Ho — The dean of the faculty of law at the University of Ghana, Legon and judge at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Prof. Akua Kuenyehia, says, if her father were alive today, she would have dealt with him drastically for the two reasons of being a polygamist and intestate.
The legal luminary poured out her heart last Thursday at a Ho workshop organised for about thirty queen mothers from across the Volta region when she addressed participants on the theme "Promoting the Enforcement of the Intestate Succession Law in the Volta region-Challenge and Strategy".
Even though she did not elaborate the form her dealing with the old man would have taken, it was quite glaring from her countenance that the firebrand lawyer meant her word, going by the difficulties she said she and her sisters went through after their father's untimely death.
Mrs. Kuenyehia said, "my father was a very wealthy man who had houses, vehicles, cocoa and orange plantations and a lot of money. I entered Achimota School in January and he died June that year". She disclosed that all those properties were taken over by an uncle who claimed he was holding them in trust for them (the children) but that was the end of the story as everything was squandered.
The Hohoe-born role model used the occasion to admonish women to always separate family property from self-acquired ones in order not to create confusion in future. She said if her father had made a will she would have found things easier at school.
The two-day workshop which was organised by the Volta Region Queen Mother's Association in collaboration with the GTZ Legal Pluralism and Gender Pilot Project (Family Law Focal Area) at Ho, was aimed at improving compliance with the laws on registration of customary marriages and the distribution of property on intestacy.
Using her personal experience in life to educate participants, the professor said till this day she finds it funny that her 84-year old mother who is a retired headmistress, has not been able to boldly demand her fair share of legacy from her brothers and stressed that gender inequality must stop in this age and time. "Never say I am only a woman. Make a will at the court to cut everything short" she emphasised.
In a contribution, the paramount queenmother of Kpando Traditional Area, Mamaga Agbalisi IV, said in spite of P.N.D.C Law 111 of 1985 which clearly protects widows and children, it is sad to note that many men brush the law aside and apply the customary law to their advantage. She called for stronger enforcement of the intestate law saying, "even though it may not be a perfect one, it will definitely go a long way to bring about equity".
The queenmother of Tefle, Mamaga Adokuwa Asigble IV, said she had been cheated when she lost her father many years ago and vowed that she would not allow her children to suffer the same fate. She had therefore made her will to secure their future.
Welcoming participants to the workshop, the president of the hosting association, Mamaga Kofi Bra I of Peki, reminded her colleagues of their roles in the community and asked them to be always equipped with adequate information.
The Chief Executive of Ho, Mr. Mawutor Goh, on his part, regretted that very often those who register their customary marriages do so because they need the evidence of marriage for administrative purposes, particularly when they have to travel outside the country.
He added that customary laws have to be assessed constantly and reformed, where necessary, to ensure that it does not violate the dignity and human rights of people.
Other speakers included Mrs. Hilary Gbedema, a Ho-based lawyer and human rights activist, and Mrs. Sheila Minka-Premo, co-ordinator of G.T.Z (Family Law Focal Area) a German Technical Co-operation Project aimed at enhancing the rule of law and gender equity in Ghana's rural legal systems.