Tribalism has eaten deep into the fabric of Ghanaian social life and has come to epitomize all the negative tendencies that stand in the way of nationhood. Based on this situation, I therefore want to express it by explaining the issue of tribalism in Ghana and how it has affected the country.
This paper will also address tribalism from a biblical approach from both the New Testament and the Old Testament regarding the situation and then help in facilitating a solution based on planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and sustainability of the project.
This project is in its right direction to offer a meaningful approach and innovative ways of addressing the problem faced by the people in order to have a better living.
The Issue of Tribalism in Ghana
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary (1983) defines tribalism as the exaltation of ones tribe above others. To be more specific, it is the feeling that ones tribe is superior to some other tribe or all tribes. Thus, the tribalists disregard and often disrespect for the tribes they think are inferior to their tribe. The tribalists then discourage any connection and relationship in a form of marriage, work, or friendship with the tribes they think to be inferior. In most instance, they have derogatory names for the tribes they deem to be inferior.
In Ghana, almost every tribe has such names for other tribes. Words like ‘tani’, “asanteni”, “ayigbeni” etc are all examples of such derogatory words used to demean and disrespect people of other tribes. This has raised many concerns due to the negative impacts that have caused the nation. It has brought about nepotism and favoritism among the citizens of the country, thus people feeling that their tribesmen are better than people from other tribes and they tend to surround themselves with their tribesmen when getting into position of trust. Such actions deprive the nation of the right people for the right job. Secondly, it has affected national cohesion which has led to petty tribal conflicts in most of the regions in Ghana. The disadvantages of all these have caused greater harm than good in the country.
This paper will explain the issue of tribalism and how it created division among the people concerned from biblical perspective both from the Old Testament and the New Testament and then offer ways of facilitating a solution. The solution is based on planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation and a design for sustainability of making the project more meaningful.
Biblical Backgrounds on Tribalism.
There is general agreement among Christians that the early chapters of Genesis set the scene for the great drama of divine redemption that is played out in the rest of the Bible. It is in these chapters that we understand that the earth and everything in it, including human beings, is God’s creation. Human beings, both male and female, are unique creations in that they are capable of self-conscious relationship with their creator as well as with each other and other creatures. They are also responsible to God for the development of the potential of the earth. These chapters also teach that monogamous marriages and the family unit are the divinely mandated building blocks of society. However, human rejection of God’s authority over their lives leads to human beings being separated from God, from themselves, from each other and from the earth itself, and other creatures.
The Book of Genesis therefore establishes a vital element in human identity, not only are we made in the image and likeness of God, but we are also made to live in community as one people. It is in community that we manifest the image of God. It is in this regard to acknowledge that human relationship is very important to God and it must serves as an example for us to follow despite our ethnic or tribal differences. This tells us that God in His own wisdom wants us to live as one people without any discrimination.
The Bible also stress that we should not oppress an alien or people of different tribe. This reference is clearly seen in the Book of Exodus where God told the Jewish people not to despise the other tribe for they were once a tribe in Egypt.(Exodus:23:9).This was during the time when God delivered the Israelites from bondage when Moses was leading them to the promised land. This law was given a specific guidance on how we honor God in our relationship with fellow human beings.
The Book of Kings also illustrates an example of tribalism during the time of Rehoboam reign. There was a division between the tribe of Judah and the ten tribes of Israel. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon was supposed to be king of the ten tribes of Israel. The people of the land at reign of Rehoboam made an appeal to their king in their quest of lightening their burden, but the king refused their request because of unwised friendly advice. On resolving the problem between the king and the people, there was a conflict as the king failed to meet their petition. Therefore, a rebellion was led by Rehoboam who instigated the ten tribes of Israel to rebel against the tribe of Judah. This led to the division between the southern kingdom and the northern kingdom due to tribal differences. (1st King 12:16-20).
The Book of Isaiah 49:6 also confirms that “it is too small a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be my salvation to the ends of the earth”. This emphasis was to address and make the people stand and live as one people, despite the fat that, Isaiah is of different tribe.
In the New Testament, the Bible also emphasizes tribalism during the time Jesus Christ commissioned the Apostles in carrying out a mission of reaching the gospel to all people and at the end of the world (Acts 1:8).This expression signifies that Jesus Christ in his message for salvation for mankind, loves all people and wants all nations to receive His word in order to be saved. In the subsequent chapters of the Book of Acts, the Bible asserts that the Jews considered the Samaritans as Gentiles and a mixture of Jews and any their nationality. They regarded them as very lower human beings. On their part, it was a taboo to associate themselves with the Samaritans.
Ideally, Samaritans were hated by the Jews. They were the descendants of the northern tribes of the Israel and had remained in the land after the Assyrian captivity had removed much of the nation. Because of their intermarrying with the Canaanites, they were looked down upon with suspicion. The Jews frequently avoided any contact with the Samaritans.
To Christ, salvation was intended for all nations. When the Samaritan woman came to Jesus, he accepted her because of her belief (Mark 7:27-30). The Apostles had not learnt and understood the full message yet that all people were created by God and that He wants all people are to be saved. In the process of sharing food among the people (Acts 6:1-2) there was a racial discrimination. The Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. This forms of tribal differences created a problem because it might have brought a difficulty between the Hebrew Jews and the Grecian widows who were neglected.
