A Precedent-Setting Case Of Allodial Ownership Of Customary Land In Ghana


Land Management in Africa

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Emmanuel Offei Akrofi, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, eoffeiakrofi@gmail.com
Jennifer Whittal, University of Cape Town, South Africa, Jennifer.whittal@uct.ac.za


Land has always been an important aspect in defining and reshaping relationships between individuals and groups of people. Anthropological studies in sub-Saharan Africa indicate that territory is an important criterion for defining a political system. Besides its crucial role of supporting livelihoods, land also has symbolic value, as a criterion for group identification.

Most pre-colonial sub-Saharan African societies practiced communal ownership of land, which was congruent with the prevailing subsistence economy and the political system centred on the tribe. Demographic growth, urbanization, globalization and cultural change, coupled with diversification and modernization of the economy have had major implications for land tenure systems. Customary tenure forms react to such changes in various forms. In some cases, the powers of customary authorities responsible for land administration increase while others lose power.

This paper is a case study narrative of a precedence-setting case where the allodial rights of land were conferred on a sub-group by the Supreme Court of Ghana against the custom. The ruling is significant because traditional land administrators have been sent a signal that they cannot do what they want in the name of custom to the neglect of customary freeholders. The study also highlights the need to build capacity in traditional leadership in areas such as records keeping and conflict management to make them more effective.

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