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How are succession disputes contributing factors to the development of northern Ghana



In the last 50 years, Northern Ghana has become known as a place where deadly ethnic, land, and chieftaincy battles happen. Even though these three main causes of conflict are all linked, chieftaincy battles are by far the most common in the north as Drucker-Brown (1995) observed.  

In northern Ghana, most chieftaincy battles have been either inter-ethnic or intra-ethnic. Inter-ethnic battles usually happen when two or more ethnic groups fight over who owns and controls the land and the people who live there. These kinds of conflicts have happened between the Kusasi and the Mamprusi, the Nanumba and the Konkomba, the Gonja and the Vagala and the Konkomba, Nawuri, Nchumuru, and Basare. Intra-ethnic disputes, on the other hand, take the form of the same ethnic group or smaller groups like the clan or the family fighting over claims to chieftaincy titles. For example, the battle for the high traditional office in Wa and Dagbon has led to fierce fighting leading to loss of lives and property running into several thousands of dollars (MacGaffey, 2006). The Gonjas and the Mamprusi have also fought over who was the most powerful chief. In societies with the two-gate[1] setup, intra-ethnic disputes usually happen when members of one gate think that they were skipped over by another gate, which goes against the rule that the chieftaincy post should be passed between the different gates (clans) in the ethnic group.

Implication of Chieftaincy Succession conflict for Development

There is an on-going debate about whether the difference between warring and non-conflict communities is the product of conflict or of other factors connected with both conflict and low development. Several studies have found that conflict has a lot of influence on development. We discuss how some of these chieftaincy disputes can impact development for communities involved in the same.

Loss of community human capital

The greatest cost of the war has been the lives lost. Many people lost their lives in each of these wars. Many people died in the Yendi battle, the most notable incident being the death of the Yaa Naa, the Overlord of Dagbo, and forty of his chiefs in 2001.

In their 2003 study, "Civil Wars Kill and Maim People—Long After the Shooting Stops," Ghobarah, Huth, and Russett contend that civil wars have long-term impacts on civilian suffering. According to the World Health Organization's measure of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs), the additional burden of mortality and disability imposed by community disputes and violent clashes is approximately double that of the immediate and direct effects. The fundamental reason is that internal community armed conflicts, which are common with Chieftaincy Succession Conflicts (CSC), increase disease exposure, impede access to medical care, and damage health infrastructure.

Impoverished population

While the battles rage on, many residents in conflict zones become impoverished. Infants and little children are especially exposed to the effects of violence. Poverty, child mortality, lack of access to safe drinking water, and a lack of education all deprive children of key components for human development and economic growth. Water shines up as an important aspect. All other community development objectives are hampered by a lack of access to safe drinking water. Waterborne illness, particularly diarrhea, is lethal. A prolonged lack of access to proper water sources can induce brain injury, impair cognitive development with long-term implications for community capacity for progress.

Communities are starved of resources spent on the resolving the conflict and maintain peace

Efforts made to resolve community disputes invariably cost money. These monies, if invested in other areas of development, such as building communal infrastructure, could see communities make greater strides towards infrastructural development. Closely related to conflict resolution is peace maintenance which can take up huge state and community resources.  When conflict begins, military and police detachments are often sent to the conflict zone. These personnel must be fed, and materials for their operations provided. Clearly, this is money that might have gone towards other areas of growth. For instance, in 2002, $9 million was spent on troops stationed in Dagbon to keep the peace. This amount represented approximately the cost of building twenty-four 6-classroom blocks, 17 community health posts and 3 Community 50-seater libraries, according to the Ministry of Works and Housing project estimates.

Limited communal development activities

Many community developments are obtained through mobilizing local communities. It becomes challenging to rally people for community improvement when war is raging. More often than not, a precarious position is created in which every attempt to rally people towards a developmental end might be interpreted as an overt claim to power. In the midst of violent chieftaincy conflict, it could be impossible to maintain the progress made toward constructing a community hospital via collective effort and mobilization.

Negative environmental Impact

It should also be remembered that many of the impacts of armed chieftaincy disputes have never been quantified. The environmental effect of chieftaincy conflicts is one such unquantifiable impact. There are few markers that allow for a systematic comparison of this consequence. Various studies have indicated, however, that communities have had to deal with high levels of carbon monoxide in the air as a result of retaliatory arson, inadequate sanitation, and a significant quantity of pollutants. Chieftaincy succession issues in Ghana have paved the way for illicit logging, unregulated exploitation of environmental resources and a total breakdown in aspects of environmental protection. 

[1] Gates refers to the groupings decided either by family lineage or right to inheritance

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