#07: The Coloniality Chronicles – Part Three

In which I take a look at the Ghanaian Chieftaincy...

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[Image description: Text ‘The Coloniality Chronicles Part Two’ on a navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke highlighted segment]

While I’ve been out here in Ghana, I’ve been living with one of my Aunts in Appolonia City, a new planned city about 35km outside Accra.

Appolonia is being developed by Rendeavour, Africa’s largest city developer, which struck a deal with the local Chiefs who own huge swathes of the lands across the Accra plains. The city is 2,325-acres and the 25-year development plan encompasses residential, commercial, retail, and light industrial developments, as well as social amenities like schools, healthcare facilities and recreational parklands.

It will eventually be home to 100,000 residents across a mixture of Rendeavour corporation, developer, and privately built homes. My Aunt and Uncle bought land from the Rendeavour corporation a few years ago and finished building their retirement house here just last year.

Here’s a pic of the main city entrance. Screenshot from the Appolonia City website:

[Image description: Screenshot of Appolonia city main entrance. Wide gravel driveway with a rectangular building to the left with lettering ‘APPOLONIA’. There is green vegetation on either side of the driveway]

Their sons (my cousins) are both married and live elsewhere, so it’s just the three of us, along with their dog. Most of the land within the city is yet to be sold and there are only a few dozen households here at the moment.

Here’s our place on GoogleMaps satellite view (circled in red).

[Image description: Screenshot of GoogleMaps satellite view of Appolonia city. Marked roads and with a few houses. A lone, larger house surrounded by green vegetation is circled in red]

As you can see from the satellite image, most of the plots of land are currently empty. In fact, we regularly see whole herds of cows right by our fence, as herdsman from outside the boundary of Appolonia city regularly bring their cows to graze on the grass here. And while walking the dog, we sometimes come across hunters on mopeds, with rifles and capture nets. They’re on the prowl for bush meat like guineafowl, squirrel and lizard.

[Image description: A herd of cows grazes on green vegetation behind a black metal and grey contrete fence/wall structure]

It got me wondering where the herds will go to graze once all the land here is built up. My Uncle reckons that this will be an issue for the regional Chiefs to resolve. The Chief of our area is Nii Nuertey Amobi II, an electrical engineer, who stepped into the role at 35, after the death of the previous Chief in 2014.

In Ghana, the Chieftaincies have executive, legislative and judicial powers which run alongside the republic-style system ushered in by Kwame Nkrumah at independence in 1957. It almost goes without saying that Western democracy was exported to the country in the colonial era. In pre-colonial times, the Chieftaincies oversaw law and order across the region that we now call Ghana. By the time the British annexed the country in 1821 – Ghana has also seen Portuguese (1482 to 1642) and Dutch (1612 to 1872) imperialism – the Chieftaincies were leveraged as auxiliary forms of governance within the colonial state.

Ghana’s most powerful Chief is the ‘Asantehene’, Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II. He’s the absolute monarch of the Asante people from the historical Kingdom of Asante and ascended to the throne in 1999 at the age of 50.

Note: The Asantes are part of a meta-ethnic group called the Akan. My Dad is Akan. My Mum takes her Ghanaian heritage from the coastal Ga people.

Here’s Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II on a state visit to Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, in 2018, Image credit: presidency.gov.gh

[Image description: Asantehene Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II sits on a gold and yellow couch wearing an opulent, multi-coloured kente cloth and gold jewellery. To his right sits President Nana Akufo-Addo in a black dashiki suit. A multi-coloured flower arrangement on a coffee table is in the foreground]

Warrior peoples such as the Asante waged wars against neighbouring ethnic groups to amass land-based resources, as was common in pre-modern times. Between 1824 and 1900 the British attempted to subdue the Asante in their aggression towards the coastal Ga and Fante peoples but were then drawn into wars against the Asante themselves. In 1896, during the fourth of these Anglo-Asante wars, the British ransacked the city of Kumasi, the seat of the Asante kingdom, and chased Asantehene Prempeh I out of the region, exiling him in the Seychelles.

By 1925, the British had decided that the Asante no longer posed any threat to the protectorate, so they allowed Prempeh I to return. He was reinstated as Asantehene in 1926. After independence in 1957, Ghana’s fledgling political regimes initially tried to to weaken the power of chiefs, but in the following decades they have remained not only powerful, but also popular.

These days, Chiefs or ‘stool families’ are well-educated professionals – many hold degrees from abroad – with vested interests in the political system. Although they have a constitutionally ratified mandate to sit outside the party-political system, parliamentarians often recruit Chiefs to mobilise their communities to vote on behalf of them in general elections. These run once every four years, with premierships capped at two terms.

The current president Nana Akufo-Addo led his party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to a second term of government in December 2020. It’s a centre-right and liberal-conservative political party much like the Conservative Party in the UK and the Republican Party in the US. Since the full democratisation of Ghana in 1992 – a few coups in the 1960s and 1970s meant that the country was under military rule for many years – it has been one of the two dominant parties in Ghanaian politics. The #FixTheCountry social media campaign (Eden Ntumy spoke about this in the May 2021 Guest Post) drawing attention to its mismanagement of public funds, is still in full swing.

Glossary

Asantehene – historically a position of great power. The ruler of the Asante people and the Kingdom of Asante and Asanteman, the homeland of the Asante ethnic group. The Asantehene is traditionally enthroned on a golden stool known as the Sika ‘dwa, and the office is sometimes referred to by this name.

Chieftaincy – in pre-colonial times, the Chieftaincy constituted the axis for the exercise of executive, legislative and judicial powers. Since the colonial era, the institution has kept its influence and is still responsible for virtually all issues pertaining to land administration. The Chieftaincy is backed by the Constitution of Ghana.

centre-right – to the right of the political spectrum; neither universally socially conservative nor culturally liberal, and often combines both beliefs with support for civil liberties and elements of traditionalism.

guineafowl – small, chicken-like birds native to Ghana

Kwame Nkrumah – Born in Nkroful, Ghana in 1909. Died in Bucharest, Romania, 1972. Staunch Pan-Africanist and the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana, having led the Gold Coast to independence from Britain in 1957. In February 1966, while on a state visit to North Vietnam and China, his government was overthrown in a violent coup d'état led by the national military and police forces, with backing from the civil service. Nkrumah never returned to Ghana, instead lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea, as the guest of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-president of the country.

liberal-conservative – political ideology combining conservative policies with liberal stances. It incorporates the classical-liberal view on economic interventionism, according to which individuals should be free to participate in the market and generate wealth without government interference.


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I’m Almaz Ohene, a Creative CopywriterFreelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
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Edited and Proofed by Poppy Beale-Collins, a writer and editor. People who would like to work with Poppy should get in touch via poppybcollins@gmail.com.