Exorcising the Colonial Ghost

Published on 20th December 2005

A new policy making system is needed nation-wide that will incorporate the enabling aspects of Ghanaian cultural values and experiences in the current thinking of mixing Ghana\'s colonial legacies with her cultural values in her development process.

In the climate of Ghana\'s emerging renaissance, the latest of which is the country\'s Judiciary Services attempting to awaken the culture, mix her indigenous legal values with those of her imposed colonial laws, \"participants at a workshop on Ghana\'s Trade Policy in Tamale, have called on policy makers to always consult local people for their inputs before formulating trade policies.\" Though the participants are attempting to do what their brethren at the Judiciary Services are trying to do, they are in much more broader terms saying that all genuine policy making procedures are holistic and corporate. Ghana has not incorporated the country\'s values, experiences and history in her policy development, thus creating unnecessary troubles in the country\'s development path.  As the wise and realistic Tamale participants deeply and loudly said, \"The lack of consultation on trade policies (and almost all national policies for that matter) had often resulted in the formulation of trade policies (and almost all national policies for that matter) that negatively affected their livelihoods and increased their poverty levels.\"

Why this situation? First, the British colonial regime that created what is called Ghana today had no respect for the cultural values, histories, and experiences of the 56 ethnic groups that came to form Ghana. Why? London, like other European colonialists, thought wrongly, that her values were more civilized and therefore imposed her values and experiences on them in form of policies. This has created long-running damages, distortions and confusion in Ghana\'s progress. Second, much more worrying, the Ghanaian elites who took over from the British colonialists continued massively with the legacies of colonial policy making practices. Almost all serious national policy development did not consult wise and experienced indigenous Ghanaians, cultural values, traditional institutions, and traditional leaders.

In this regards, Dr. Daniel Tetteh Osabu-Kle, a public policy and administration expert at Canada\'s Carleton University in Ottawa, explains that, \"One of the very serious mistakes in Africa\'s development was the arrogant assumption of the political elite that they knew all the problems and had all the answers. This implied a one-sided approach to development in which development enterprise was solely owned by the elite. It turned out that the elite, both foreign and national, did not know all the problems and had answers to only very few. It is the local people who know what they want and what their problems are. When they own their development, they are more apt to support it.\"

Why is the Tamale trade policy session a tip of Ghana\'s emerging renaissance? One, Ghanaians are increasingly thinking better today within their rich values in the scheme of their progress unlike past years and, two, because \"peasant farmers, traditional authorities, women and youth associations, opinion leaders, civil society organizations and community-based organizations among others who attended the workshop,\" as the Ghana News Agency reported, in a mark of renaissance thinking, were saying that policy making must first flow from those who really are to be affected. Their cultural values, histories and experiences should also inform the policy development so as to make the policy realistic and holistic and reflect the true Ghanaian environment. The need for new policy development realism today is that Ghanaian policy planners take Ghanaian values for granted and as result do not know Ghana very well, and create policies Ghanaians either do not know or do not understand.

No doubt, Dr. Osabu-Kle, author of ‘Cultural Democracy: The Key to Development in Africa’ (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2000) says, \"It is the local people who know what they want and what their problems are. When they own their development, they are more apt to support it. Policies are courses of action chosen to address identified and defined problems. It begins with identifying and defining the problems. In this respect, while the elite may identify food shortage as a problem, it is the local people who can define what they really need.

There must be consultations of Ghanaians before the policy development process goes to the cool offices of the bureaucrats or the policy-developers, who will then use their trained skills or policy making paradigms in developing the particular policy. The result of this process will see a holistically realistic policy making informed by Ghanaians\' cultural values, histories, and experiences first, her colonial legacies and any other foreign value and experiences consulted, second. Ghana\'s national development policies were developed solely either from Accra, Washington or London without any corresponding heavy input from Ghana.

The Tamale policy session participants can draw inspiration from Canada; where because of Cabinet Directive on Law-making, federal departments, parliament and the provincial legislatures are enjoined by the constitutional distribution of powers to consult indigenous Aboriginal institutions in policy development. According to Ghanaian-Canadian Andrew Aryee, a policy analyst with Canada\'s Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa, policy-makers from federal parliament, provincial legislatures to federal departments, \"are constrained in their law-making powers by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and by certain other constitutional provisions,\" to consult the traditional knowledge of indigenous Aboriginals. \"So in the policy development arena of the federal government, failure to consult with Aboriginal groups when policy is being developed is to invite failure to the policy; hence it is all-important to include Aboriginals in the policy development stages in order to ensure fairness, equity and a holistic policy that takes into consideration the interests and traditional knowledge of Aboriginal groups.\"

If Ghanaian policy planners are to create a new national policy development system, backed by an act of parliament, as is the case in Canada, and rooted in Ghanaian cultural values, histories and experiences, it will have a snowball effect not only nationally, permeating even regional and local governments policy developments, but also have international implications. Why? Foreign governments, international donors, agencies, non-governmental organizations and institutions that would aid Ghana\'s development process would found it fit to go the way of the already laid down policy making system in Ghana, where local indigenous cultural values, experiences and histories are incorporated into policy making, by doing same in the policies they will be developing in helping Ghana\'s progress. That\'s what the World Bank is, in effect is saying, by helping the Ghana Judiciary Service mix the country\'s colonially-imposed mainstream laws with her indigenous customary laws in the dispensation of    law and order.

Broadly open incorporation of Ghanaian cultural values into policy planning will not only help develop Ghanaian values in terms of usage but also help refine the identified inhibitions, as the National Commission on Civic Education is thinking of doing, within the culture that have been stifling Ghana\'s progress, such as \"trokosi,\" a cultural practice in Ghana\'s Volta Region that violates teenage girls\' human rights by their being enslaved to shrines/oracles for sins committed by their parents.

The thinking of the Tamale policy session participants, like the on-going mixing of Ghanaian traditional laws with the colonially-imposed ones, is part of the emerging Ghanaian Renaissance, where her cultural values are awakened and reconciled with the colonially-imposed ones in her development process.

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