Mamprusi - Sociopolitical Organization



The king (nayiiri) sits with his court in his palace ( nayiini ) at the village of Nalerigu, roughly in the territorial center of the former kingdom. Although aspects of the kingship are replicated in the paramount chiefship of each province, only the king's palace contains the regalia used to install the king and to invest the heads of the other royal provinces. Each king is regarded as embodying all preceding kings, and his court is, directly or indirectly, the source of kingship/chiefship (naam) throughout the kingdom. It is the most elaborate and largest court containing offices represented in smaller numbers in all other royal courts. Of these, the Master of Horses ( wudaana ) and the Master of Spears ( kpanaraana ) are most common. Courts also include gun bearers, drummers, and local earth-priests, as well as Muslims. Also numbered among the king's elders are all the household heads of a settlement, special drummers and officeholders responsible for his clothing and regalia, successors to the titles of former executioners, and eunuchs.

Courts allocate land and deal with disputes arising from land claims and litigation arising from marriage, as well as other domestic and civil disputes. Most disputes are dealt with first in a chief's court rather than in government courts. Chiefly courts deal with funerals and succession to office, organize annual cylindrical celebrations, perform sacrifices on behalf of the community to earth and ancestor divinities, and mediate between the local communities and national government. Special commoner-chiefs deal with witchcraft accusations and have custody of convicted witches.

Commoner elders in the king's court play a crucial role in the selection of each new king and are involved in the selection and installation of royal chiefs. Succession to royal office is competitive; numerous candidates present themselves, and, through gifts and persuasion, attempt to influence the court in their favor. Office should circulate through the various gates of a royal lineage, and a son should not succeed his father in office. The participation of commoners—as king/chief makers and as followers of rival princes in competitions for royal office—balances the hegemony of royals and acts as a check on the abuse of power by one segment of the royal lineages. All offices are held for life; therefore much of the court endures beyond the reign of a particular king or chief.

Since 1957, numerous local institutions have been set up in the Mamprusi districts by the Ghanaian government to extend the processes of technological and social transformation begun during the colonial period. Police and army units represent the central government, as do schools and local government offices. Roads, a postal system, telephone communication, and bus transport connect the Mamprusi districts with the rest of the world. Increased trade with southern Ghana has resulted in the expansion of markets and increased distribution for commodities made elsewhere.

The north of Ghana has been the scene of numerous small-scale conflicts since the late 1960s, most of which have not involved Mamprusi. One of the longest-standing conflicts involves people resident immediately to the north who claim Mamprui identity and are descended from royal Mamprusi who emigrated to that area prior to the British conquest. They speak Hausa or Kusal rather than Mampruli, and, although they consider themselves Mamprusi, they should be considered separately from the ethnic group residing in the Mamprusi districts.


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