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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Mossi-Dagomba 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

Mossi-Dagomba have only one risk factor for rebellion: territorial concentration. The risk of rebellion is correspondingly low. Similarly, the risks for protest are low, as the Mossi-Dagomba do not face significant political or cultural restrictions or repression and do not have support from kindred elsewhere.

It is still unclear what policies John Atta-Mills, the newly elected president of Ghana, will implement and how they will impact the Mossi-Dagomba. Due to the scarcity of usable land and the group’s reliance on it for farming, protests and violence between the Mossi-Dagomba and other groups in the northern area of Ghana are possible.


Analytic Summary

Of all of the ethnic groups in Ghana, the Mossi-Dagomba are the most isolated (GROUPCON = 3). They are found in the northern areas of the country, and they have been in the area for hundreds of years, though the Mossi originate from Burkina Faso. The group has its own language (LANG = 0) and religion, with most members being Muslim (BELIEF = 0; RELIGS1 = 5). They are not considered to be of a different racial background than other groups in Ghana (RACE = 0). Due to their geographic isolation and concentration and their linguistic and religious differences in relation to other groups in Ghana, the Mossi-Dagomba form a fairly cohesive group. However, they do are not highly organized politically.

The Dagomba had their own ruling dynasty, related to the Mossi kingdoms of Burkina Faso (Upper Volta), before colonial powers arrived. In the 1740s, the Dagomba were dominated by the Ashanti, and by 1874, their kingdom had fallen apart. Islam has had its greatest impact among the Dagomba, Manprusi, Wlaba and Hausa/Fulani groups of Ghana. Historically, many Konkomba, a stateless group who live along the Oti River on the Togo border, were subject to Dagomba control. The Konkomba have also had numerous disputes with the Nanumba, a subgroup of the Mossi-Dagomba.

Many Mossi migrate south each year to live in northern Ghana. They share common traditions with the Dagomba, Manprusi and other northern Ghanaian groups. Many lived in the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo region where they worked on farms belonging to natives of the region.

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.

Violence between the Mossi-Dagomba, the Konkomba, and other groups broke out in 1994 over a minor trade dispute. It exploded into large-scale violence which left at least 1000 (and perhaps 2000) dead, 150,000 displaced, and several hundred villages and farms destroyed. Tensions eased in 1995, though the underlying causes of the dispute – access to land and local political representation – remained. Abuses by the armed forces were rarely reported during Rawlings’ handling of the dispute. However, hunger and disease were reported after the conflict as late as September 1995.

There is very little information available in the western world on the current situation of the Mossi-Dagomba in Ghana. The Mossi-Dagomba suffer from a lower standard of living and less access to health care compared to other groups in Ghana. The Mossi-Dagomba live in an area with little mineral wealth and inferior soil and climatic conditions for cash crop cultivation. Due to the poor climate and soil conditions, the group must compete with other groups, such as the Ashanti, for usable farm land.

As noted above, Ghana was controlled by Jerry Rawlings until the end of 2000. Since Rawlings favored the Ewe, the Mossi-Dagomba and other ethnic groups in Ghana, were excluded from political power. In December 2000, Rawlings was replaced as President by John Kufuor, a leader of the New Patriot Party (NPP), an opposition party largely supported by the Ashanti. While Mossi-Dagomba hold positions in the Parliament and the executive branch during 2004-2006,(see notes for LEGISREP and EXECREP), they still appear to be under-represented based on their proportion of population due to the NPP's tendency to favor Ashanti in high-level appointments (POLDIS06 = 2). The Mossi-Dagomba are poorer and have less education than others (especially southerners) in Ghana, and there were no apparent government efforts to rectify this situation (ECDIS06 = 2). There were no cultural restrictions in place against the group (CULPO106 = 0; CULPO206 = 0).

Ghana has been relatively free from inter-ethnic violence, though the Mossi-Dagomba have been involved in violent clashes in the past with groups such as the Konkomba (INTERCON04-06 = 0). However, intracommunal violence among the Mossi-Dagomba occurred in August 2006 when members of the Abudu and the Andani "gates" clashed, resulting in the deaths of three individuals (INTRACON06 = 1). The only recent reports of government repression against the Mossi-Dagomba occurred in 2004 when the state imposed a curfew as well as a ban on demonstrations in the Dagbon Traditional Area due to a declared state of emergency (REPGENCIV04 = 2; REPNVIOL04 = 2).

Because most of the Mossi-Dagomba are poorly educated and work as migrant farmers, they have not formed any organizations or political parties to promote their interests (GOJPA01-06 = 0). Without formal organizations to advocate on their behalf, it is impossible to accurately gage what demands, if any, the group places on the government of Ghana.

The Mossi-Dagomba also have not been involved in any political action, militant or otherwise, in recent years (PROT01-06 = 0, REB01-06 = 0). Information on the group’s activities in the past is somewhat limited, but there were reports of verbal protest activities by the Mossi-Dagomba dating back to the 1950s (PROT55X = 2), and most recently in 1989 (PROT89 = 2).



Keesings 2001-2003.

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.

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

LexisNexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006

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

Ofori, Ruby. 1993. AThe Elections Controversy,@ Africa Report, July/August.

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

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

Saaka, Yakubu. 1994. ARecurrent 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