Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana

By Carola Lentz | Go to book overview

4
THE LAWRA CONFEDERACY
NATIVE AUTHORITY

Limited self-government under strong chiefs: this basic tenet of indirect rule was recommended for the Northern Territories as early as 1921 by Governor Guggisberg.1 However, Chief Commissioner Walker Leigh regarded any reform that granted the chiefs more responsibility to be premature. It was only in the late 1920s that a number of younger officials – foremost among them Duncan-Johnstone, now stationed in Tamale as the Commissioner of the Southern Province – began to push for changes in the native administration. In the wake of the world economic crisis, expenditures on colonial administration were to be cut, and the introduction of direct taxes – to be administered by native authorities – were to replace the forced labour which had been common practice in the Northern Territories but was now prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Yet for DuncanJohnstone and others, indirect rule was not merely a cost-effective administrative instrument, but a philosophy of development. The path to reform was finally cleared when Walker Leigh was pensioned off in 1930.2

Duncan-Johnstone looked in particular to Governor Cameron of Tanganyika as a role-model,3 probably because Cameron also confronted the consequences of a long tradition of direct rule and the problems of organising traditionally stateless societies. Like Cameron, Duncan-Johnstone supported a policy of ‘progressive traditionalism’:

[I]t is our duty to do everything in our power to develop the native on
lines which will not westernise him and turn him into a bad imitation
of a European … We want to make him a good African and we shall
not achieve this goal if we destroy all institutions, all the traditions, all
the habits of the people.4

However, stubbornly clinging to old ‘tribal institutions’ was not what was required, but rather the introduction of European ‘standards and methods’, wherever necessary, ‘grafted on to the existing stock’. For DuncanJohnstone it was a matter of ‘gradual nation-building’ via the creation of the largest native states possible and the education of chiefs to become effective administrators. When, at a meeting in Tamale, a teacher from Cape Coast publicly accused him of pursuing a policy of ‘divide and rule’, ‘splitting the

-104-

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Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Maps and Plates vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The North-West in the Nineteenth Century 14
  • 2 - The Introduction of Chieftaincy 33
  • 3 - The Discursive Creation of Ethnicity 72
  • 4 - The Lawra Confederacy Native Authority 104
  • 5 - Labour Migration, Home-Ties and Ethnicity 138
  • 6 - ‘Light over the Volta’- The Mission of the White Fathers 153
  • 7 - Decolonisation and Local Government Reform 175
  • 8 - ‘The Time When Politics Came’- Party Politics and Local Conflict 199
  • 9 - Ethnic Movements and Special-Interest Politics 228
  • 10 - The Cultural Work of Ethnicity 252
  • Epilogue 275
  • Notes 280
  • Abbreviations 322
  • Glossary 323
  • Divisional (Paramount) Chiefs of Lawra District 324
  • References 325
  • Index 337
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