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16.02.2005 General News

Ethnicity is real - Prof Agyeman

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Accra, Feb. 16, GNA - Professor Dominic Kofi Agyeman, a Lecturer at the University of Cape Coast, on Wednesday said Ghanaians could not continue to shy away from the issues of ethnicity as if it did not exist and that it should be brought to the fore for its positive attributes to be used in national development.

"Even though Ghana has not yet experienced any major inter-ethnic conflicts such as ethnic cleansing or ethnic wars and genocide as has happened in Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia, Nigeria or Cote d'Ivoire, recent events point to the existence of ethnocentric undertones in national politics and elections.

"This is evidenced by the creation of 'world banks' for votes as is reflected in the voting patterns of the Volta Region for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Ashanti Region for the National Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Upper East and Upper West for the Peoples National Convention (PNC)."

Prof Agyeman who is also a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences was delivering his inaugural lecture on: "The Ethnic Factor in National Development; Uses and Abuses".

He called for the establishment of a Centre for Ethnic, Minority and National Development Studies in any of the public universities to establish a clear distinction between ethnic, tribal and linguistic groups in Ghana.

The faculty should be able to establish exact number and population sizes of ethnic groups in the country, as well as monitor and manage inter-ethnic conflicts.

He said the centre should give early warning signals on inter-ethnic conflicts as well as serve as a think-tank for government policies that affect inter-ethnic relations in the country.

Prof Agyeman said the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) should also take it as a serious assignment to educate Ghanaians to consider national politics and elections as mediums of taking decisions on national issues and not for competing among ethnic groups. He said formal education should be strengthened to instil the spirit of nationalism in the youth.

To achieve those aims, schools, churches, the security services and other patriotic organisations such as civil society associations should be made to teach the kind of curriculum and preach messages that serve as unifying themes which included democracy, freedom, equality, justice, self-reliance and co-operation in order to minimise ethnic prejudices. "These values should not be parroted, they should be internalised and made part and parcel of the people's mind-set and system of behaviour."

Prof Agyeman said "any language policy that gives the impression that one ethnic group wants to use its language to dominate the rest would create majority-minority relation and could trigger what is referred to as a quasi-federal state based on linguistic boundaries." He said the language issue could not be resolved by any hasty government fiat, although it was perfectly legitimate for Ghanaians to call for a national language.

"Even the highly educated who would agreed that they are nationalists and not tribalistic are also the people who are unwilling to accept the language other than their own as a substitute for English as an official and/or national language."

Prof Agyeman recommended that English should continue to be used while the indigenous languages continued to be developed till they were able to replace English as the medium of instructions and for scientific, technological and official businesses.

He tasked literary scholars to play an active role in the development of indigenous languages just as their counterparts in Europe did during the heydays of European Nationalism.

Nana Dr S.K.B. Asante, President of the Academy, said "tribalism will fill the vacuum created by the absence of national political ideology.".

"The creation of this ideology calls for intense education and orientation of our political leaders and their followers," he added. He said decision makers and the actors in the political arena sometimes implicitly acknowledged the importance of the ethnic factor by quietly introducing ethnic balance into public appointments and political alignments for purposes of elections.

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