described as government officials for small-scale mining.
He said the land in his area was being used for small-scale mining without his knowledge and alleged that district chief executives and government officials were involved in the practice.
The Omanhene of the Manso Nkwanta Traditional Area, Nana Bi-Kusi Appiah, also shared the same concerns raised by the Kokofuhene and alleged that government officials were deeply involved in illegal mining in his area.
He said leases had been granted to companies and individuals who had invaded forest reserves and were felling trees indiscriminately.
Furthermore, he alleged that companies that had the backing of the government were using the military to terrorise residents.
Nana Appiah was of the view that if the government was releasing forest reserves for mining, at least those who protected the reserves over the years should be considered and not be cowed into submission by the military and also prevented from voicing their disappointment.
The Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr. Simon Osei-Mensah, promised to convey the concerns raised by Nananom to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Besides, he promised to liaise with the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources to brief the chiefs on the community mining programme.
He also took the opportunity to brief the house on some government projects in the region, including roads, educational infrastructure and security.
On security, the regional minister said the Ashanti Region was fairly safe, save for a few highway robberies and kidnapping.
He said the Regional Security Council, in conjunction with the military and the police commands, had increased the number of highway patrol teams and had also been able to stem kidnapping in the region.
Although he did not give figures, he said all the people kidnapped in the region had been rescued and the perpetrators arrested.
As part of efforts to combat armed robbery in the country, he said, the Ministry of Energy would provide each assembly within the Greater Kumasi area with 500 street lights to improve visibility within the communities.
Mr. Osei-Mensah said it had been observed that most criminals hid under the cover of darkness to perpetrate their acts.
He said he believed that if the street lights were installed, they would greatly improve security in the Kumasi metropolis and surrounding districts.