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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
How do you run a kingdom?
Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II in council
Send us your questions for three of the world's influential traditional leaders: Ghana's Asantehene, South Africa's Bafokeng King, and Canada's Nisga'a President.

As part of the BBC's Who Runs Your World series Africa Live will be broadcasting from the heart of Ashanti power in Ghana, the royal city of Kumasi.

We will be joined by the Asantehene, Nisga'a President Nelson Leeson and Bafokeng King Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi to discuss customary rule and power relating to traditional positions of authority in our lives today.

What would you like to know about traditional power? Maybe you'd like to find out what it's like to rule a kingdom? Or how these rulers exercise their power?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your questions and comments:

Our chiefs are more respected than our politicians
Nana Oteng Amoako, United Kingdom
I don't see the difference between our chieftancy institution and the monarchy establishment of other parts of the world. Our chiefs are more respected than our politicians so lets maintain the heritage. Long live the system.
Nana Oteng Amoako, United Kingdom

Kings and traditional leaders are ultimately the custodians of their tribes' languages, customs and traditions (bearing in mind that these are continually evolving). I believe that they should immerse themselves in this role in order to serve their people better.
Lesedi, New Zealand

What is the power of the king in a country where there is an elected democratic government run by the president?
Jackson S.G. Parwon Jr, Liberia

Does the king believe in God or the Ancestors or a blend of the two?
Sally Alexander, Kumasi/Ghana

Does a first son of a traditional leader have to succeed his father? Do traditional leaders have to marry more than one wife? Why?
King Anderson Emmy Snr, Ivory Coast

True democracy can be advanced by kings who have their people at heart
Hankie Uluko, Lilongwe
True democracy in Africa can be further advanced by Kings who always have their people at heart, unlike Presidents who also serve party positions.
Hankie Uluko, Lilongwe

I would like to know about the things these leaders have done for their people, of which they are most proud.
Lance, UK

I happened to come from Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba people, Nigeria. For centuries, we've always had our respected kings (Onis), who are champions in the art of ruling, from before the colonial system. I know this because I personally come from historical ancestors. My father was a Chief - Lerekun of Iraye, Ile-Ife and these stories were passed from generation to generation.
Allen Aramide, Poland

I would want to find out from the Asantehene, why other some traditional leaders involve themselves in Politics. Under the laws of Ghana they are not supposed to do that. Some go to the extent of declaring their support for some Presidential Candidate. When that happens their subjects do not give them the needed respect because they do not belong to just one party. I want to find out from the South African King and Canada's Nisga'a, about their level of involvement in Party politics in their Country.
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso , Accra Ghana

It is very simple. Royals are parasites. Their only "work" is to protect their own position, by using terms such as "tradition".
Ad van Aken, Costa Rica

I think the king has a part to play, but since democracy has taken over in Ghana, the monarch should rather sit on an advisory board for consultation.
Ampofo Gideon Lartey, Ghana

One tribe should not be promoted above others
Kwaku Owusu, Ghana
The Asantehene is not the only chief in Ghana. One tribe should not be promoted above others.
Kwaku Owusu, Ghana

I'd be grateful for some information concerning the first born sons of traditional leaders. What are their roles? Is it a must that they succeed their fathers? I'd also like to know whether traditional leaders must have more than one wife. If so, why?
King Anderson Emmy, Ivory Coast

I am amazed so much time and treasure is wasted on traditional leaders. Look at most of them - they have enriched themselves at their society's expense.
W Sargeant, USA

In the colonial days, kings and queens were held in high esteem by the people, because it was through them that the white governors sent messages to the people. But they no longer have the respect and authority they once had.
Kofi Boateng, USA

Many traditional rulers in Ghana also hold political office. This is alienating them from the people and eroding the authority of the chief. Do you think traditional rulers should continue to accept political office?
Ben Owusu-Sekyere, USA

I used to live in Nigeria, and do cherish dearly Africa's traditional rulers; but I would like to know how decisions are made in order to protect the rights of the have-nots, since the king is surrounded mostly by aristocrats?
Magnus, Canada

