Transformations in the chieftaincy institution in Northern Ghana from 1900-1969: A case study of Navrongo and Sakot.

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This study focuses on the transformations that have characterized indigenous political administration in Navrongo and Sakot. These areas both belong to the Gur speaking group and lie north of the Black Volta, specifically in the Upper East Region of modern Ghana. The study highlights the changes that has occurred in the traditional political administration of Navrongo and Sakot since 1900. It reflects change and continuity before British rule, under colonialism and after independence up until 1969. Before colonial rule in the twentieth century, immigrants had introduced chieftaincy into Navrongo from Zikku in the North-East Territory of the Upper Volta. This was probably during the second half of the seventeenth century. The chief therefore replaced the Tendana as the overall head of the community. He like the Tendana was the link between the community and its ancestors. Though on the other hand, chieftaincy had not been introduced into Sakot during the period; the Sakot Da’an as the principal mediator between the people and the earth god and the ancestral spirits, by virtue of his religious power, wielded considerable political authority. This form of indigenous political administration was however short-lived after the British occupied the area in 1902, when the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast was constituted by an Order in Council. Due to the devastating effects of the slave raiding activities of Babatu in Navrongo and Sakot, the people reluctantly accepted British colonial rule as a means to restore peace in the area. The outcome, was the erosion of the erstwhile sacred personality of the Navorope and on the other hand, the transfer of power and authority from the Sakot Da’an to a “created political leadership” established by the British. It also created an unhealthy relationship between the people and their leaders, as the latter were tasked under the British system of administration to recruit labour for various undertakings. The state of the chieftaincy institution has been checkered, from colonial times when the British introduced the system of Indirect Rule in the area, up to the post independence era when some of the new political elite subverted the institution for political capital. However, traditional political institutions seem to be the necessary tool for the sustenance of the various ethnic and cultural groups in Northern Ghana and the country as a whole. The institution has over the years served to maintain a cohesive social structure of the various communities. Indeed, an important source of unity and stability that has underscored the peace and socio - economic development in the area in the past, when there was no central political administration in Ghana.
A thesis submitted to the Department of History and Political Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy on February, 2009.