Even though, the Apostles perceived that the Samaritans who they regarded as Gentiles has a dorm of religious worship that was different from their form of worship. Peter was exposed to enter a new scope of ministry to the Gentiles that created a new compassion. This was in accordance with the association of Cornelius to invite Peter. In Acts 10, we were told of how God confirmed his enlarged vision to Cornelius through Peter.This passage even signifies the idea of oneness even though Cornelius was a centurion.
Jesus Christ also placed greater emphasized on the need to love another. John 13:34-35 specify the commandment given His Apostles to love one another as one body in Christ. Apostle Paul in his writings also made us understood that it is only in Christ that we can become one spirit to have access to God. (Ephesians 2:18).
This situation as presented in scripture is very much alike in the Ghanaian society. However, having noted the effects and other negative implications of tribalism in Ghana, I therefore want to express my sentiments of the above topic and address it by implementing and offering suggestive ways of solving it, to bring the problem to the minimum level or to eradicate it completely from the Ghanaian society to create a peaceful atmosphere for a better living and peaceful co-existence. In achieving this peaceful co-existence regarding this problem, there should be a task for the Ministry of Information to play, the Christian community and the individual to be fully involved and participate.
For a true nation to emerge, it is believed people should not be thinking of themselves as members of their traditional entities but rather as Ghanaians. (Nukunya, 1992). For the planning process to set for action, report on this agenda must de delivered publicly on the effects of this social canker and how it has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Ghanaian society. This is to be done by Ministry of Information and National Orientation through the various media to come out and fight against the effects of this social concern. Programmes intended to take effect under this ministry must be designed to absorb all ethnic groups in Ghana. For instance, the celebration of national cultural festivals such as Pan-African National Festival (Panafest) has called for unity and reconciliation (Prah, 2002).
The Church response to this menace is to revive its mission to the people. The mission of the church is therefore to take part and give expression to the present and future kingdom of Christ. The Church must acknowledge that, Ghanaians have a common destiny and aspirations. Programmes that are to be organized are to embrace all people irrespective of be a Ewe or an Ashanti. The form of communication used by the church must reflect entirely on all ethnic lines. One more serious note, the church is to respond to this effect by organizing curricula and programs to provide teachings in this area. This should be done by the Christian colleges and seminaries. Even the encouragement of inter-ethnic marriages and associations currently working must be integrated by the church as a viable means of solving the problem.
One the individual note, people must acknowledge and understand that we are Ghanaians and will forever by Ghanaians and that, we belong to one common ancestry and portrays a cultural heritage of Ghana (Prah, 2002).Individuals are therefore to embrace and welcome one another as we share ideals and values in common.
One planning an aim to achieve a means to solve this problem of tribalism in the Ghanaian society, the ministries involved should have a focus plan and a mechanism to ensure this order. In other words, they must be a standing order and a rule to be instituted to completely make sure of its effectiveness. The church response is therefore to cultivate and instill discipline through their sermons to be cautious of having a derogatory remark for other tribes. Individuals are also not demeaning other people of their tribes but see themselves as one people.
Every mechanism being adopted by the ministry through the mass media such as the television, internet, radio stations must serve as a system to check and maintain this social order and control. There must be a governing behavior in controlling the masses. The Church also has to provide viable measures in checking and controlling the people. The elderly in the society must understand that there is a responsibility that lies on them to educate the young ones about a common ancestry. Parents serving as immediate socialization agents are to teach new members of the society what is expected of them by making them know that all human beings are one irrespective of our inclinations.
In all these mechanisms and means of control, there must a founding ground to assess foundations being laid. Religious leaders and individual members of the church must regard and evaluate how these mechanisms are functioning. In this way, they are to reinforce their methods of transmitting values of solving tribalism in the Ghanaian society; if there is a falling standard. All measures and awareness are to be created to revive in finding measures of other social order.
An assessment from the Ministry of Information and National Orientation through its various means must bring an annual report of how tribalism has affected production and causing harm to its citizens. This should be done annually and must be publicly announced in the Ghanaian society. The church response will therefore be massively concerned in campaign against tribalism. Individuals in this manner will hopefully embrace values of being one people with a common goal.
Sustainability of the Project
The need to address the project and making it sustainable in growth should be the desire of the church and the individual. There should be a strong foundation in building the people and making a positive response from them. Even the role of leadership in church building should be structured on all means of solving tribalism. Structures in putting the control mechanism in solving the problem is to be uphold to achieve a better result. For instance, election member to serve as leaders should encompass all the ethnic groups in the church.
God has a plan for humanity to live and work as one people. It is in manner that we manifest the image and likeness of God. Humanity must acknowledge and understand that we have roles to play in reflecting on God’s creation. Love and unity must be ensured by all Christians and non-Christians irrespective our race, religion, culture and any other human traits.
Tribalism has endangered the whole nation in disunity and separation. It has caused nepotism, affected national cohesion and has caused misunderstanding between people. Aside these effects, there are other negative effects on marriages, sharing of opinion and even leadership roles.
As individuals, there is the need to condemn all the negative sentiments on this menace and collaborate our effort of uniting and believing that we are one all one people. The fact you met one uneducated Ashanti does not mean all Ashantis are uneducated. The fact that you saw one Ewe not compromising on an issue does not mean all Ewes take uncompromising stand. The Church in its response of performing roles of all social vices and areas of concern must enforce and ensured. In all, we are to view ourselves as one people.