What should be the duties and responsibilities of a traditional ruler during elections?
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos, Nigeria
Do you think it is proper for traditional rulers to be partisan in politics (openly support a candidate or party) or coerce their subjects into supporting or voting for a particular party or candidate in an election? What should be the duties and responsibilities of a traditional ruler during elections?
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos, Nigeria

What makes a good leader?
Kwaku Ofori Addo, Ghana

What kinds of laws do you run your kingdom on? Do you have a written constitution? Edwin Clarke, Liberia

I truly think traditional rulers will vanish during this century. People will be more and more tempted to challenge them as more democracies develop in the world.
Placide Matsiaba, Mikouma/Gabon

As most governments in Africa will surely fail, the only true voice we have are the kings.
Stanley, Italy

Has any king presented a balance sheet?
Richmond, UK
Has any African king presented their community balance sheet since they were installed? Lack of proper accountability in our chieftaincy system has meant that the chiefs have used our meagre resources to enrich themselves and their families. There are numerous disputes and tribal wars as a result. Come forward any chief that has a balance sheet to present.
Richmond, UK

In the 1920s, Colonel Rattray the English anthropologist, after studying the Asante matrilineal system, concluded it accounted for the high rate of divorces and broken homes in Asanteman (70-80%). This is a problem which still remains today. The matrilineal system was designed to absorb a women back into the community when she didn't remain married. What is the Asanteman Council doing to enhance the cohesion and sustenance of the basic family unit in the interest of national development?
Papa KC, Ghana

The supposedly largest and oldest kingdom on earth is the United Kingdom. How much does this kingdom cost to its subjects? Is it engaged in profit-oriented activities anywhere? What has it done to make the world a better place?
David Karani, Helsinki/Finland

Let me recommend to you the Gadaa system of the Oromo people in Ethiopia. It was a very democratic traditional system, before it was robbed by the Ethiopian regional administrations.
Aguma Bera, Atlanta/USA

I would very much like to know how royalties paid to particular kingdoms are handled and accounted for? As far as I know, development projects in Ghana are financed by the central government. Lastly, leading people is the most difficult task on earth - how has the Otumfuo managed thus far, since he succeeded his late Uncle.
Jake Amero, Ghana/UK

The intricate systems of choosing a leader were destroyed as kingdoms were sucked into colonial power struggles
Tshepo, England
I have royal ties with both Shangaan and Pedi royalty and feel bitter about the diminution of African tribal royalty. I firmly believe that western values imposed on traditional systems of rule have destroyed the quality and charisma of our leaders. In Pedi culture, as in most Sotho cultures, the king and his chiefs ruled with the consent of his or her people and with the Kgotla (elders) overseeing them. With the arrival of the Boers, and their conflict with the British, the intricate systems of choosing a leader was destroyed as kingdoms were sucked into their power struggles. An example is my great grandfather who should have become paramount chief, but his half brother, with the help of several Boer families, took power. He owed a debt to the Boers and proceeded to give away huge tracts of land which today are being contested in South Africa. My great-great grandfather ruled over a tribe of nearly one quarter of a million people, but the tribe that my cousin Lesethebe inherited numbers a few thousand. This story repeats itself with my paternal family with their interaction with the Portuguese and Arab traders along the borders of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and SA. I have many cherished memories of stories told about our leaders, both reflecting their humility, courage and weaknesses.
Tshepo, England

Is it possible for a King who is held accountable by his people, to contract a loan from the world bank or IMF for the development of his community?
Daniel Nana Baffour Awuah, Canada.

What are traditional leaders doing to regain their lost glory?
Lizzie Kwaghbo, Nigeria
Traditional Rulers are the custodians of culture and traditions. They are like demi-gods. The problem is that that was in the olden days. Some traditional rulers don't command respect any longer. Traditional rulers are now ruled by politicians, rather than the other way round. My question is, what are traditional rulers doing in order to regain their lost glory?
Lizzie Kwaghbo, Nigeria

Being a member of a traditional ruling family in Malaysia, there are two questions I would like to pose. How effective are traditional rulers without constitutional support? Do you function as an independent voice for the grassroots level or do you see yourselves as part of the political/government administrative machinery in place?
Raja Shafinaz Raja Hussien Abdul Wahab, Malaysia

