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Subj: SIMPLE LIES & COMPLEX TRUTHS : History, Ethno-Politics and Ghana Part 2
Date: 15/09/98





Compatriots ,

SIMPLE LIES & COMPLEX TRUTHS : History, Ethno-Politics and Ghana Part  2

Of Empires, Guns , Twisted Logic and Today's World

The Ghanaian historian-politician ( quite often a dangerous combination of professions ) , A. Adu-Boahen,   has done more than most to continually remind Ghanaian children of the deeds of the Asante.

Indeed he has gone as far as to create the term "Asante empire" and by merely superimposing his own whimsical map on the map of Ghana, done more than his ancestors ever did on the field of battle to "conquer" the people of Southern Ghana for the "Asante empire". He has created the myth that all Southern Ghanaians were Asante subjects.

Any wonder that the Asante are today emboldened into making exclusive claims for leadership in Ghana. The reality is the diametrical opposite.

The idea of empire has never been native to Ghana.

Suggestions of empire indicate a detailed administrative and control system as existed in, for instance, Judea under the Romans or as obtained in the Gold Coast under the British when various governors and subordinate officials kept subject peoples in check. It involved a standing army and corp of administrators that run the various localities.

Did the Asante ever devise the administrative and military know-how to operate such a system?

Does the writ of even the Government of  modern Ghana run effectively in all parts of the country?  Anybody who knows our country well would realise that this is not and has never been so.

Although Prof Boahen writes as an intellectual complete with the weight of authority that a PhD attaches to one's name his books, and therefore his claims, are hardly ever footnooted .

NB: (See for example, AA Boahen, Topics in West African History, London 1966;
JB Webster & AA Boahen, The Revolutionary Years - West Africa Since 1800, London 1967, p. 123 - a map showing an Asante empire larger than the territorial extent of modern Ghana).

This affords him the freedom of extensively embroidering on Ghana history, and indulging in creative historiography of the lowest order. He claimed at p. 77 of Topics in West African History that the Asante conquered the Ga.

When did this happen and at what battle or in what circumstances? What lasting effects did Asante conquest leave on the Ga?

In the same vein Boahen and his like have curiously avoided discussion of the Asante defeat by the Ga at the Battle of Katamanso, another Asante war of aggression for which they paid dearly.

Ever heard of the Dodowa forest? Yes, it has become a Ghanaian version of Waterloo.

I understand that in Twi "Kata-manso" means that which is to be covered up. Alternately, when Boahen has been compelled to briefly touch on the Battle of Katamanso or Dodowa, he casts it as a battle between the Asante and the white man. In my estimation this standpoint only demonstrates Boahen's contempt for the ability of non-Asante peoples in Ghana.

Yes,  the Ga fought with the British during the Sagrenti War (not Nsamankow as stated by Ellison), but their role here is also is obscured by Boahen who dismissed the Eastern campaign under Captain John Glover, and emphasises the Eastern campaign through Fantiland as unwarranted breach of Asante territorial integrity.

The accounts show that for the Ga the Eastern campaign was another Katamanso; the records are replete with Ga rejection of Captain John Glover's leadership. In fact, they refused to proceed to Kumasi, restricting their campaign to a storming of Duffo island and the expulsion of the resident Asante and Akwamu garrison. There was no suggestion that the Ga fought as British lackeys.

The Ga Defeat of Asante at Katamanso ( 1826)

Let us examine the facts about the Katamanso routing of the Asante for ourselves. It was stated by none other than John Mensah Sarbah ( Fanti National Constitution 1968 reprint, page 81):

"Some writers say that by this treaty the local rulers acknowledged British protection, but the same writers forget that the defeat suffered by the Asanti sovereign and his forces five years previously, at the battle of Dodowa, in 1826, was inflicted by the natives; for although the use of rockets and grapes turned the scale at the critical moment, there were not more than sixty white soldiers present in a force of 11,380 men."

Europeans may over-state their exploits in Africa as they wish, but it is far more likely that their arms had little effect on the Asante combatants who were already mixed with the Ga and were engaged in bitter hand to hand fighting.

It should be emphasised, since Ellison seems to suggest that the Ga were mere footsoldiers in a white army that the Gold Coast was colonised in the 1870s and that at the time (1826) the Ga were mainly living territory designated a Dutch sphere of influence. The Ga monarch at Katamanso was therefore not under British command no matter what British writers may say to the contrary. 

Moving On

One smells fear and defeatism in Ellison's recourse to dodgy argumentation. But he needn't worry. As far as I am concerned this particular issue has been over-squeezed; we cannot perpetually dwell on the subject of Asante. It will suffice if the Asante realise that they have been over-playing their hand; and that they need to be sensitive to the concerns of others, and cease adopting a monopolistic attitude to state power and past glory.

