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The relationship between traditional authorities and decentralized structures in Ghana: conflicting roles or a struggle for power and legitimacy


  • Joseph Taabazuing
  • Frederick Armah
  • Jenna Dixon
  • Isaac Luginaah


This paper uses the Wenchi District as a case study to generate a nuanced understanding of the interactive process between decentralized government structures and traditional authority in the context of Ghana's highly touted democratic achievements within the African continent. Qualitative methods involving focus group discussions of 159 males and 98 females aged between 18 to 72 years in 8 communities were used to facilitate insightful discussions and reflections. The focus group discussions (FGDs) were complemented with key informant interviews (n = 8) and direct observations. Using grounded theory, the results reveal that the interaction between traditional authorities and government decentralized institutions within Ghana's emerging democracy are characterized by competition for power and legitimacy. This has led to mistrust and the inability to take advantage of the potentially synergistic effects between the two systems of local governance for accelerated development. Furthermore, the findings reveal that a predominant culture of fear of authority within different hierarchical levels, is stifling genuine participation, further reinforcing a lack of accountability by authorities from both sides. We conclude that if decentralization policies are to be effective in Ghana, it may be imperative for government to strive for more open governance processes that are capable of blending the traditional systems with the emerging democratic dispensation depending on the context.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph Taabazuing & Frederick Armah & Jenna Dixon & Isaac Luginaah, 2012. "The relationship between traditional authorities and decentralized structures in Ghana: conflicting roles or a struggle for power and legitimacy," International Journal of Development and Conflict, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, vol. 2(3), pages 1250017-125.
  • Handle: RePEc:gok:ijdcv1:v:3:y:2012:i:2:p:1250017

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    Cited by:

    1. Segadlo, Nadine, 2021. "Navigating through an external agenda and internal preferences: Ghana's national migration policy," IDOS Discussion Papers 8/2021, German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS).


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