Decolonising governance: The state and chieftancy conflicts on the Ghana-Togo Borderlands

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Edem Adotey


This paper examines the intersection between the modern state, chieftaincy, and international borders in governance in post-independence Ghana. It draws on a chieftaincy conflict in Ghana between Ave-Dzalele and Ave-Atanve, both Ewe-speaking communities in the Volta Region of Ghana and reflects in some detail on the involvement of the paramount chief of Edzi, whose is based in Togo, to show the complexities of governance in post-independence Ghana. The study highlights the tensions between the formal citizenship rules and traditional, informal rules of affiliation and explores the existing mechanisms for the resolution of such cross-border conflicts. It argues that modernist discourses on the sovereignty of the state and territorial integrity that ignore cross-border cultural ties limit effective approaches to the resolutions of these conflicts. This paper contributes to bridging the gap between country-specific chieftaincy research and research on cross-border chiefs in Africa through critical reflection on the limited literature on issues of governance that relate to the co-existence of modern states and international/cross-border chieftaincies. Ultimately, it calls for a decolonisation of African governance that recognises 'international chieftaincies' and formalises their roles in governance in cross- border areas around the continent.

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How to Cite
Adotey, E. (2021). Decolonising governance: The state and chieftancy conflicts on the Ghana-Togo Borderlands. The Africa Governance Papers, 1(1). Retrieved from
Research Articles
Author Biography

Edem Adotey, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana

Dr Edem Adotey is a historian and currently works at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana. His primary research interests are in traditional governance and international boundaries particularly chiefly relationships between partitioned communities on the Ghana-Togo boundary, identity, nationalism and regional/continental integration.


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