AFRIKANIA MISSION (Religious Movement)

Afrikania Mission is a Neo-Traditional Movement established in Ghana in 1982 by a former Catholic Priest, Kwabena Damuah, who resigned from the church and assumed the traditional priesthood titles, Osofo Okomfo. The Mission aims to reform and update African traditional religion, and to promote nationalism and Pan-Africanism. Rather than being a single new religious movement, Afrikania also organizes various traditional shrines and traditional healers into associations bringing unity to a diffused system and thereby a greater voice in the public arena. Afrikania has instituted an annual convention for the traditional religion. It has become a mouthpiece of traditional religion in Ghana through its publications, lectures, seminars, press conferences, and radio and television broadcast in which it advocates a return to traditional religion and culture as the spiritual basis for the development of Africa. The Mission is also known by other names such as AMEN RA (derived from Egyptian religion, and interpreted to mean ‘God Centred’), Sankofa faith (implying a return to African roots for spiritual and moral values) and Godian Religion, which it adopted briefly during a period of association with Godianism, a Nigerian based neo-traditional Movement.

The previously mentioned Dr Kwabena Damuah (1930-92), a Roman Catholic Priest resigned from the Church and started the Mission in 1982. Damuah traces his religious evolution to the lingering influence of his father and grandfather who were herbalists and traditionalists and their simple yet effective ministration to people. Studying in America (1965-71) may also have made Damuah aware of his own identity as an African especially as this was during the time of Black power and the Civil Rights Movement. His doctoral thesis (Howard University 1971) on the Traditional Religion of the Wassa Amenfi of Western Ghana proposed that Africa’s quest for identity and self-determination could best be achieved by a return to traditional spiritual roots. He attributed his immediate decision to form Afrikania Mission to attending a conference of religious leaders in Moscow (in 1981) where he noticed that almost everybody was Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian but no one represented African Traditional Religion.

The teachings of the Movement can be found in the Afrikania Handbook, Miracle at the Shrine and the other pamphlets authored by Damuah and his successor Osofo Kofi Ameve. The Afrikania Handbook states, ‘It is not a new religion. It is traditional religion “come alive”, reformed and updated. Afrikania is here not to destroy, but to fulfil the dream of a new Africa.’

The teachings, which are summarized into ten Articles of Faith, fourteen Pillars of life cover religious beliefs, socioeconomic concerns and political activism though these often overlap. Recurrent in the pillars and articles are African values such as service to the community, respect for elders, etc. They also urge Africans to write wills to avoid litigation at death, to use time wisely and to engage in what is called agricultural evangelism, etc. They stress the efficacy and validity of African libation, prayer and sacrifices as well as other rituals. They recognize the mediation of the gods and ancestors. Among the latter, they list Pan-African figures such as Kwame Nkrumah, J.B.Danquah, K.A. Busia, Jomo Kenyatta, Malcolm X, etc. Afrikania Mission also promotes herbal medicine, which is closely associated with the traditional religion. Afrikania holds a Sunday forenoon worship service at various locations in big cities like Accra. In the Volta Region of Ghana the services are normally held on Sunday afternoon under the designation of Sankofa. The liturgy used during such services is similar to Christian services in structure, but is traditional in content.

Politically, Damuah initially saw the mission as a corollary to the ideals of the Jerry John Rawlings Revolution, which led to the formation of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government in Ghana. He joined the PNDC government in December 1981 and resigned in August 1982 before forming Afrikania Mission on 22 December 1982.

The movement is very nationalistic in its teaching promoting the tenets of Pan-Africanism and African emancipation. Its worship sites fly the Ghanaian national flag. The liturgical readings at worship are taken from the ‘Egyptian book of the Dead’, and a book of African Scriptures ‘The Divine Acts’ initiated by Damuah and developed by Kofi Ameve. They also use various pan-Africanist political literature.

In 1992 the founder Osofo Okomfo Damuah died. His succession led to a schism into two groups, the African Renaissance Mission led by Osofo Kofi Ameve and Afrikania Mission led by Osofo Dankama Quarm. The African Renaissance Mission, which has a larger following, reassumed the name Afrikania Mission in 2000. Under the leadership of His Holiness Osofo Kofi Ameve the Mission has gained a level of recognition as the mouthpiece of the traditional faith through its various activities. These include defending cultural practices especially against human rights activists, organizing training for prospective Afrikania priests, organizing the branches of the Mission in various areas of Ghana especially the Volta Region, and speaking on national issues such as religion in education, etc. They have also succeeded in organizing some traditional shrines and healers into associations and promote herbal healing as alternative medicine in Ghana. Afrikania also organizes an annual convention of traditional religions and are advocating for a traditional holiday in line with the national Christian and Muslim holidays. Afrikania also uses the media effectively and has a radio programme, the Afrikania Hour, through which it propagates its ideas. It has also acquired a site to build a University to study traditional culture and medicine in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. Kofi Ameve died in 2003. In April 2004, the Mission elected a new leader, Osofo Komfo Atsu Kove. In his inaugural address, he noted the mainly adult membership of the Mission and promised to build schools that would nurture the youth and ensure the continuous growth of the Mission.

Afrikania Mission is significant for its intellectual support of traditional religion through literature, lectures, seminars, radio and television broadcast. Rather than being a single new religious movement, Afrikania also organizes various traditional shrines and traditional healers into associations in an attempt to bring unity to a diffused system and thereby give a greater voice to the traditional faith in the public arena. Though attempts to unite with Godianism of Nigeria have failed, the Mission still supports continental moves towards unity among the neo-traditional movements and is linked to groups and individuals in the African Diaspora some of whom/which support the movement financially.

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