IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

"He who sets the boundary”. Chieftaincy as a “necessary” institution in modern Ghana


  • Valsecchi Pierluigi


The title of this paper was inspired by an etymology formulated in 1929 by a famous Gold Coast maìtre-a-penser, J. de Graft Johnson. He explained the most common akan1 term for a chief ohene as a derivation from hye, boundary, with the meaning of “he who would decide the ohi (boundary) between the various groups farming on lands commonly reputed to be under his control” (de Graft Johnson, 1929). The ohene is therefore ‘the settler of the boundary’. Etymology is a tricky territory and I am not sure whether this interpretation is reliable. However it suits perfectly what I intend to say in my paper: 1) Controversial as Chieftaincy may be in Ghana, it is perhaps the clearest embodiment of shared concepts of what it means to belong to a place. 2) The link between Chieftaincy and place is not a static one. To a great extent chiefs have the power to redefine the very nature, size and scope of the place/locality they embody. 3) They are potentially in a better position to re-shape, manipulate, enlarge or shrink boundaries than most other player on the national stage. 4) From the early 1990s many of them were able to exercise that power to an extent they had not experienced since colonial days and in ways new to Ghanaian society and to themselves. I will try to substantiate my points through reference to a recent case of chieftaincy litigation in the Western Region of Ghana.

Suggested Citation

  • Valsecchi Pierluigi, 2007. ""He who sets the boundary”. Chieftaincy as a “necessary” institution in modern Ghana," wp.comunite 0003, Department of Communication, University of Teramo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ter:wpaper:0003

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ter:wpaper:0003. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Giovanni Di Bartolomeo). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.