Traditional law and procedure in the Royal Court: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh



In this Lecture we consider briefly the nature of traditional law among the Gá-Dangme and the role of the king in maintaining a system of law and order.[1] In view of the customary nature of a large corpus of traditional law, some attention is paid to the dispute settlement process before heads of families and other traditional functionaries. Overall, a picture emerges of a well-organised legal structure in which both law-giving and sanctions play a vital role. We, however, leave entirely to one side the vast amount of customary case-law developed by the Ghanaian courts since colonisation in 1874. We believe that in this way the nature of Gá-Dangme customary law can be distilled from the actual practices of the people unpolluted by the various concepts which have crept into the official customary law of Ghana.

It is widely acknowledged that the principles laid down by Sarbah, particularly in his Fanti Customary Laws[2], have shaped the nature of Ghanaian customary law. At the same time it cannot be gainsaid that the principles of official customary law formulated by the courts, partly through reliance on Sarbah’s work, derive largely from cases involving a disproportionate number of Gá-Dangme. Uncritical reliance on the decisions reached in such cases would therefore have the effect of importing Sarbah’s notions into Gá-Dangme traditional law.

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Traditional constitution of the Gadangme: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh



Order constitutes the heart of any disciplined structure; an army of iron-hearted men can never achieve victory without orderly regimentation. A prosperous society can only be built on a sound constitutional structure

3.1 The general constitutional framework

This Lecture begins our examination of the traditional legal structure of the Gá-Dangme by considering the nature of the traditional constitutional framework. Underlying the rigid social structure of the Gá-Dangme is a well-defined traditional constitutional framework. At the apex of Gá-Dangme constitution is the triumvirate of Gá, Krobo and Ada kings – sovereigns of the three major parts or (man-wudzi) of modern Gá-Dangme. Known as the Three Kings or Mantsemei ete, the core territory or mantiase of each king is divided into recognisable quarters, invariably ruled by royal princes. Quarter organisation is based on the number seven, representing the number of actual or hypothetical groups in which the Gá-Dangme arrived on the coastal plains.

The number seven has therefore been institutionalised and conventionalised into the traditional constitution. True, there are several towns whose quarters are less than seven; but this represents a dysfunction of the political system rather than an aberration. In former times, the number seven had always been restored when due to amalgamation or the accident of migration the Gá towns and quarters had been reduced in number. Thus, people from Osudoku and from Labadi were invited to constitute the Gá towns of Osu and Teshi; in this way, the principle of man-kodzi kpawo (seven-branched town) was restored.

In turn the territory of the Gá-Dangme as whole is divided into man-dzi or urbanised areas and kosé, the country. The major traditional towns of each King are further subdivided into quarters. Each town is headed by a manche-wulu or nene   ? (major chief); the quarters of the major towns are headed by quarter chiefs or divisional chiefs.

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The rise of Ayawaso: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh


                             THE RISE OF AYAWASO

 “Ayawaso was a city on a hill whose light pierced the surrounding darkness, and brought purity and knowledge to people far and wide. If we are to know ourselves completely, we must first seek knowledge of the thoughts and deeds of our forefathers at Ayawaso; and write them upon our hearts.”[1]

The second part of these Lectures deals with the kingdom of Ayawaso. Although Ayawaso is widely recognised as the first centralised kingdom to emerge on the Gold Coast, its role in the development of modern Ghanaian culture seems to have been generally under-researched. Reindorf’s work has largely documented the extent of Ayawaso and its connections with the early kingdoms of the Gold Coast; but the detailed political history of Ayawaso as well as the social and economic systems which underpinned Ayawaso culture have barely engaged the attention of historians.

There is evidence to suggest that Dangme civilisation preceded Gá culture. Prior to the centralisation of the Gá-Dangme states, Osudoku appears to have been the epicentre of Dangme culture;[2] the founder of the Dangme dynasty is identified as La Nimo.[3] By the time of the rise of Ayawaso there were about thirty major Gá-Dangme towns strewn across eminences on the Accra plains; these were united by the Gá priest-kings into a centralised kingdom.[4] What is known about the Accra plains prior to the emergence of the Gá-Dangme kingdom is owed to archaeologists. Anquandah has suggested that the Accra plains were inhabited during the first four millenia before Christ by Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers who were given to fishing for fresh water molluscs along the inland waterways of the Odaw, Densu and Nsaki rivers;[5] little is known of the identity of these Stone Age inhabitants.

