October 19, 2020

The General Features of Pre-Colonial Ghanaian States

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This tutorial takes a quick look at the general features of pre-colonial Ghanaian states.

Your WASSCE/WAEC Government question on this topic may come in the form of the questions below.


Please Note:

The bullet points below must be expanded into paragraphs for an acceptable WAEC/WASSCE Government essay.

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Before the advent of colonial rule, Ghanaian chiefdoms or kingdoms had a well-organized system of political administration.

Mention could be made of the Akan, Mole-Dagbani, Anlo and Ga states.

Paramount chief/king

  • Head of all traditional rulers
  • Performed legislative executive and judicial functions e.g. law-maker, judge, commander-in-chief, administrator, religious leader etc.

Divisional or Sub-Chiefs

  • They ruled the sub-division of the kingdom
  • Directly came under paramount chief
  • Under the divisional chiefs were district rulers, village chiefs or headmen in that order

The pre-colonial Akan political system was therefore CENTRALIZED

The Queen mother

  • Mother of the maternal royal family
  • Nominated the successor to the chief when the seat became vacant.
  • Sat with chief in court
  • Had her own linguist and councilors
  • Could become paramount ruler when no successor was found immediately
  • Advisor to the chief and council of elders
  • Controller of women affairs
  • Could be deposed

Related question:

Outline the functions of the queen mother in the Akan political system.

OR: Describe the role of the queen mother in one pre-colonial Ghanaian political system.

The Linguist

  • Chief’s spokesman
  • Well-versed in oral tradition

Council of elders

  • Members were heads of families
  • Approved the nomination of chiefs
  • Advised the chief
  • Could destool the chief
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  • Youth groups made up of commoners
  • Performed para-military functions
  • Provided communal labour for the provision of social amenities


  • Presided over by the chief/king
  • Could use trial by ordeal.


  • Kept revenue from court fees, fines, sale of land, taxes etc

Ralph Nyadzi

Ralph has a passion for the teaching and learning of Language and Literature mainly because these two help him to understand and appreciate why people act the way they do. Over the past two decades, he has coached over 5000 students and adult learners to achieve their educational goals. Ralph is the founder and CEO of Cegast Academy.

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