Contested boundaries : decentralisation and land conflicts in northwestern Ghana

Carola Lentz
2001 Bulletin de l'APAD  
Administrative decentralisation and the devolution of political power to local communities have been key concepts in the recent democratisation projects in Africa. With the slogan "bring the government to the people" the Rawlings' government in Ghana announced, at the end of the 1980s, the creation of new districts. Throughout the country, this announcement set in motion intense lobby politics and political mobilisation at the local level. Population and economic viability were the most
more » ... t official criteria in deciding which areas qualified to district status, but respect for the integrity of chiefdoms and ethnic groups became equally influential factors in the struggles over the boundaries of the new districts. 2 This paper will discuss one such struggle, in the former Lawra District of Ghana's Upper West Region, where the creation of new districts provoked protracted discussions, among the local political elite, concerning the political history and future of the area. There was consensus that the Lawra District was to be divided into two, or perhaps three, new districts whose boundaries were to be drawn in accordance with existing paramount chiefdoms, but there was heated debate over who should join the Lambussie Traditional Area which was too small to stand alone. This debate focussed on the connections between land ownership and political authority, including the right of taxation, on the relations between the local ethnic groups (Dagara and Sisala), and on the relevance of ethnic versus territorial criteria in defining local citizenship. In the course of these events, Sisala landowners used land as a political tool to further their interests. They attempted to force the Dagara, farming on their land, to either abandon their farms or shift their political allegiance from the Dagara-controlled paramount chiefdom of Nandom to the Sisala-controlled Lambussie Traditional Area. The Lawra District case suggests that using the concept of "traditional" local communities as the quasi-natural Contested boundaries : decentralisation and land conflicts in northwestern Ghana Bulletin de l' APAD, 22 | 2006
doi:10.4000/apad.50 fatcat:t3wnwtigdjgdflf3evty6bbo34