Levels of ethnic discourse: Two problematic areas

Has it ever occurred to any writer or social commentator that some ethnic groups are referred to as if they do not have subgroups? A good example is the discourse on Asante, a sub-ethnic group of the Akans and Ewes, an ethnic group. 


While some ethnic groups do not have identifiable subgroups, those with subgroups must all be recognised as such. We read, for example, about the Asante and Ewe wars, as if all Ewes came together to fight the Asante and Akwamu armies. The facts are that even an Ewe sub-group, the Aŋlɔs, fought on the side of Asante/Akwamu.

So why call the war the Asante/Ewe war? A misnomer, indeed. The war should be aptly called the Asante/Gbi, Akpini, Bankoe war, and not the Asante/Ewe war. It is the subgroups that create history, the ethnic groups themselves are only social constructs.

It is the Akyems, Denkyiras, Aŋlɔs, Gbis, Akpinis and Alavanyos, who can cause mayhem, like war, and not Ewes or Akans, collectively.

Are the Akans to blame for belittling some ethnic groups to the level of subgroups? I do not think so. It has more to do with our collective inability to pay attention to details.

Perhaps, size must have played some tricks on the Akans, too. Ultimately, our educational system, which focussed on foreign syllabi at the expense of disseminating knowledge of ourselves, leading to complete ignorance of each other, is mostly to blame.

The American writer and futurist, Alvin Toffler, said, "The illiterates of tomorrow are not those who cannot read or write but those who cannot, learn, unlearn or relearn." 
Despite our poor formal education in learning about ourselves, there are opportunities, informally, to learn about each other.

We have simply refused to avail ourselves of these. How many times have we not heard from some people that "this is the way, we call them"? Perhaps a list of some ethnic groups and their sub ethnicity would help elucidate the matter further.

The Ewes are the Gbi (Peki and Xɔxɔe Areas), Akpini (Kpando Area), Alavanyo, Leklebi, Gbefi, Aŋlɔɔ, Anfɔega, Anfɔeta, Ave, Have, Agave, Batɔ, Maafi, Tovi, Ve, Agate, Adidome, Sovie, Vakpo, Sokpoe, Fievi, Some, Adaklu, Dzolo, Kpetoe, Abutia, Sokɔde, Tefle, Aveŋui, Klikɔ, Kpalime, Liati, Fodome, Awudome, Ʋli, Bankoe, Dome and Asɔgli.

These last three kingdoms, are in and around Ho. The list, albeit limiting subgroups to Ghana, is still not exhaustive.


They are the Fante, Ahanta, Asen, Asante, Adanse, Twifo, Akuapem, Akyem, Akwamu, Kwawu, Sehwi, Awowin, Nzima, Denkyira, Evalue, Wassa and Agona.This list may not be exhaustive, too. While the Akan subgroups are household names, others are in oblivion.

Ga, Adangbe

They are the Krobo, Shi, Osudoku, Ada, Agɔtime.Their variants are in Togo, as Esse, Sogbadi, Basse and Anehɔ ‒ so-called, ayigbes. In Ghana, some subgroups of the Ga people are Osu, Teshie, Ga Mashie, La, Nungua, Prampram, Ningo and so on.

The Guans are Efutu, Larteh, Tsumuru, Anum, Gonja, Nkonya, Boso, Awukugua, Aprade, Senya Berekum and Likpe. Likpe had originally been classified as one of the Central Togo Ethnic groups. Guans, like the Akans, fortunately, have their subgroups close to household names too.

Avatime, Nyagbo, Tafi, Logba, Sandrokofi, Akpafu, Lolobi and Likpe (SALL), these last four, now form the SALL electoral area in southern Oti Region. They all had been referred to as Central Togo ethnic groups.

These are all paramountcies and should be treated as complete ethnic groups.

Northern ethnicities

The north contains very important kingdoms, the ethnic groups are: Dagomba, Gonja, Mamprusi (Mole - Dagbani), Kusasi, Nanumba, Gruni (frafra), Kasin Nankani, Bimoba, Bulsa, Waala, Kokomba, Dagarti, Sissala, Tsokosi, Nawuri, Basari, Busanga, Talensi, Vagla. These may not be exhaustive.

Former President, Dr Hilla Limann, was a Sissala, referring to his memory, as such, is more respectful, than as a northerner. The Minister of Defence, Dominic Nitiwul, is a Kokomba, and I love to regard him so. The former Minister of Interior, Ambrose Dery, belongs to the Dagarti ethnic group, and so does the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin.

The former Minister of Tourism, Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, is a Dagomba. Also, the former President, John Mahama, is a Gonja. Our Veep, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, is a proud Mamprusi.

We refer to Akans and Guans, always using their subgroups, indeed the subgroups of the Akans and Guans are household names, while we refer to Eʋe, as if it is a sub-ethnic group. This leads to a loss of identity.

The treatment is also meted out to our brethren from the north. They are confined into a geographical cardinal group, leading also to the loss of their identities. 
Let us learn to call a spade a spade.


(Sources: F.K. Buah - History of Ghana ‒ 1998; Benjamin N Lawrence ‒ Eues of Togo and Benin ‒ 2002; Mr Francis Ninkpe ‒ Naa Kpiere-Ninkpe)

The writer was a Pilot with the Ghana Armed ForcesEmail: [email protected]

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