Ghanaians are still looking forward to enacting a law on inheritance and succession, though many attempts have been made since 1884. Policy-makers and academics who try to address the problem are divided, with many of them showing their personal biases. For example, Appiah (1992) questioned the rationale behind the Akan customary practice that deprives sons and daughters of a deceased the right to enjoy a fair share of their fathers’ estate. Nzegwu (2001) reacted that Appiah (1992) ignored the matrilineal implication of the Asante and underwrote a neocolonial Africanist career by privileging a particular conception of family. Awusabo-Asare (1990) contended that the Intestate Succession Law of Ghana had created problems for people in matrilineal societies because it contravened some principles about the matrilineal system of inheritance.
In this dissertation, I adopted functionalism and postcolonialism as theoretical frameworks and used qualitative research design, specifically, critical ethnography to examine the problems associated with inheritance systems of the matrilineal Fantse-speaking Akan. I selected five settlements in the Central Region of Ghana for observation, and conducted in-depth interview with 32 participants made up of five chiefs, two queen mothers, 10 clan heads, 10 widows and five widowers. The study sought answers for the following research questions:
- What is the nature of the social organizations of the Fantse?
- What are the rights and obligations that these social institutions confer on their members?
- What are the changes that have taken place in the family systems of the Fantse?
- What is the influence of national laws on the Fantse family systems and their customary practices?
I concluded that among the Fantse, the social systems are woven around the lineage and clan with rights and responsibilities molded in dual roles to the conjugal and composite families and the clan or lineage. It also emerged that changes have occurred in family in the areas of childhood construction, marriage, divorce and funeral celebrations. Finally, the inheritance was based more on customary practices that the national law. I suggested that a national conference should be organized on inheritance just as has been done for review of the constitution.