Democratisation Should Embrace Traditional Values

Published on 15th January 2008

The plea by Sampson Kwaku Boafo, the key culture-development point-man, that traditional rulers and institutions cooperate with his Chieftaincy and Culture Ministry to “identify tourist sites in their communities for development,” reveal attempts to weave traditional authority into the development process.


The implications are twofold: to help tie and modernize traditional institutions in the development process and to correct the long-running practice where both colonial and post-colonial Ghanaian regimes used traditional authorities and discarded them.


Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross director of the Centre on US-China at the Asia Society, argues in “Time” magazine that part of the reason for China’s economic dynamism is because its leaders depend on both their traditional ancient wisdom as well as communist doctrine to guide their development process. No doubt, traditional exhortations, which come in the form of quotes from Confucianism, from President Hu Jintao to rally the development process are a common feature.


Boafo and his bureaucrats should be the nerve centre for an inter- ministry as well as and intra-ministry system that ties  departments, bureaus, agencies, regions, constituencies, villages, and non-governmental organizations into a holistic assembly that radiates Ghanaian traditional norms and development paradigms as part of the broader progress of Ghana.


One aspect of the Culture Ministry is coordinating the conduct of research into archaeological and historic sites to determine their viability for wealth creation and in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations to explore the tourism potential of other sites. Another aspect is ensuring that public education on economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights of citizenry will be carried out as well as promoting inter-cultural dialogue and participating in cultural exchange programmes and international experience.


This will integrate Ghanaians (particularly the over 80 percent in the informal sector) who are marginalized in the progress of Ghana and depend on traditional values and practices, to deeply participate in the state's development process. In Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism, Mahmood Mamdani argues that in colonial Africa, most Africans were governed by traditional customary values under “decentralized despotism.” For this reason, most Africans were “ill prepared to participate as citizens in the modern states that have succeeded colonialism.”


For cultural and progress reasons, Boafo’s tying of culture to the broader democratization and the development process will help harmonize the traditional with the modern, and resolve some of the bumps along the way of progress. This should also be extended to the Ghanaian Ministries.Nowhere do we see this more than the Japanese management system called "Kaizen," which is a mixture of Japanese traditional norms and cultural intelligence and modern management values.


By wrapping the development process and democratization around the necks of traditional rulers and institutions, most Ghanaians will participate in the modern nation-state, balance the contending values serving Ghanaians and boldly address Ghana’s formidable problems.

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