Get free updates by Email Get Email Updates! Civil law systems have drawn their inspiration largely from the Roman law heritage and which, by giving precedence to written law, have resolutely opted for a systematic codification of their general law. It is the most widespread system of law in the world.
Click here to access a PDF version of this article. This article discusses one effort to promote the rule of law within the customary or traditional court system in Ghana.
The success of the project will be determined by whether the online database of caselaw Customary systems updated, accessed and utilized moving forward. The Constitution formally recognizes this pluralist legal system, identifying the sources of law in Ghana as the Constitution, enactments of Parliament, rules and regulations made under a power conferred by the Constitution, laws in existence immediately before the coming into force of the Constitution, and common law, which includes rules of customary law.
The Kumasi Traditional Council, which has statutory authority,  has jurisdiction to hear and determine all matters affecting chieftaincy in the Kumasi Metropolitan Area as well as portions of the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions.
The public is afforded limited access to these records. Below these three tribunals, paramount chiefs and queen mothers have authority over tribunals in the smaller towns and villages within the Ashanti region. It was proposed that published decisions could be used by traditional leaders to assure greater uniformity, by lawyers and judges in formal courts to understand and apply customary law, and by the general population to understand what the local laws are and how they will be applied.
In order to determine the best method for recording and publishing the decisions of the Ashanti traditional courts, students from Fordham Law School and KNUST researched the customary laws and structures in Ghana and the recording and codification of customary law efforts in other African countries.
This research culminated in a week long fact-finding mission, during which students and faculty interviewed a number of traditional leaders, state officials and legal practitioners in Ghana.
Based on this research, the ACL Project team proposed to record the decisions of the Asanteman Council, the Kumasi Traditional Council and the Asantehemaa Court and upload them to an online database where they could be easily accessed by the public and all interested parties.
The ACL Project developed a prototype for recording the decisions, which was based on the format used by South Africa in recording traditional court cases. Each case was assigned key terms that identified its content.
A database was created with a search function where the decisions could be uploaded and then easily retrieved based on their content, date of the decision and names of the parties.
The ACL Project then adopted the Kenyan model of using law students to record and publish court decisions. When the tribunals were not in session, the students reviewed and formatted older decisions contained in the archives. The website hosting the database was launched in The vast majority of the cases included in this database address disputes over customary land and chieftaincy.
While a positive step, the volume of decisions that have been transcribed has lagged behind the numbers the ACL Project team originally envisioned.
And there has not yet been analysis of the extent to which the recorded decisions have been relied upon or used in active matters before lower customary tribunals, state courts or accessed by any other interested parties.
The project has also highlighted some practical challenges that arise when changes are proposed to established traditional systems. Much of the initiative for the ACL Project has been driven by entities outside the customary system, in particular by law schools in the United States and Ghana.
As with many human-rights-based initiatives, there is persistent competition for scarce resources. While the ACL project is not overwhelmingly costly, it still requires dedicated personnel to provide access to the tribunals and videotapes of the proceedings, as well as to maintain the recording process and ensure accurate transcription and indexing.
This places demands on local partners with limited resources who are not being compensated for their efforts and who may not have other adequate incentives to prioritize this project over the many other demands on their time. In places with successful case reporting systems, such as South Africa and Kenya, the projects are supported by the domestic governments of each country.
Success in changing the system, however modestly, also requires support from those with power within the system. Whether explicit or implicit, stakeholders in the existing system can be expected to have biases in favor of the status quo, or at least against rapid change to the status quo.
Even where those at the top of an organization support a given initiative, the success of the initiative will turn ultimately on the cooperation of many throughout the organization, and ensuring adequate communication and collaboration with that constituency is an essential part of a project of this nature that must be carried out over time.
In Ghana, the ACL project has laid the foundation to promote greater access to justice and rule of law within the customary law system of the Ashanti.
The long-term success of the project will be determined by whether or not the database of customary decisions continues to be expanded and utilized by traditional authorities within the customary system as well as those operating in the formal legal system.Number Systems, Base Conversions, and Computer Data Representation Decimal and Binary Numbers When we write decimal (base 10) numbers, we use a positional notation system.
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