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Ghana in Transition
By David E. Apter
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 1972 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
THE AFRICAN CHALLENGE TO DEMOCRACY
Host to a variety of social, economic, and intellectual stimuli, Africa finds its destiny directed into new and uneasy patterns. In the vast subcontinent today we witness a clash of cultures and ideas as the tribal peoples of many colonial territories move toward Western forms of social organization.
Such a process is a challenge to Western political practice and belief. Can the content and structures of democratic popular government serve as a medium of reintegration for the many peoples of Africa as they seek to modify their activities and their aspirations in the light of modern practice ? Is the centuries-old development of parliamentary government in England suitable to the conditions of African life in British colonial territories ? If answers to such questions are in the affirmative, then we can say that parliamentary practice is still revolutionary. Reducing the risk of authoritarianism, it gives voice to newly articulate millions, allowing them, increasingly, to make their own decisions and participate in political life. It provides opportunities for expressions of social organization which, possibly, can incorporate older and more traditional systems of politics into a larger scheme of national and democratic society.
It remains an open question whether or not the structures of parliamentary government are suitable for the development of African social organization from tribal to national systems of social interaction. The present task will be to examine the process where it seems to be occurring successfully — in the Gold Coast. We shall treat this process as a case study in political institutional transfer. The policy, problems, and activities of both Gold Coast Africans and British expatriate officials will be examined in detail. We shall attempt to find some of the crucial factors in the process of developing a modern British-type parliamentary democracy in the Gold Coast, where only a half-century ago the rule of the British was limited to the coastal area and the chiefs reigned supreme in the hinterlands. In such a study one set of variables is provided by the indigenous social and political pattern which predated the coming of the European. A second is provided by the impact of European rule upon Africans.
Parliamentary Government in Africa
It is in British Africa that nationalist movements of considerable proportions have developed. British colonial policy, for a considerable time, has involved a program of devolution of powers to a local variety of parliamentary system. Conciliar organs have been adapted and modified to fit the conditions of the African environment and the special requirements of each colony. In parts of East and Central Africa this policy has given European interests a much freer hand in dictating to the African. It has been argued, for example, that the British abdication of imperial responsibility in Kenya would be a way of ducking a formidable multi-racial problem represented in more open and official form in the Malan government of South Africa. Yet the same policy, in areas where Europeans are non-resident, has meant a genuine devolution of authority and responsibility to Africans themselves. In the Gold Coast, Africans are in very real control of the internal decision-making processes of the territory.
Authority patterns which the West has established in Africa have succeeded in bringing forth new images as well as new gods. These new images increasingly reflect concern by African groups for greater freedom of action. Political autonomy has become an insistent theme. As the desire for autonomy sharpens, two great cultural traditions clash with one another. One points to the past, when tribal freedom represented a period of dignity and independence within the traditional pattern of life. The other points to a national future: instead of the tribe, the state; instead of the colonial administrator, the African politician; instead of the mission school, public secular education; instead of colonial status, parliamentary democracy.
Between these two cultural tendencies, Africans today represent all varieties of adaptation and accommodation towards the varied groups with which they have been in contact. In some areas in the Gold Coast they have been dealing with Europeans for over four hundred years. Christianity has made heavy and often strange inroads. Islam has crossed the desert and been incorporated with varieties of religious belief indigenous to the area.
There is the Africa of the European who is born in the White Highlands of Kenya or in the urban centers of Johannesburg. There is the Africa of the bush and the tribe, still the dominant social pattern. There is the Africa of the industrial worker in Nigeria or the Congo, or South Africa, where the family may live in a tribal preserve and the husbands and sons may be away most of the time, seeking their fortunes in more lucrative employment than agriculture. There is the Africa of the politician who may take on the frustrations of others as his own, directing the destiny of his people, or perhaps seeking an easy road towards money and power.
In spite of all these "Africas" which coexist side by side with one another, a gradual redefinition of social life is occurring throughout the continent. What happens in one area has its repercussions in others. People are less bewildered and less passive to European rule. In West Africa self-government has become more than a remote possibility.
Obstacles to Self-Government in British West Africa
British West Africa (including the Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, and Nigeria) is an area having no permanent European settler population. The Gold Coast is the most advanced towards self-government. Nigeria, having gross difficulties with her diverse ethnic and religious groups, has not yet been able to operate successfully even a modified federal system. Yet self-government by 1956 has been a motto of Nigerian political leaders in the southern regions. The Gambia and Sierra Leone trail behind Nigeria in the development of self-government but the pattern has already been demarcated, particularly in Sierra Leone. The main difficulties facing these West African territories in their program of ultimate self-government can be roughly stated as follows:
1. In all cases there is a lack of historical unity. The concept of a nation in any wide territorial sense is largely non-indigenous. Relations between differing areas within a colonial territory were, in the past, conducted mostly on a tribal basis.