Under King Ayi Kushi and his son Ayitey the Gá dynasty, organised around key Gá Mashi quarters, started to assert its authority across the Accra plains, exploiting well-defined Ga-Dangme social arrangements to ensure solidarity amongst scattered subjects and to maintain authority. It has been suggested that the Gá dynasty had a “prince with a few body-guards who had commission to rule over the Tshis [Akyems] in the interior.”[6] Although the connection between the Gá dynasty and the ruler of the interior is not defined, there is ample evidence, particularly in the royal names of Ofori, Ankama, Ayikuma, etc. (which are common to the Gá and Akyem royal households) to suggest a blood connection between the Gá and Akyem rulers.

Ayitey is said to have marched with the Gá, Dangmes, Obutus, Awutus and the Twi prince to establish the inland kingdom of Ayawaso.[7] It is thought that fourteen large towns were founded by the Gá alongside Ayawaso; these included Akpadegon, Amonmole, Fanofa, Dokutso, Pletekwogon, and Kushibiete or Legon.[8] Several other towns were established by sub-divisions of the Gá. These included Wodoku, Lashibi, Wodode, Wo-Akwamu, which belonged to Nungua; Tebiano, Podoku, Lakanmabi or Ashaman and Takimabi, which belonged to Tema; and Ladoku and Ajangote, belonging to Labadi. The various towns founded across the Accra plains as well as the rest of the Adangmes, Agotimes, Akwamus and Akwapims were absorbed into the kingdom of Ayawaso which is said to have extended from Aharamata to Popo beyond the Volta.

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A people Blessed: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh

                                 LECTURE I

                             A PEOPLE BLESSED

“An Accra man was then respected, not by reason of his national prestige only, but by his personal ability and superior qualities also … In war, travel and voyage, in times of epidemic, and in the critical   moments of life, he was the special object of divine        protection; he felt no paroxysms of fear in the  presence of a foe, however redoubtable.”[1]

1.1 Methodology and structure of the lectures

In preparing these Lectures we have consulted various sources, both oral and written, to depict a history of the Ga-Dangme that should be at once authoritative and evocative of the great episodic scenes which underly the past of our forebears. What we depict is not only a history defined by the acrid smoke of the gunpowder of the battle-field but above all a social history which establishes the true genius of past heroes and heroines. A comprehensive bibliographical sketch is clearly not necessary for a work of this nature, but it is nevertheless appropriate to touch on a number of historical and juridical works.

Reindorf’s monumental work, History of the Gold Coast and Asante[2] is of necessity the first landmark for all who seek to understand the past of the Ga-Dangme; it is not only the first major intellectual work about the Gold Coast produced by any Ghanaian,[3] but it also describes in considerable detail the early history of the Gá-Dangme. Reindorf may indeed be described as the Father of African history; for as Christaller observed, Reindorf’s work was “the first comprehensive history of an important part of Africa written by a native and from the standpoint of a native.”[4] A number of earlier works authored by European were also consulted; these include Jean Barbot’s Barbot on Guinea[5] and William Bosman’s A New and Fuller Description of the Coast of Guinea.[6]

In common with the other European sources on which these lectures partly rely, the works of Barbot and Bosman are essentially the records of individual non-historians whose interpretation of local situations were apt to be inaccurate in parts. This cautionary note is particularly appropriate given the near-sacrosanct manner in the early European works are regarded in the present age. As is evident in the rest of these pages the lectures also draw upon the accounts of countless other European writers.

In addition to the early European sources, a large body of writing has, over the past half-century or so, emerged from various historians of the University of Ghana. As is obvious to anyone familiar with the corpus of recent Ghanaian historiography, the history of the Gá-Dangme is more or less incidental to the themes explored by the University of Ghana writers; the considerable writings of Ward, Boahen, Daaku, Fynn, Wilks, etc. appear to have settled the major points Ghanaian history in a manner which appears to minimise the role of the Ga-Dangme. The major work within this period on Gá-Dangme history is Irene Quaye’s The Ga and their Neighbours.[7] Supervised by Boahen, Quaye’s work tends to uncritically repeat various assumptions about the history of the Gá-Dangme. John Parker’s work, Ga State and Society in Early Colonial Accra, 1860s to 1920s[8] has also been relied upon.