During colonial times, traditional leaders were often bought, co-opted, or simply created by British colonisers especially to establish control through divide-and-rule policies and policies of fragmentation. How have you dealt with that legacy, especially in trying to retain the respect and allegiance of your subjects?
Nick, USA

For the Asantehene, what development and investments has the citizenry of the Asante kingdom received so far from the royalties of the Obuasi Goldfields? What about accounting to his subjects annually on the resources of the kingdom?
Kwabena Brobbey, Ghana

The traditional institution is unique in Africa, and our people enjoy it and we respect our kings a lot. The Bafokeng King in South Africa is well respected by the government and he is a small God to some people.
Ugochukwu, South Africa

Do you think that the growing apathy and scepticism towards mainstream politics (and political parties) will strengthen the influence you have in your country? And what is your vision for traditional rulers and kingdoms in the 21st century?
Darren Frimpong, United Kingdom

Are you strong enough to direct the government to areas where social, economic and spiritual development is badly needed?
Shuttie FN Libuta, Kitwe

When you lobby the government for aid of any sort, do you put the interest of your subjects ahead of your own? Do you monitor the government of the day to see that traditional forest reserves, game and fish reserves are not leased out to foreigners to the detriment of your subjects? Are you strong enough to direct the government to areas where social, economic and spiritual development is badly needed?

Whatever woes we have in our various societies or communities, the traditional rulers are 50 % to blame. We, the common folk have had to pay heavily for our book knowledge while we still had to maintain the royals with our meagre resources. There is so much misuse of power in our traditional leaders and they are just as corrupt as our politicians. So, let them answer some of my questions.
Shuttie FN Libuta, Kitwe, Zambia

My father is an Ashanti, I was born in the UK but come to Kumasi often. Should I feel Ashanti ? How should I express my allegiance to the tribe?
Kofi Poku, UK

How do kingdoms ensure a voice for the masses and provide accountability for their stewardship?
Kwadwo Poku, USA

My question is, how functional are kings in modern day society? And how will these cherished kings reclaim the influence they have lost?
Apierreos, Washington DC, USA

Would you subscribe to the proposal that traditional leaders should be given a ten year term limit in office? Some critics say that your extended stay in office may be responsible for the slow economic development of the provincial and rural districts of the continent. What would you say to that?
Moses S Wilson, USA

Present day traditional rulers have been taking the development of their subjects as seriously as our central governments. I therefore suggest that there should be upper house of parliament for the rulers to contribute to the national development.
Richard Asamoah, Ghana

Why is the King very important to any society in the world?
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA

I have always had a place for traditional rule in my heart. These rulers solve problems in communities across the land. My only concern is, with corruption running rampant in Africa how do you tackle such issues of common interest in a transparent manner?
Josephat M Mua, Kenyan In USA

How many children are you allowed to have? Is there a specific age that you have to get married by?
Heather, United States

I can't help wondering what their roles are in any modern society
UE, UK/Nigeria

I have nothing against traditional rulers, but I can't help wondering what their roles are in any modern society. History of course has it that they used to be responsible for law and order in ancient times. But with the emergence of the modern State, this has clearly become the responsibility of governments (even though I readily concede that in much of Africa, this is only so in a theoretical sense). In my view, their roles should not extend beyond the preservation of our cultural heritage, except if they can demonstrate their democratic credentials - in which case they might as well become the government.
UE, UK/Nigeria

Given the appalling history that is associated with traditional rulers in Africa from colonial times to date, do these rulers not think they are just trying to be relevant in a world that would be a better place without them?
Anthony O Bobori, UK

It is tradition that causes our downfall in Africa. The world is improving everyday and Africa is still at the back because of tradition.
Maddieu Kabbah, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Interesting comments on this page. Looking at the comments it's very easy to tell where people stand on inherited power, traditions and the modern society. I think its very important for people to realise that the few traditional kingdoms that remain are still in existence because they do in fact serve a purpose that their subjects value. Some of you may frown on inheritance, but really is there any difference between career politicians in any developed country? Knowing that you might one day inherit a thrown forces you to go through a very specific training/education throughout your life in preparation for that role.
Otiwaa, Ghana/USA

