Posted by / Tuesday, 28 June 2016 / No comments

How subjects were controlled during the pre-colonial era

As in modern governance, law and order is important in the pre-colonial period. The chiefs had a way of maintaining law and order. They maintained law and order by using various means to control the subjects.

Rules and regulations
Any society without rules and regulations could degenerate into chaos. In pre-colonial traditional society, there were rules and regulations that the inhabitants were required to abide by. The rules and regulations were therefore established to govern the conduct of individuals within the jurisdiction of the chiefs so that it does not degenerate into confusion.

Settlement of disputes
The pre-colonial traditional rulers settled disputes. Disputes are normal in every society and pre-colonial societies in West Africa were no exception. Any dispute that arose was settled by the chiefs. Culprits were punished and the innocent were set free. This was one way chiefs controlled their subjects.

Law enforcement
There were law enforcement institutions in place to ensure law enforcement. Some of the enforcement institutions were the Age grades, masquerades, and militant groups like the Asafo companies among the Akans. These enforcement institutions were used in controlling the subjects.

Use of ancestral spirits
The traditional belief that when the living misbehaved, the dead who lived in the after world could punish them, was another ingenious way of controlling the people. This belief in the underworld was common in pre-colonial times and nobody wanted to be on the wrong side of the gods hence they obeyed the laws thus helping the chiefs maintain control.

Reward systems
Traditional citizens who have contributed to the development of the society were rewarded with titles. Some were given lands and still others were allocated booties of war. In order to qualify for these largess, subjects needed to be well behaved. This helped the chiefs to keep them in control.

Customs or taboos and conventions
There were things that the traditional society frowned upon and the society never compromised on them. These were aspects of their customs, taboos and conventions. Any infraction of the customs, taboos or conventions attracted a certain form of fine or sanctions. This way, the chiefs were able to control their subjects.

Oath taking
In pre-colonial times, one of the ways of ascertaining the truth was the taking of an oath to tell the truth. There were serious repercussions for anybody who took the oath and still went ahead to tell a lie. The oath was usually taken before the gods of the land represented by the Chief Priests. Sub-chiefs were also made to swear oaths to remain loyal to the Paramount Chief. All these helped to keep them in line.

1. Highlight any six methods used by the pre-colonial chiefs in your country to control their subjects.

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