Offentlige autoriteter? analyse af lokalpolitikerne i East Gonja District, Ghana

Karen Binger Holm

Studenteropgave: Speciale


The thesis is a contribution to the understanding of how decentralisation reforms in a development context de facto are institutionalised in rural areas. As a starting point the thesis assumes that local configurations of power are decisive for the actual form and outcomes of decentralisation processes. Thus, although donor policies of decentralisation share similarities cross-country, local socio-economic and political dynamics to a large extent explain cross-country differences. Politico-administrative reforms embark not on virgin institutional ground, and locally the decentralised government institutions and their representatives compete with existing political actors and institutions for public authority. Public authority is here perceived as who can define, implement and enforce public goals and events and collective binding rules and decisions. However, what precisely constitutes authority is subject to continuous disputes. Based on empirical examples from East Gonja District in Ghana, the thesis illustrates how people gain access to the political offices in the District Assembly and Unit Committees, and how respectively the district assembly and the unit committee members as political actors aim at public authority in local politics. An actor-oriented approach is applied, and the conceptual framework for the analysis is constructed on basis of various case studies of local politics in rural areas. The analysis is not limited to formal procedures, organisations or mandates, but focus on how access to office in practice is regulated, the local politicians’ own expectations and what they actually do in order to gain public authority. The analysis shows that due to the high position of the political offices in the District Assembly the democratic principles for competitive elections are regulating the access. However, the importance of the position also invokes party political interests which influence the access. Increased demands to the individual candidate, such as educational skills, might in practice be a structural barrier for participation. The low interest in the political offices at the grass root level seems to undermine the democratic principles for election. Instead the existing local power configurations seem to regulate access to the political offices in the unit committees, as local actors have proved capable of identifying candidates on forehand. There are great differences in the opportunities that local politicians have to gain public authority. By using power registers such as educational skills, economic capacity and supra-local relations and networks, the members of the district assembly try to gain public authority within local politics by using their relations to the local government institutions, by providing resources for local development, and by engaging in broker activities. Despite the comprehensive formal mandate of the local committee members, their public authority is very limited in practice. They do not have the same power registers at their disposal as the district assembly members, and their possibilities are limited to try to function as officials of the local government. As the system is incapable of providing basic social services and local development, the local government system itself undermines specially the possibilities of the unit committee members to gain public authority, while the district assembly members to a higher extent are able to use the institutional structures in order to challenge existing political actors. Overall the possibilities of the local politicians to gain public authority in local politics seem to depend on the outcome of the continuous conflicts and compromises between the existing local political actors and the local politicians and their supporters, and therefore the variation of the local politicians’ public authority in different local communities might be viewed as a result of the specific configurations of power. More indirectly the limited capacity of the local government system is influencing the local politicians’ possibilities to gain public authority. Unlike some of the other major ethnic areas and tribes in Ghana, the modern history of the area of the traditional Gonja kingdom is not well explored. A range of studies map the historical background and structure of the Gonja kingdom, but there seems to be a lack of studies describing the political system and the specific actors in East Gonja District today. In that perspective this thesis not only contributes to the understanding of how the Ghanaian decentralisation reform de facto is institutionalised in the rural areas, it is also a limited contribution to the knowledge of the political actors and institutions in East Gonja in modern time.

UddannelserOffentlig Administration, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) KandidatInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato1 jun. 2005
VejlederePeter Triantafillou