Capable political leaders who people believe in, are hard to come by in Africa. However, you all have gone against great odds to keep your traditional leadership alive. What advice can you give the African youth aspiring to be the strong leaders they dream of being?
Mwiwa, Canada

Does ultimate power lie within the individual or within the leader of the people? What is the basis for the authority of a leader over his people?
Elizabeth Prentice, USA

A nation can exist without a leader but a leader cannot exist without a nation.
Yacoubou Moutakilou, Togo/USA

Traditions that do not keep up with time must be left to die as we move on.
Eric Bottah, Ghanaian in USA

Land litigation is a big issue around most peripheral urban areas in Africa, especially where customary tenure is operational. What can traditional leaders do to help curb this problem?
Offei Akrofi, Ghana

How far would you go to avoid conflict of interest?
Noray, Keren, Eritrea

How far would you go to avoid conflict of interest? Could you really, honestly not favour your immediate family members when it comes to making decisions or appointing a position within your government?
Noray, Keren, Eritrea

As an African, I do respect the traditional institution. Our own traditional king, the Oba of Benin in Nigeria still exerts a great influence on his subjects. My question is how does traditional institution compete with modern day democracy? Do these traditional rulers still command a lot of respect like before? What kind of contribution does the traditional institution contributes to modern day society?
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

The first kings probably assumed traditional authority following some significant historical events; thereafter a lineage system of inheritance to the throne is established, if this is so, what makes these modern times chiefs or rulers feel they are not impositions on their subjects? In fact would they accept that selection of a new chief should be opened to the members of the whole community using an established criterion rather perpetuating inheritance to the throne by birth rights?
S Kplorlali, Ghana

Chieftaincy has evolved and is to a very large extent abreast with regional economic developments
Rex Asare, NL

Chieftaincy is not what it used to be a decade ago. I was privileged to witness the second (?) most influential chief in Ghana, the Okyehene, a couple of weeks ago, spewing economic theories in perfect English. He was in the Netherlands to seek accreditation, build recognition as well to solicit funding in aid of an effort to convert a dying Cocoa Research Institute in his area into an Environmental Studies University. He was good and I think his mission was successful... Chieftaincy has evolved. Let's support the chiefs who realise the importance of bringing work and development back into their kingdom.
Rex Asare, NL

Please tell me how you arrive at decisions, and how do you know they are the correct ones. The UK is dependant upon an adversarial system, where everyone argues for their own viewpoint. How do you stop the clash of personalities from overshadowing the truth?
Gareth Jones, England

Since most Africans are more loyal to their tribes than to their central government do you think traditional rulers should be given more role in governance?
Frimpong, Switzerland

As traditional rulers, to what extent do you embrace modern ideologies in reference to dressing code, food, laws and even the number of wives you marry? If you have say two kids is that traditional or modern considering that it is seen as family planning? What is there that one should consider traditional in this modern high tech world? Don't you think you should cease to exist?
Job Egalaha, Kenya

Are you able to justify your inherited power in this modern world?
Tan Chung Kiat, Singapore

I would very much like to know how much the will and opinions of the people that you rule influence any decisions you might make. We see demonstrations of varying sizes in most countries all around the world nowadays, but how much power do these protests carry? As a leader do you really allow your opinion to be influenced by the people, or is your own opinion, political stance and experience the greatest influence on your decision?
Shaun Evans, UK

I don't know about the situation in which any of these men rule - but are they subject to laws and political systems created outside their sphere of rule - e.g. are the Indians in Canada subject to Canadian law which, presumably, they have not, or not solely, made? If so, how do they, personally, feel about being subject to law created by or in conjunction with settlers or others over whom they have no ruling power - especially if this is a relatively new situation to them after centuries of rule? Aren't there any women traditional leaders to participate?
Jill, England

I used to live in Zimbabwe and travelled a lot to South Africa and other parts of Africa. I have always wanted to live in a village, with traditions and experiences. So I have some questions - if you could make one difference in the world what would it be? If you could help any one person in the world who would it be? If a natural or man-made disaster happened near you or in your area would you help?
Daena, Australia




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