For the past weeks, inclusiveness as reality thresher in further bonding the 56 ethnic groups that form the Ghana nation-state has become a buzz-word in the Ghanaian presidency and among policy wonks. By talking of inclusiveness, the ruling elites are aware of exclusiveness among some of the 56 ethnic groups.
The exclusiveness palaver hinges not only on the uneven provision of public goods but also how better all the 56 ethnic groups feel being part of Ghana as a development project, as Daniel Tetteh Osabu-Kle makes clear in “Compatible Cultural Democracy: The Key to Development in Africa,” that part of the solutions of resolving some of the perennial African ethnic tensions lies in “using modified, indigenous political structures and ideologies.” The exclusiveness trouble is also as ancient as it is modern. Thomas Spears argues in “Neo-Traditionalism and the Limits of Invention in British Colonial Africa” that Africa’s ethnic conflicts, mostly fuelled by national exclusiveness, has much to do with Africans’ pre-colonial conditions as much as its colonial and post-colonial circumstances. Ghana’s ethnic groups have virtually the same commonalities of cultural values that could be appropriated for further bonding the groups together but this hasn’t been the case. Notwithstanding its long-running image as the “Black Star” of Africa, some ethnic groups such as the Ewes feel not very much part of the Ghana project. While part of the reasons may be historical – the colonialists using some ethnic groups against another, the colonialists developing one region against another, the colonialists empowering one ethnic groups against another - contemporary Ghanaian elites have not shown any intellectually detailed attempt to demonstrate durable all-inclusive Ghana by appropriating from within the 56 groups’ traditional values for policy-making and provision of goods.
Part of the reasons for some of the perennial ethnic tensions, born out of exclusiveness, may be issues of power as well as the provision of public goods. P. V. Obeng, a former presidential advisor on Governmental Affairs under President Jerry Rawlings, drawing from the December Kenyan election-influenced ethnic conflict that claimed over 1,500 lives foretold Ghanaians, in the climate of the exclusiveness debate, advised that Ghana can at any time go the Kenyan way. While part of the reasons may be the fact that the 56 ethnic groups have not been bond together enough by appropriating their cultural values as a national unifier, post-colonial Ghanaian elites have not worked enough to move beyond the limited public goods mostly created by the ex-colonial British regime.
A nationally inclusive society is as national as it is international since it borders on security and peace. While the UNDP’s and Accra’s latest development agenda, “Towards a More Inclusive Society,” contained in the 2008 National Human Development Report, projects an all-inclusive Ghana, the inclusiveness didn’t project any appropriation of Ghanaian traditional values as part of the development agenda. No doubt, Ghana development watcher, the Okyenhene (Paramount Chief of the Abuakwa State in the Eastern Region), Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II, makes the case that most policy-making and other national deliberations are unbalanced, city biased, exclusive and leave the over 80 percent informal sector, the key beneficiaries of policy-making and deliberations, out of the development game.
This overly exclusive atmosphere, for the past 50 years, explains why the Konkomba and the Bimoba, among some few groups, recurring bloody conflicts still tells a Ghana yet to be more inclusive, where the citizens’ traditional values inform policies as well as the neo-liberal ones. The Ewe ethnic group feels hated, and one of their traditional rulers, Agbogbomefia of the Asogli, Togbe Afede XIV, has observed that only the ideals of good governance can cure ethnic marginalization. Part of the reason for such apparent exclusive challenges is that Ghanaian elites have not been working outside the ex-colonially-imposed development box that largely operates heavily with Western development paradigms and largely down-played Ghanaian/African values.
The ticklish exclusive issue is how the traditional values of the 56 groups will inform national development programmes such as the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS I) and the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II). By this measure, national programmes will reflect fairly the traditional values of all the 56 groups as well as the ex-colonial neo-liberal ones. Nowhere will this be seen more than Accra’s Public Sector Reform Programme, with its monitoring and evaluation component, “to improve efficiency in policy implementation and develop a new and positive mindset for Public/Private Partnership for accelerated growth.”
It is when national policies, deliberations and programmes reflect both Ghanaian traditional values as well as the neo-liberal ones in a more romantic way, that P.V. Obeng’s observation that Ghanaians are living in “deceptive peace” will be resolved and a more inclusive society moulded in Ghanaian traditional values.
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