Power and social identity: The crisis of legitimacy of traditional rule in Northern Ghana and Ethnic conflicts




Aapengnuo, Clement Mweyang

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The Northern Region of Ghana is particularly noted for identity-driven protracted social conflicts centered on ethnicity, chieftaincy, and land. Disputes over chieftaincy suc-cession, ownership and control of land, and a sense of belonging have resulted in the loss of life and property and the displacement of people. As grievances accumulate and are defined at the group rather than individual level, the motivation for reprisals is never ending. Building on existing research on the conflicts in the Northern Region, this study uses theories of social identity, power, and legitimacy, to explain the nature and dynamics of the conflicts in the Region. The study explains the relationship between ethnicity, chieftaincy, and land in the conflicts in the Northern Region of Ghana by exploring the dynamics of social identity formation and its influence on indigenous perceptions of power and legitimacy. The study shifts the emphasis from ethnicity, chieftaincy, and land as sources of conflict in the Region to the quest to define the legitimate sovereign author-ity in a modern State where the existence of "traditional authority" is constitutionally recognized. In other words, ethnicity, chieftaincy, and land conflicts are symptoms of crisis of legitimacy of the "traditional authority" system. The position of the chief as "the traditional authority" is being contested, and the question of who is the right public authority to regulate social living, to define, and to enforce land rights today has to be confronted and explored. The argument of tradition and culture as the basis of the power of the chief in a multi-cultural environment must be re-evaluated if the chieftaincy institution is to play a role in conflict resolution, local governance, and development in the Region.



Peace studies, African studies, Social psychology, Chiefs, Conflicts, Culture, Northern Ghana, Peace, Social identity