British Colonial Policies and Implications for Mamprusi-Kusasi Relations

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The genesis of the Mamprusi-Kusasi ethnic conflict in Bawku has been traced to the British colonial policy in the Northern Territories (coterminous with present day Northern Ghana). In the first place, the Colonial Administration inherited a structure in which land was vested in the hands of chiefs who held it in trust for their subjects. This made land a very valuable commodity especially as its value appreciated with time.

Furthermore, the restructuring of traditional institutions in Northern Ghana by the British Colonial Administration prior to the introduction of the indirect rule system in 1932 which took the form of amalgamating smaller/acephalous ethnic groups with bigger/centralized kingdoms, termed paramountcies and headed by paramount chiefs, eventually created subordinate-master relationship between the bigger states and the smaller non-centralized polities. For example, the amalgamation of the Kusasi and Mamprusi in 1932 created a subordinate/master relationship between the two as the Kusasi were subsumed under the Mamprusi (Ladouceur 1979 & Lund, 2003). The determination by the Mamprusi to maintain this colonial arrangement even after the exit of the British set the stage for persistent tensions that could escalateinto conflict.

Other events immediately before and after Ghana’s independence also pushed the two groups to the point of violent confrontations/clashes. For instance, the emergence of an educated Kusasi elite and the formation of the Kusasi Youth Movement whose agenda among other things was to press for a reform of the traditional governance structure, further heightened the uneasiness within the ranks of the Mamprusi royal elite.

From its formation in 1954, the movement used its meetings as a platform to highlight the plight of the Kusasi, especially after 1932,3 as a politically and socially marginalized group, in order to galvanize Kusasi ethnic solidarity against the perceived enemy, the Mamprusi.

The emergence of party politics in the early 1950s and the posturing of the Kusasi and Mamprusi deepened the polarization of the Bawku community. Whilst the Mamprusi, with the influence of the Nayiri (Mamprugu overlord), supported the Northern People’s Party (NPP) which was seen as a chiefs party, the Kusasi guided by their mostly urban educated elite and influenced by Kwame Nkrumah’s ideas of liberation, threw their weight behind the Convention People’s Party(CPP).

Source: (Mamprusi-Kusasi Imbroglio; 1902-2000: )
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