Accepted paper:

The denunciation game: xenophobia, flight and identity politics in Ghana, 1969-1972


Alexander Keese (Université de Genève)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the mechanisms of denunciation and expulsion of "foreigners" in Ghana under the Busia government. It interprets a debate on nationhood linking to various decisive social themes, such as religion, success in commerce, smuggling and access to professions, and redefines "strangers".

Paper long abstract:

This paper will shed light on issues of xenophobia and denunciation in the context of Ghana's Aliens Compliance Order and its aftermath, allowing for the expulsion of "illegal aliens" from Ghanaian territory. Looking at two different regions (the Central Region and the Volta Region), I will attempt to point out the mechanisms of denunciation (through an analysis of letters of denunciation, an abundant and unused source) and the reactions of local authorities. The issues of denunciation involved a number of questions. They fed into a wider discourse of anti-Nigerian images crafted in the colonial period already, and directed against the (alleged) particular behaviour of "Lagosians" and of "Hausas". They were linked to conflict around attractive professional positions, especially in commerce, but also within some corporatist professions (e.g. butcher's shops). But in the case of the Volta Region, conflict with "foreigners" also touched the question of smuggling networks; the activity in smuggling aroused the jealousy of certain individuals, and led to anonymously accusing Togolese citizens residing on Ghanaian territory. Finally, anti-Lebanese sentiment in its most ambiguous ways was also linked to these activities, and in some cases also anti-Muslim sentiment, whenever the Muslim inhabitants of zongos (trade quarters) in Ghana's southern cities were suspected to be "Nigerians" and (in frequent cases) arbitrarily arrested. All these elements had massive consequences and defined a debate about nationhood that was only cut short by the military takeover of Ignatius Acheampong in January 1972.

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