2. There are differences in religion, education, and degree of Westernization between the people of one part of a colonial territory and another. In most cases the coastal regions have had the longest history of relations with the West. The coastal peoples have been engaged in commerce and trade, ruled by British codes of law and justice, and have had longer Western educational traditions and opportunities than have areas farther inland. In the hinterlands of the colonies the traditional systems tend to be more intact, nationalism less pressing and less effective. In some cases traditional disputes between major tribal groups have been enlarged to include religious and political conflicts, such as those in Nigeria between the Moslems in the north and the more Westernized southerners. These conflicts point up sharply the political consequences when differences in indigenous social structure coexist within a larger administrative environment. Ancient rivalries, intensified by the divergent conversions to Islam in the north and Christianity in the south, have crystallized into fear, hatred, and resentment of southern political domination, particularly for the people of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast and the Northern Emirates of Nigeria.
3. There is a lack of trained and educated personnel to do the jobs of administration both on central and local levels of government.
4. Customs survive which are suitable for tribal government and traditional social systems but which tend to make for corruption and malfunction in parliamentary and secular administrative structures. The traditional African family pattern is an excellent example of some of the conflicts to which Africans are subject. Nepotism, for example, is considered a grave offense in Western bureaucratic practice, yet in African practice providing jobs for the members of one's own family is socially compulsory. It is one of the normal forms of social security and job recruitment in traditional society and one of the crucial elements in the satisfactory maintenance of tribal social structure. When such practices are carried over into the administrative service, they break down into favoritism, corruption, and graft, in a Western-type bureaucratic setup.
5. Differing conceptions of the meaning of participation and representation in government are held by members of the society and the representatives of the public, whether appointed or elected. In most cases, except for those political figures educated abroad or in the few excellent secondary schools (such as Achimota), there is little notion of representation as known in the Western parliamentary sense.
6. Lack of effective nationalist leadership is coupled with apathy in many parts of a colonial territory and with political aggressiveness in other parts. Particularly where political leadership is lacking, certain areas are at a political disadvantage; this is a real difficulty in the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, for example, or in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone, where most strong leadership and effective political awareness come from the Colony-proper.
7. An educated elite tends to adopt Western culture and social graces and elects to identify either with the old chieftainship aristocracy or to stand alone, remaining apart from the social body at large in manners, occupation, and politics. Some of these people become nationalist prima donnas without effective popular support.
8. Problems of poverty and disease make it difficult for individual members of the society to adapt and adjust to new behavioral requirements, so concerned are they with their immediate needs for survival. Sometimes the family survives as a socializing structure while becoming less and less adequate as an economic unit.
9. In some cases, as in the Gambia and Sierra Leone, there is no major cash crop sufficient to maintain development, education, occupational mobility, etc., consonant with the solution of immediate problems by parliamentary means.
Where these problems are severe, the task of developing representative self-government is most difficult indeed. It is these problems, as well as others, that make the difficulties and obstacles facing the Colonial Office appear overwhelming to many colonial administrators. Yet the development of self-government in West Africa proceeds without the racial handicaps of other parts of British Africa. In West Africa self-government is with not only the consent but also the demand of the governed. Its development has had official blessing for a long time. It is a policy almost as old as British penetration of Africa, and it has been pursued from time to time with varying degrees of endeavor and exercise. Even with all the handicaps, West Africa remains the only area where the prospects for self-government are real. To the Colonial Office it is an area of experimentation in which a reintegration of society around the processes of parliamentary government is the goal. Such an experiment is subject to all the ills that flesh is heir to, but upon its success African freedom is contingent.
Political Institutional Transfer in the Gold Coast
In terms of African responsibility the Gold Coast is the most advanced politically of any African colony. It has a British parliamentary structure of government. British-type structures, including patterns of behavior incumbent upon those who would operate them, are of major concern here insofar as we seek to know the kind of adaptation and adjustment which these hitherto tribal peoples in the Gold Coast have made in order to operate parliamentary democracy on a national scale. The processes involved we have phrased political institutional transfer. The source is British, and the spirit and form of these British structures have been instituted with due pomp and ceremony in the parliament which meets in Accra, in the local councils springing up in the bush, and in the procedures and machinery of government.