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What the Black Labour Movement must do! – Ade Sawyerr

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Black Labour: Speaking for Ourselves!!!! –  6th December 2017 at Peckham

Labour missed an opportunity in the 1980s to embrace and consolidate the support that it had from the mass of African and Caribbean people.  These people had mostly voted Labour at elections and the rejection of their own movement, Black Sections, was a kick in the teeth for most of the activists especially since the leadership was often unwilling to support them as candidates in winnable seats in areas where there were a lot of black people in the population.

I attribute this rejection as the reason for our inability to grow confident activists who should rise within the party without patronage.  The result now is that we cannot influence policy and help set an agenda within the party that would encourage more race equality.

The past couple of years have presented some opportunities but we are still so slow to take these up to create a formidable movement that should reflect our electoral usefulness to the party.

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The party has agreed to the formation of the Black Socialist Section in the party, but this has not quite translated into the political success of activists from African and Caribbean communities.  The issue of the name is important, there are many who are Labour who are not comfortable with the socialist label.

An Ethnic Minority Taskforce is in operation that incorporates BAME Labour, Chinese for Labour, Somalis for Labour, Labour Arab Group and Africans for Labour.  The concern is that the voice of the A4L will continue to be muted if it continues to be reactive to issues within the party and expects that it will be called to the table to discuss issues of importance to the party.  Even now that there are several persons of African heritage in the shadow cabinet, we are in danger of having the agenda set for us if we continue to be docile.

We know that the talk at our dinner tables and when we are on our own is about how disenfranchised we are.  We know that whilst it is easy for people to demand all women shortlists at party selection we still do not have the clout to ask for black only shortlists.  We privately admit that the party is taking us for granted and by extension taking our community for granted.

We have seen an organised well-resourced movement grow to have influence within the party within a short space of time!

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We know that as councillors we are rewarded with cabinet positions when we do not complain too much and that to a large extent we are easily set against each other; we get recycled and are almost always in danger of being deselected.  We even suspect that the leadership is ambivalent about promoting more race equality lest it result in a perceived backlash from the majority community and yet we continue to do nothing about this state of affairs.  We allow ourselves to be more disempowered

But we know that there is a lot that we can do!

We know that Labour has always been a broad church with the competing forces between modernisers and traditional Labour , Blairites against Corbynistas and new Labour against old Labour and we assist in this divide when our issues are about racial equality and looking out for the best interests of our black communities.  Even as we speak today there is a battle for who are the legitimate owners of the Momentum Black Caucus or Connexions!!!!

Our issues are about racial inequality and discrimination! Our issues are about poverty and marginalisation! Our issues are about jobs, hope for our youth, health and social care. Our issues are about anti-austerity.

If this is the party that we commit to, then we should let our voices be heard at the high table of our party.  But we can only do that if we are able to plan properly, organising appropriately and find resources needed to operate in a formal way so that we can become a force in Labour.  We must be bold and assume that we can set an agenda for the party acceptable to all.

We must be courageous, we must be resolved, we have to be united and we have to know how to set objectives that resound with will, we need to be able to plan our strategy and we need to organise to attract more black members to the black labour movement wherever they are – not too difficult since they probably vote Labour anyway.

So what must the Black Labour movement do to ensure that it can be listened to and that it exerts some influence in the party and amongst the large numbers of people who vote Labour at the elections?

Let me know what you think!






Nat-Amartefio copy

By: Nat Nuno-Amarteifio

Since its founding, Achimota College and School as it was named at the time of its inception, has had a disproportionate influence on the creative arts in Ghana. In every area of creativity, music, painting, sculpture, literature and theatre, Achimota’s influence has been deep and consistent. This paper seeks to explore the reasons for this phenomenon and to identify some of the main reasons that made these achievements possible. We shall also examine the contemporary nature of this impact.

Colonialism begun in Africa in the final decades of the 19th century when Europeans scrambled for terrritories and took political and military possession of its lands. In India, British rule lasted over two centuries. In Africa colonialism was expected to last at least as long until Africans absorbed the lessons of pax britanica and learnt to govern themselves. The 1920s was a time of unbridled and unapologetic racism. Accra, the ramshackle capital of the colonized Gold Coast was recently segregated along racial lines. The goal was political but the official reason was medical. The policy was justified as a necessary measure to save European lives from African diseases by keeping the two races apart, especially at night. It was generally believed by European medical specialists that Africans were immune to the effects of malaria but that their blood was full of the parasites. The evening was when mosquitoes fed on human blood and transported their contaminated cargo across racial lines to infect Europeans.

