MR. PRESIDENT, YOU ARE CREATING AN ETHNIC SOCIETY! ...You are kindling the flames of ethnocentricism ... NPP is being converted into an ethnic party ... World Bank US$5 million for Asanteman Council is an ethnocentric move ... Kufuor's Ashanti ethnic politics is inconceivable short-sightedness
Some call him "Mr. No Nonsense". Others call him "Ka Na Wu". And yet others call him "Ma ka a, maka". And true to form, he has done it again.
The NPP MP for Akropong, Hon. Agyare Koi Larbi, has written to President Kufuor. And the letter is a stunning indictment of President Kufuor, the use to which he is putting Otumfuo the Asantehene while in the process creating a tribal society in the country, which has the potency of splitting the country along tribal lines.
The diplomat's diplomat, and the lawyer that he is, Hon. Agyare Koi Larbi tactically never once in his 5-page letter mentions the Asantehene by name or by title, but the Otumfuo's identity lurks behind every sentence in the letter.
Hon. Agyare Koi Larbi's concern stems from the 'Daily Graphic' publication of 5th July 2004 in which the Asantehene is reported to have negotiated with the World Bank for a loan for water for the Ashanti Region and three other regions.
In the view of the Akropong MP, the policy direction of the NPP on the matter may be kindling the flames of ethnocentricism and expresses concern that the actions of the NPP Government with respect to chieftaincy is leading many well-meaning Ghanaians wondering whether the NPP is not being converted into an ethnic party.
According to Mr. Koi Larbi, it was with great ingenuity and persistence that they were able to refute allegations that the NPP was an ethnic party when the party was formed in 1992, but this achievement is being undermined by deliberate government policies.
The Akropong MP explains that the attention and support that the World Bank is giving to the Asantehene could not have been possible without the consent of the Government since the World Bank and the IMF deal only with Governments, citing the recent grant of US$5 million to the Asanteman Council as a case in point.
Mr. Agyare Koi Larbi wondered why the request for that grant was not made by or through the National House of Chiefs instead of a particular chief that is the Asantehene. In the words of the Akropong MP:
"Blatant discriminatory policies of this nature undermine the unity of this country. The precedent set here is dangerous and opens the door to ethnocentricism".
According to Hon. Agyare Koi Larbi, that precedent is bad enough, but to compound it by encouraging the IMF and the World Bank to give loans or grants to a chief or chiefs for water projects for regions of the country is an inconceivable short-sightedness, threatening the balkanisation of the country.
He expresses concern that an elected government is abdicating or devolving its duties to a particular chief or chiefs.
The Akropong MP concludes his letter to President Kufuor by advocating a modern law on charities that will assign a role to chiefs in charitable causes while making them financially accountable.
On the subject of chiefs as negotiators for international loans and grants, the Honourable MP is emphatic:
"As for the practice of sending a particular chief or chiefs to source for funds from international organizations, it should be discouraged immediately". The full text of Hon. Agyare Koi Larbi's letter to the President is published below
HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT J. A. KUFUOR, C/O CHIEF OF STAFF CASTLE, OSU 15th July, 2004 Dear Sir, CHIEF IN MODERN GHANA AND THE THREAT OF ETHNOCENTRISM MY attention has been drawn to a disturbing publication in the Daily Graphic of July 5, 2004, captioned:
"World Bank Deal in Store-Four Regions to Benefit"
If the contents of the publication are correct then I wish to express serious reservations about the role of Government in this disturbing development.
The article raises serious questions about the role of chiefs in modern Ghanaian society.
I have decided to write to you and copy this letter to others because I have a strong feeling that the policy direction of government on this matter is dangerous and may be kindling the flames of ethnocentrism.
Notwithstanding political differences, I believe every patriotic politician has a duty to ensure the cohesiveness and unity of the country. I have been motivated to write this letter in the spirit in which I moved a motion in Parliament in 1998 for regional balance in recruitment into the Armed Forces. At that time my obsession was to prevent the Ghana Armed Forces from being developed into a sectarian, as opposed to a national, institution.
I am by the same motivation compelled to draw the government's attention to the threat to the cohesion of the country by its selective projections of chiefs. CHIEFTAINCY AND ETHNICITY The chiefs in Ghana represent different ethnic groups and therefore, any attempt by any Government to promote any particular chief will necessarily lead to allegations of tribalism. Every government is under a moral and political obligation to avoid policies that might lead to the division of this country along ethnic lines. RETURN TO FEUDAL ORDER OF MODERN GHANA? Ghanaians have a choice between returning to the feudal order of pre-colnial Ghana when they were ruled by Chiefs and a modern order in which they are to be governed by enlightened politicians.
A choice for the modern state as opposed to a feudal order was made in the 1950s when the country persistently rejected the ethnic politics of the opposition parties. In fact, one of the reasons for Nkrumah's success in Ghanaian politics has been attributed to the failure of the opposition to create a viable multi-ethnic based political party. It took the passage of the Avoidance of Discrimination Act of 1958 before any semblance of a viable opposition party was created. Part of the reasons for the decline and defeat of the NDC was a belief in many Ghanaian circles that it was sponsoring an ethnic, as opposed to a national, agenda.
