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Opinions of Friday, 1 June 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

The Ga Mantse Goes To Accra

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong looks at the newly installed Ga Mantse, Nii Tackie Tawiah III, king of Ghana’s Ga ethnic group, attempts to work with the overburdened Accra Metropolitan Assembly to tackle developmental problems

For sometime as its population grew and rural-urban migration soared, the City of Accra, Ghana’s capital city, is experiencing rising developmental problems. While local indigenes complain of the central government appropriating their ancestral lands for official state duties without any compensation, the city managers, Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), have been riddled with worsening sanitation problems. For sometime, the Ga ethnic group and other Ghanaians have been wondering how to solve the sanitation problems of the City of Accra. Prominent Ga intellectuals such as Dr. Daniel Tetteh Osabu-Kle, a former Greater Accra Regional Minister and a political scientist at Canada’s Carleton University, have suggested that the unused Ga traditional rulers, like most traditional rulers in Ghana, should be cycled and be brought in, as part of the human resources management of AMA, to help solve the city’s mounting problems.

It is in this rising consciousness that the newly installed Ga Mantse (King of the Ga ethnic group), Nii Tackie Tawiah III, is warming up to what he describes as the City of Accra’s sanitation situation exhibiting the “pain” of the degradation “of the city of his ancestors.” In the spirit of Ghanaian/African values of communalism, the King is “going to muster his subordinate chiefs to support the AMA in salvaging the face of the city which today is anything but decent.” Like other city managers of Ghana’s cities, AMA has not reflected authentically the environment it operates in, for long blinded from the huge traditional human resources waiting to be tapped for development. King Nii Tackie Tawiah III's new thinking indicates a new turn in the development process of not only Ghana’s Greater Accra Region but also the entire country, where traditional institutions, with its rich potency and experiences, are being appropriated in the larger progress of Ghana – from the local to the regional to the national.

For long, attempts to build up Ghana, as a development project, have not been holistic, the ruling neo-liberal values not mixing proportionately with the local indigenous values as other ex-colonies such South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam have done. For the better part of Ghana’s 50 years of corporate existence, either way, the neo-liberal structures have not gone to the traditional institutions and vice versa. Now for the first time in the climate of the growing calls for the hybridization of indigenous values with neo-liberal ones, as part of the broader re-tooling of indigenous cultural-developmental continuity, the traditional is going to the neo-liberal – King Nii Tackie Tawiah III is going to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly to help solve one its irritating developmental problems – sanitation. The King’s complaining of the degradation of the Ga ancestral lands is instructive. In African cultural context, you don’t debase your ancestral properties such as rivers, beaches, lakes and lands as the sanitation situation in the City of Accra shows. African culture extols balances between man and the environment in its development process. This is in contrast to the neo-liberal paradigm of anthropocentrism, where man dominates the environment to the exclusion of other entities. Pretty much of the environmental problems we are facing today are because of the dormant anthropocentric practices.

Such view may be at the forefront of King Nii Tackie Tawiah III plans. The reasons for the King surmounting the traditional will to go to AMA to help in its sanitation problems have both historical and structural implications. Though during the long-running colonial rule the British used traditional institutions in its governance, post-independent Ghanaian elites did not, partly setting the stage for some of the developmental distortions today. From its initial stage, first President Kwame Nkrumah’s harsh marginalized traditional rulers, as the stronghold of Ghana’s progress, explaining why King Nii Tackie Tawiah III have to go to AMA in 2007 to help solve the disturbing sanitation problems.



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