Posted by / Tuesday 21 June 2016 / No comments

Why the powers of the chiefs declined under colonial rule

African Chief, Bronze, Exhibition
Usurpation of powers by colonial institutions
The powers of the traditional rulers to make laws were taken by the Legislative Council while their power to formulate and implement policies were usurped by the colonial Governor and his Executive Council. When the colonial powers introduced British courts, it also took away the powers of the chiefs to adjudicate disputes. Naturally, the traditional powers of the chiefs were eroded.

Introduction of Christianity
With the introduction of Christianity, many locals were converted. As these converts grew in the Christian faith, they started to frown on the traditional and rituals practices performed by their traditional rulers. The pouring of libation and ancestral worship were against the doctrines of Christianity and the new converts did not want to have anything to do with them. This eroded the influence of the traditional rulers as the spiritual authorities of their people. Many people now looked to the Reverend Ministers and evangelists.

Appointment of traditional rulers
The enstoolment and destoolment of chiefs were brought under the control of the British colonial masters. The appointment of traditional rulers depended on the Native Administration Ordinance, Native Authority Ordinance and Native Jurisdiction Ordinance. This was contrary to traditional norms and customs. Since the power to make or unmake chiefs laid in the hands of the British, and they even had the powers to exile those chiefs who were proving stubborn, naturally, the powers of the chiefs declined. 

The policy of Indirect Rule
The policy of Indirect Rule, introduced by the British colonial masters also contributed to the reduction of the power and prestige of the traditional rulers. The chiefs implemented policies of the colonial masters, some of which were unpopular, such as, the collection of taxes, military conscription, and forced labour. The people did not see how their own chiefs, with the support of the white subject them to such treatment, naturally this reduced the esteem of the chiefs before their own people.

Western education
The introduction of western education by the colonial authorities also contributed to the decline of the powers and influence of traditional leaders. Education produced an elite class of people who despised traditional norms and values and those who championed it. This was because they felt such practices were not in line with the knowledge they had acquired. The reduced the powers of the chiefs before the educated.

Influence foreign culture
Western education was accompanied by western culture and western came along with western lifestyles that were alien to the traditional setting. Such western lifestyles included ways of dressing, types of food, etc. People who had acquired these lifestyles began to look down on the existing culture, represented by the chiefs. This also helped to reduce the powers and influence of the traditional rulers.

1. Highlight six factors that contributed to the decline of the influence of traditional leaders under British colonial rule in West Africa.

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