The actions of the present Government with respect to chieftaincy is leading many well-meaning Ghanaians wondering whether the NPP is not being converted into an ethnic party. When the NPP was formed in 1992, very ingenious and persistent efforts were made to refute allegations of the NPP as an ethnic party. That rewarding effort by many ordinary members of the NPP is being undermined by some seemingly deliberate government policies. GHANAIAN CHIEFS-WORLD BANK AND IMF The Bretton Wood Institution, World Bank and IMF deal only with governments of countries subscribing to the article of the Institution. They give monies to governments and states, not feudal chiefs. They also give monies to non-governmental organizations in countries only with the consent of the Governments concerned. The recent grant of $5 million from the World Bank to the Asanteman Council is a case in point. The World Bank must have given that money only upon the express consent and/or request of the Ghana Government. My problem is that if the government felt it wanted to take advantage of any of the World Bank programmes for indigenous people, why didn't it make the request for the National House of Chiefs rather than for a particular chief and a particular region? Blatant discriminatory policies of this nature undermine the unity of this country. The precedent set here is dangerous and opens the door to ethnocentrism. What prevents another government from sourcing funds for chiefs in Accra to develop the slums in Accra? Or say funds for Fante and Ewe chiefs to develop their coastal areas?
The list of negative possibilities is endless. To proceed further to encourage the IMF and World Bank to give loans or grants to a chief or chiefs for water projects for regions of the country is an inconceivable short-sightedness.
Another government might then use the precedent to sponsor say chiefs in the North to obtain a "grant" from the World Bank to improve infrastructure in the three Northern Regions or stop desertification of the North. The trend obviously leads to balkanization of the country. An elected government has no right to abdicate and/or devolve its duties to a particular chief or chiefs, however competent they may be. FUTURE OF CHIEFTAINCY-LESSONS FROM EUROPE The government and chiefs of Ghana have to learn from the European experience in the decline of Monarchs. The Monarchy has been abolished throughout Europe, save for a few. And the most conspicuous of the surviving Monarchs in Europe is the English Monarchy.
What is the secret of their survival? The surviving Monarchs of Europe have learnt that their survival in an age of the "masses", "people" depends on adherence to strict political and moral code of conduct in which they keep away from controversial political issues.
The surviving Monarchs in Europe and Asia now confine themselves to ceremonial functions and charity works. Though they help raise huge funds for charities they don't control the funds. Chiefs may be used to raise monies for various charitable activities. But if the government misleads them to step into the area of conflict, then like their counterparts in Europe, they will face the threat of abolition.
And contrary to what some believe, abolition of chieftaincy will not create any upheaval in Ghana. It has happened in many countries and nothing happened.
If the government is interested in the maintenance of chieftaincy then it should avoid using any particular chief or group of chiefs to do things which might create disharmony in the country and lead our people to abolish the institution altogether. REFORMING CHIEFTAINCY AS AN INSTITUTION A casual look at the cultural and political landscape clearly reveals the need for extensive reforms of Chieftaincy. Reforms cannot come from the chiefs themselves since they have not shown much initiative in this direction. They will have to be compelled to abandon obsolete customary practices and paganistic rituals which tend to conflict with the Christian values of the majority of their subjects.
Take for instance the annual ban on drumming by the Chiefs in Greater Accra. A custom like this is not only an abridgement of the freedom and endeavours of Ghanaians but also unbecoming and unworthy of any great and modern city in the world. There are other worse and unreasonable cultural practices in several parts of the country, which should be examined. And yet I find it difficult to see how this administration can do anything to help push for reform in chieftaincy, especially when it is too busy sponsoring a feudal order in another region. THE WAY FORWARD Increasingly, we may have to use our chiefs on ceremonial occasions and charities only.
They should be made to spearhead charitable causes in exchange for financial rewards. But they should not be involved in the day-to-day management of funds for charities. Chiefs should not be put in positions where they may be accused of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds. And yet all this cannot happen until Ghana produces a modern law on charities. There is an urgent need for such a law and a Charities Commission which will regulate Charities and make recipients of charitable funds accountable for the donations they receive.
As for the practice of sending a particular chief or chiefs to source for funds from international organizations, it should be discouraged immediately. Such a chief, no matter how august, must have his endeavours backed by the credit of Ghana, many of whose citizens will look with reasonable suspicion on any obligation put on the whole nation by competing chiefdoms.
A scenario of this nature is productive of needless resentment and dissatisfaction which may ultimately lead to the general detriment of all. Do we have to walk this path?
We should and must move away from a path which shall profit neither its proponents nor the general society. Your faithfully HON AGYARE KOI LARBI (MP FOR AKROPONG CONSTITUENCY)