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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Ashanti in Ghana

View Group Chronology

Ghana Facts
Area:    238,537 sq. km.
Capital:    Accra
Total Population:    18,497,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Ashanti are subject to only two of the factors that would lead to rebellion: territorial concentration and generally high levels of group cohesion and organization. While somewhat underrepresented in the central government, they do not face active political discrimination and are economically advantaged. They have also not been subject to repression in recent years. The election of an Ashanti, John Kufuor, to be president in 2001 and his reelection in 2004 also make it unlikely for the Ashanti to rebel, since they have strongly supported him. Large-scale protest by the Ashanti is also unlikely in the immediate future.


Analytic Summary

The Ashanti have been in what is now Ghana for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The Ashanti are concentrated in south-central Ghana, primarily in Ashanti Region (GROUPCON = 3). They speak primarily Twi (a.k.a. Asante), a dialect of the larger Akan language family, though many also likely speak English, Ghana’s official language (LANG = 1). The Ashanti are predominantly Christian, whereas the plurality Mossi-Dagomba are primarily Sunni Muslim (BELIEF = 2). Beyond their language and religion, the Ashanti are culturally and racially similar to the Mossi-Dagomba (CUSTOM = 0; RACE = 0). After the Second World War, the Ashanti feared and resisted the political advances of the coastal peoples. After 1981, when Jerry Rawlings seized power from an Ashanti-dominated government, the Ashanti were a marginalized group compared to the Ewe (due to the Ewe background of Rawlings). This led to the Ashanti becoming a fairly organized and cohesive group. Though the Ashanti were opposed to the Rawlings' government, there were few clashes, virtually none in the 1990s, between the group and the government or other ethnic groups in the country. The Ashanti largely supported the election of President John Kufuor.

Ethnic groups (particularly ethnic groups of southern Ghana including the Akan, the Guan, the Ga, and the Ewe) in Ghana developed a strong popular resistance and rebellion against any form of injustice due to experiences under colonial rule. This helped the country become the first African state given independence by Britain. Under Nkrumah (1947-1966), most Ghanaians identified themselves as those belonging to one nation since his Convention Peoples Party (CPP) opened its membership to everyone, regardless of ethnic origin. Although Nkrumah's dictatorial leadership was much criticized, his efforts at state-building with ethnic pluralism deserve recognition. Unfortunately, the ethnic harmony that Nkrumah tried to foster did not bear fruit as successive ruling groups used ethnic consciousness in order to bolster their own communal interests. It was relatively safe for political leaders to assign more political positions to their own people in order to concentrate their power. The result was the growing sense of deprivation of those left behind.

In the midst of post-colonial coups in Ghana, the Ashanti people and Ewes were the two major contenders seeking to expand their political influence. For example, when Acheampong (an Ashanti) seized power in a coup in 1972, the Ashanti played a major part in politics and Ewes revived their threat of secession. On the other hand, when Rawlings (his mother is Ewe, his father Scottish) came to power in 1979, the Ashanti attempted coups against Rawlings to check the growing domination of the state by Ewes.

There is no evidence to indicate that the Ashanti face any ecological or demographic disadvantages compared to the rest of the population. The Ashanti are also not discriminated against politically, culturally or economically (POLDIS06 = 0, ECDIS06 = 0; CULPO106 = 0; CULPO206 = 0). In fact, the group appears to be the most economically advanced of the groups in Ghana. In December 2000, Rawlings was replaced as President by an Ashanti, John Kufuor, the leader of the Ashanti-dominated New Patriot Party. There were no reports of government repression against the Ashanti during 2004-2006.

Under Rawlings, the main Ashanti grievance was a lack of access to power and the advantages that come with this power in terms of public funds and resources. With Kufuor winning the Presidency, this complaint has ceased to be expressed. While it appears that the Ashanti have not been involved in any organized peaceful or militant protests recently (PROT06 = 0, REB06 = 0), this has not always been the case. Ashanti protests and opposition to the government have been recorded since colonial times (PROT45X = 2), although they have never been more than small demonstrations (PROT95X = 3). During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Ashanti were also involved in militant activities which culminated with a successful coup that brought Ignatius Acheampong to power (REBEL65X and REBEL70X = 1).



La Verle, Berry, ed. 1994. Ghana: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress.

Lentz, Carola. 2006. Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana. Edinburgh, UK: Ediburgh University Press.

Lentz, Carola and Paul Nugent, eds. 2000. Ethnicity in Ghana: The Limits of Invention. New York: St. Martin's Press.

LexisNexis, through 2006

Morrison, Minion K.C.. 1982. Ethnicity and Political Integration: The Case of Ashanti, Ghana. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University.

Murray, Jocelyn. 1990. Africa, Cultural Atlas for Young People, New York and Oxford: Facts on File.

Novicki, Margaret A. 1994. Interview with President Jerry Rawlings. Africa Report. March/April

Ofori, Ruby. 1993. "The Elections Controversy," Africa Report, July/August.

Owusu, Maxwell. 1989. "Rebellion, Revolution, and Tradition: Reinterpreting Coups in Ghana," Society for Comparative Study of Society and History. 372-397

Rothchild, Donald. 1995. "Rawlings and the engineering of Legitimacy in Ghana," in I. William Zartman, ed. Collapsed States, Boulder: Rienner.

Saaka, Yakubu. 1994. "Recurrent Themes in Ghanaian Politics: Kwame Nkrumah's Legacy," Journal of Black Studies. March. Vol.24 No.3: 263-280.

US State Department. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ghana," 2004-2006.

World Directory of Minorities


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Information current as of December 31, 2006