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Favorite thing: In Ghana, there are no mayors to lead cities, but chiefs. A chief is more like a local king: he has the power of his area, and the system of succession is like a monarchy. The next chief always is a son, brother or cousin of the current one.
But: because the chief has the absolute power of his area, the national government always has to ask him for permission if they want to build something like a road, a building or a military base. Obviously, it is easy for the government to have a chief who is government-minded, if they want to have anything to say in the regions.
This was a reason of a big problem in Wa that ended in 2006 (for the moment). When the last chief died in 2003, his normal successor would have been one of his two cousins. But instead, the government appointed someone from outside the family. This way, they would have more influence in the region. It made an end to a line of succession within one family of centuries.
The locals were angry about this decision. They never accepted this new chief, and they didn't allow him in the official Chief's Palace. Therefore, he had to build another palace, behind the old one. The old palace was not used at all in this period and so it slowly turned into the ruin it is today. The new chief lived in his palace for 3 years, until he died in 2006. In that period the atmosphere was very aggressive in Wa: the people rebelled against everything the government did.
In 2006 this chief died. The government buried him between the other chiefs of Wa, and gave him the biggest grave. During my visit the people of Wa were still deciding who should be the new chief. They wanted the new one to be a member of the original chief-family, and the sons of the last chief claimed the function too. It will stay a difficult case as long as the government keeps on interfering in this business. At least the people of Wa are determined to choose their OWN chief this time and to remove the newest grave as soon as there is a new chief.
Written Jan 23, 2007