For all and sundry the 1996 elections may well go down in history as the moment the wheels fell off the tribal bandwagon in Ghana politics, and the crushing realisation dawned on the chauvinists that accession to leadership should primarily be on the basis of calibre, not ethnicity or Asanteness. It is quite welcome that the current leaders of the NPP now appreciate this reality

The Machiavellian schemes of the Rawlings regime in the the run-up to the last elections never cease to amaze objective observers. No sooner had Arkaah's candidacy been confirmed than the NDC tabloids started to dig the dirt with exposÚs involving exclusives by his alleged lover and victim, Jemima Yalley. From that moment on it was clear that the Opposition had been wrong-footed and that it was going to be out-manoeuvred.

As far as I can tell the Oppostion will continue to have a hard time dislodging Rawlings' and his men; for once they have worked out a way, fair or foul, of hanging to power they can only become more adept at that. Better still they have bags of money too to carry out their nefarious aims. On the other hand, for how long would altruistic individuals pour money down the Opposition's bottomless expenditure pit, knowing that matters might in the end be rigged by government? For this and other reasons the financial problems of the Opposition can only become ever more daunting.

Let us not forget the undeniable fact that there has never been a transfer of power from one civilian regime to another through the ballot box in our country. The wishful thinkers aside, all must realise that it is going to be difficult changing this pattern. A surer bet lies in attempting a change from within the government.

Strategically this offers a better approach; for whether through palace coup or Kulungungu insiders have always been the most effective wreckers of Ghanaian regimes. Indeed, the Akata Pores, Giwas and others who came closest to threatening the regime were all insiders. So indeed were Arkaah and Kufuor, former insiders. The task ahead, in my view, is to perfect the art and to use the democratic mechanism to so infiltrate the Rawlings regime that it is damaged from within. Play them at their own Machiavellian game, employing tactics overt and covert.

Ethno-Federalists Show their True Colours

The latter-day enthusiasts of a federal Ghana are almost to a man ( or woman) Asante-centric supporters of the NPP unable to come to terms with the reality that the so-called Danquah-Busia tradition is a consistent loser in elections and that Asantes , as a minority tribe, cannot lay claim to a monopoly of power.

At least these people are now showing their true colours . Let us all wait till the year 2000 when , presumably, these same Asante tribalists ( I cannot think of a more apt description for them ) come round to ask the entire Ghanaian electorate to vote for their party .

Majoritarianism and Proportional Representation

As should be obvious to any serious thinkers about Ghanaian politics the central issues about our political future ought to centre of whether the first past the post system of representation as presently obtains in our country really results in the best form of parliamentary representation.

A passing knowledge of the calibre of the present crop of MPs should raise the question whether it is really in our interests that sundry men and women of proven talent should remain outside the political system.

Further, if one takes a micro view of our ethnic groups one wonders how many of the smaller ones are represented in parliament.  What about an Asante who permanently supplants his or herself to Accra. Should his or descendants not be entitled to represent their adopted locality in parliament?

Why should Accra's growing population worry others? Proportional representation provides an answer to each of these questions.

Extended to cabinet level it would be a panacea to many of the gripes expressed on Okyeame. Germany,  and many other democratic countries have adopted the system of proportional representation. Here in the U.S., it is widely acknowledged that the quality of legislation, and consequently of national governance, depends on the quality of legislators.

Properly adapted, proportional representation could ensure representation from the professional and chiefly classes, giving everyone a stake in the system, not simply the garrulous and the cloak and dagger politicians that infest the corridors of power. I can guarantee that unbridled majoritarianism can only lead to a new round of coups.

Indeed, the claim for Akan majority status in Ghana and the consequent annoyance of other elements of Ghana's population is based on the perception that an Akan majority implies a demand that Akans should rule Ghana under any democratic or other system. It is a most shameless substitution of a lie for a fact.

In a democratic dispensation it is impossible for a tiny cabal of Ewes to dominate even the NDC without the majority acquiescing in their own domination. Does it not take the vote of constituency delegates to nominate the NDC leader? And do Ewes not constitue a minority within that electoral college?

A tiny tribalistic cabal may have been able to impose its will on others under previous administrations headed by Rawlings, but there has been a sea-change. If those who scream their heads off on tribal grounds take stock of the present mechanics of Ghanaian politics they would realise that the means is there to check Ewe tribalism if any such thing exists.

I have previously argued that the way to ditch Rawlings / NDC is to infiltrate his party and effect change from within. I repeat that call again. In the meantime, I am not keen to exchange Ewe domination for Asante dictatorship based dangerously on an ideology of historical falsehoods.

As AB Bodomo, one of the genuine intellectuals on the net,  has wisely written , what is needed in Ghana is a history of nationality unity.

This must however be a history of truth, not myths, and that binds together our country's past, present and future. Some are however not very comfortable with the present and are correspondingly fearful of the future. therin lies the need to construct fraudulent tribal supremacist myths designed to feed and nurture insecure personal and tribalist egos.

We cannot choose the ethics of Pontius Pilate and delight in glories brought about by war while distancing ourselves from the atrocities war entails. The tribal dead and shamefully enslaved of various Ghanaian groups ( including Asante itself ) should be respected and the pathetic attempts to weave a tissue of lies and false glory over their cruel fate stopped.

Long live Ghana !