On January 28, 1927, the Prince of Wales College and School, Achimota was formally opened. The campus upon which the school stood was segregated. No Africans could stay there overnight without official sanction. It took the personal intervention of the Governor to obtain permission for Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey, nominated for assistant headmaster, to spend a night under the same roof as Rev. Alexander G. Fraser, the headmaster.

African culture was regarded by many Europeans as backward and retrogressive and the African middle class bought into this perception. In 1918, Kobina Sekyi a Cape Coast author and social critic wrote a play called the Blinkards. It was a devastating satire on the nascent African middle class of the 19th century. Their social ambition was to strip away all identification with their cultural roots and to present themselves as English gentry. It was a cartoonish portrait of delusion and deliberate self-deception. The play warned of the consequences when a society loses its moral compass.

Against the background of these perceptions, the three principal founders had every reason to be proud of their achievement. For one thing, in the tight colonial world they inhabited, they had been accorded the rare honour of a royal visit. The heir to the throne, Edward, the Prince of Wales was himself present to bestow his name on the institution. The three men, Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg, a brigadier in the British Army and Governor of the Gold Coast (1919-1927),   Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey, a native of the Gold Coast, born in Anomabu and educated as a cleric in America, and the Reverend Alexander G. Fraser, a Scotsman and professional educationist were loyal to the crown. They belonged to the liberal and progressive wings of European politics and fervently believed that the key to African emancipation was education. The institution they created was designed to justify their hopes and ambitions. They saw the visit as the ultimate endorsement of their enlightened beliefs. They gave birth to a school, and let loose ideas that would lead in three short decades to the end of British rule in the Gold Coast.

The school was created to challenge the existing racial conventions and to instill pride in the nations’s putative leaders. Its motto, designed by Dr. Aggrey and displayed boldly on a heraldic shield, was composed of black and white piano keys. Its message declared that all races are equal and as necessary for civilized harmony as the black and white keys on the piano. At a time when aristocratic and middle-class women in Britain were barred from parliament and other bastions of authority and privilege, the school admitted children of both sexes and educated them together and equally. In 1924, when African culture was regarded by many Europeans as backward and retrogressive, a Department of Anthropology was established on the campus. It was headed by R.S. Rattray, a noted anthropologist. He was given the responsibility and the means to research Asante culture and to make his conclusions available to the government for policy guidance. Rattray employed his students as research assistants and undertook field research in the towns and villages around Achimota and beyond. These communities contained demobilized former soldiers from all over the country. The results were published and used to teach local history. The exercise demonstrated the lie that Africans lacked a history.


Race Equality and the Black Experience in 2017 – the current debate

Ade-house of commons

Was at the House of Commons yesterday to take part in this debate.  this is my presentation.

Inequality remains a problem in the United Kingdom, especially for black people.

There is a still a penalty for being black, there is a penalty in stop and search, in health, in education, in the criminal justice system and in dealing with people with learning difficulties, there is an ethnic pay penalty and a penalty in doing business.


The government needs to tackle inequality!  This country will not be a better place when inequality is still glaring, and our younger people are not getting the jobs that they are ordinarily qualified for even when they go on to higher education.  Without true equality, the country will be unstable in a way that will affect community integration and social cohesion.


A more equal society will put the country back in better balance and will promote the equity that breeds more prosperity and the environment that engenders prosperity and the contribution to the wealth creation effort and more fairness in the distribution of wealth in this first world country.


We have certainly come a long way from those days of open discrimination, but there is still urgent work to be done by black people to keep up with the protest and campaign against racial discrimination.


We need to push for positive action now that our proportion of the population is growing.  It is no longer less than the 1% that it was in the 1970s when we pushed for the Race Relations Act 1976 to be passed.

Over the past 40 years, a lot of work has been done but we cannot afford to be complacent now that there are over 2 million black people and in some local area almost 50% of residents.


The black population is expected to reach over 10% of the working population in the next 10 years and yet black people continue to be discriminated against in workforce.  This is the time when the government must lead the way in implementing targets for the recruitment and progression of black people in their employment.  The question that needs asking is why were those targets that were promised in the Home Office stopped?  Were those targets dropped after an evaluation or was race no longer the flavour of the month. My answer is that let us bring the targets back; the targets may look symbolic but they may yet prove effective for the benefit of the black population, because other departments and other establishments may just follow that desirable example!!

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