In studying the Gold Coast in an attempt to cast some light on the problems involved when institutional transfer occurs, we need to point out, as most colonial officials are quick to do, that the Gold Coast is not typical of other parts of British Africa, nor even of other parts of British West Africa. Aside from the fact that it has no racial problems on a scale known in East and Central Africa, it is also a prosperous colony in terms of earned receipts from cocoa, bauxite, diamonds, gold, and other products.
The Gold Coast is a small colony having an association with Western nations for over four hundred years. In coastal regions it has the highest literacy rate (approximately thirty per cent) in Africa. For Great Britain, the Gold Coast is the showpiece of successful institutional transfer. It is the model to which people in the Colonial Office point, as do others anxious to see Africans democratically governing themselves. While definitive answers about political institutional transfer will hardly be forthcoming in this study, we hope that an effort to examine the problems consequent on such transfer will cast light on the following:
1. Research theory and methods in political science pointing to some fundamental aspects of politics in terms of political behavior, political perceptions, and political norms.
2. An approach to African political development in terms of the substantive adaptation of tribal to secular culture.
We hope that such a study will have value for those concerned with working out ways and means of studying comparative political institutions and political behavior, both in terms of empirical materials and theory. Our further hope is that this understanding will be useful to those policymakers who are concerned with the trend of developments in Africa.
Political institutional transfer, as it has developed in the Gold Coast, is therefore the central theme of this study. Political institutional transfer will be used here to mean the process of institutionalizing, in the Gold Coast, certain predominantly political structures having concrete memberships, which were modeled after similar political structures in Great Britain. Institutionalization as a process deals in this usage with a specific shift of beliefs and perspectives on the part of crucial segments of the Gold Coast public, away from traditional and tribal beliefs and patterns of authority to the acceptance of a set of rules and political objectives which are primarily Western in their inspiration.
The degree of institutionalization will mean the degree of public acceptance of both the form and content of authority which derives from and is manifested through non-traditional sources and governmental structures. The degree of institutionalization ultimately means, in a democratic system, the degree to which the public creates and supports sanctions relating to the norms of political democracy.
The problem of institutional transfer is thus not merely the creation by order in council of a series of political structures such as a parliament, an office of the prime minister, and a cabinet. Rather, the concern here is with the behavioral consequences of setting up these structures in an environment for which there is little meaningful indigenous counterpart. These transplanted structures are not only vehicles for the transporting of government business; they are also orientational foci around which the reintegration of society can develop. The structures themselves become a part of the general range of valued beliefs in the social system. They become operational points for social change.
Excerpted from Ghana in Transition by David E. Apter. Copyright © 1972 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents
- Frontmatter, pg. i
- PREFACE, pg. vii
- PREFACE TO FIRST REVISED EDITION, pg. xiv
- PREFACE TO SECOND REVISED EDITION, pg. xxi
- CONTENTS, pg. xxvii
- CHAPTER 1. THE AFRICAN CHALLENGE TO DEMOCRACY, pg. 3
- CHAPTER 2. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND, pg. 21
- CHAPTER 3. THE PHYSICAL AND ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT, pg. 39
- CHAPTER 4. THE TRADITIONALLY ORIENTED SYSTEM, pg. 80
- CHAPTER 5. POLITICAL ORGANIZATION AMONG THE AKANS, pg. 99
- CHAPTER 6. PATTERNS OF INDIRECT RULE, pg. 119
- CHAPTER 7. THE POLITICS OF INDIRECT RULE, pg. 131
- CHAPTER 8. TOWARDS AUTONOMY WITHIN THE COMMONWEALTH, pg. 159
- CHAPTER 9. THE STRUCTURES OF SECULAR GOVERNMENT, pg. 175
- CHAPTER 10. THE PATTERNS OF GOLD COAST POLITICS, pg. 199
- CHAPTER 11. THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY IN ACTION, pg. 234
- CHAPTER 12. NATIONAL ISSUES AND LOCAL POLITICS, pg. 257
- CHAPTER 13. CONTROL FACTORS IN INSTITUTIONAL TRANSFER, pg. 273
- CHAPTER 14. PROSPECTS OF GOLD COAST DEMOCRACY, pg. 291
- CHAPTER 15. GHANA AS A NEW NATION, pg. 325
- CHAPTER 16. GHANA IN TRANSITION: A RETROSPECTIVE VIEW, pg. 362
- APPENDIX. A NOTE ON METHODOLOGY, pg. 415
- INDEX, pg. 425