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The pre-colonial political structure of the Ewe ethnic group of Ghana

The Ewe ethnic group is scattered among the three West African countries of Ghana, Togo and the republic of Benin. In Ghana they can be found in the south-eastern parts, in the Volta Region. There is the Anlo Ewe, there is the central Volta Ewe and there is the Tongu, all speaking the same Ewe language with varying dialectical differences. Estimates indicate that their current population is around 2.7 million.

The Paramount Chief
One feature of the Ewe political structure is that a group of towns and villages come together to form a paramountcy. This paramountcy was headed by a Paramount Chief or “Fiaga” who resided in the "Fiadu" or capital town. The Fiaga wielded political authority over the chiefs of these subordinating towns and villages. The main function of the Fiaga was to ensure peace and harmony in his traditional area and peaceful co-existence with other neighbouring Paramount Chiefs. He supplies the needs of the militants during wars, both logistically and financially, to ensure that his subjects succeed in the war. He remains at home to receive reports about the progress of the war and how the pendulum is swinging.

Town and Village Chiefs
The paramountcy was a conglomeration of other villages and towns. These villages and towns were headed by their own chiefs. They owed allegiance to the Paramount Chief and therefore paid homage to him as the custom demanded. Their duty was to maintain law and order in the villages and towns and ensure that there was peace and harmony. 

Clan Chiefs
The towns and villages are each made up of clans. A group of families with a particular village formed a clan and at the head of these clans were Clan Chiefs. Issues pertaining to the families of these clans were brought to the attention of the Clan Chief and he made sure they were dealt with according to the customs and practices of the land. He was responsible for the distribution of clan lands to members who needed it for economic, social or recreational purposes. He settled squabbles within the clan and mobilized the people to undertake community projects.

Lineage Heads
The clans were made up of lineages, which were in turn made up of smaller family units. A lineage was headed by an elder male member of one of the family units. The Lineage Head was mandated to handle disputes that arose between one family and the other. Land disputes were some of the causes of quarrel among families and the Lineage Head was to ensure this was minimized. 

The Chief of Staff (Awadada)
The military wing of an Ewe ethnic group also constituted part of the political set up. The military was set up for the purpose of protecting the territorial integrity of the state. There was a three pronged military set up, the left wing, commanded by the "Miamefia" or left wing chief, then right wing led by the "Dusimefia" or left wing chief and the central war chief. He was the Commander in Chief. He was the "Awadada". The "Dusimefia" and the "Miamefia" were responsible for military strategy of their respective wings. They also reported to the "Awadada". Together, they ensured that the Paramount chief was protected from capture by the enemy force and also that state was protected from external aggression. 

Decentralization of political power
Among the pre-colonial Ewe ethnic group, political power was decentralized. As a result of the Ewes harsh experience in the hands of a wicked chief in Notse, the Ewes never liked to concentrate political power in the hands of a central authority. Political decisions were collectively made by a Council of Elders after a consensus was reached among competing ideas. 

Judicial Organisation
Cases could be tried at each level of the political structure. Cases involving members of a particular family were handled by the head of that family. Cases involving two different families could be taken to the Lineage Head for adjudication. Matters involving two clans were handled by the Village Chief and his Council of Elders. Only matters that were of great proportion, involving two different towns or villages were taken to the palace of the Paramount Chief if it was difficult to find an amicable solution. 

1. Highlight pre-colonial political structure of the Ewes of Ghana.

2. Describe the pre-colonial political structure of any ethnic group in your country.

Note: This article was edited by the Ghanaian Language (Ewe) educator of Awudome Senior High School

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