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Feature Article of Monday, 11 October 2004

Columnist: Pukariga, Dasana

The Yendi Massacre - Is it the absence of evidence?

The problem with the Yendi massacre is not only that the state failed to protect the Ya Naa and to prevent the carnage when it could have done so, but also that the President and his vice who have publicly professed that the murdered king was their friend, have so far refused to apprehend his killers and their accomplices.

Government may have succeeded in getting the cooperation of the Ghanaian media to be silent and less aggressive in asking poignant questions on the issue. Some radio and television presenters have even become sarcastic about murder and can afford to giggle and laugh derisively when discussing news items about the Ya Naa?s murder.

This attitude was summed up by a columnist in THE STATESMAN newspaper of 2nd and 3rd March 2004: that all what the Ghanaian media have been interested in are gruesome headlines that have ?served to titillate southern coast readers and reinforce their stereotypical perceptions of the outlandish temperaments and barbaric behaviour associated with northerners since colonial times. The net effect of this sensationalism would be to eventually impose upon the reading public a kind of ?Dagbon-crisis fatigue?, feeding the conviction that the cause of grief in Dagbon was most likely attributable to local culture and hot-headed peculiarities of the people themselves.?, and that ?? on any cool assessment central government could be presumed to carry no responsibility or accountability whatsoever.?

Fact is that there is abundant evidence in the possession of the police to find and prosecute the killers of the Ya Naa if only political interference would be removed. Many suspects and accomplices roam the streets of Yendi boasting that nothing can happen to them. One such person has been quietly transferred to Simpa where he hides at the environmental sanitation department there.

For now let us examine the case of one Iddrisu Iddi, a very terrible man who is said to possess spiritual powers of protection from arrest.

This man, Iddrisu Iddi alias Zalinkolana (he has many aliases), should be well known to Ghanaians for it was he who on said on Ghana Television on the 28 March 2001 that they killed the Ya Naa because for 28 years under his rule they had known no peace. After the broadcast of his confession in the afternoon, Ghana TV has never repeated that news item. This man was subsequently identified by the Wuaku Commission as ?? the one to whom Iddrisu Gyahinfo handed over the freshly decapitated head of the Ya Na.?, when it was still oozing with blood!

Yet despite the serious crimes against the state alleged against this fellow, he is always at the forefront of delegations, of one of the factions, and has met with many prominent officials in government.

Firstly when the President broke his self imposed embargo and made his belated even if hassled visit to Tamale, this man - Iddrisu Iddi - was in the front row. Lo and behold, the president was seen in a wondrous handshake with this alleged murderer. Did the President not know that he was shaking the hand of a man who held the decapitated, blood-dripping, head of his friend the Ya Naa? Obviously the security people knew what was going on.

Secondly, this alleged criminal has been on several trips to Kumasi, met with the committee of eminent chiefs, and has had discourse with the Asantehene. He is even said to be keeping some regalia of the Dagbon State, looted from the Gbewaa palace and thus frustrating preparation for the burial of the late King.

Thirdly, when the Senior Minister visited Yendi recently to attend the funeral of the Yendi Zongo chief, this man, Iddrisu Iddi, was on horse-back displaying his magical prowess amid a sea of NPP party colours. He was openly sneering at the victims and relatives of his alleged criminal activities as if to say: ?Look at me, my government is in power; can?t you see that even in the presence of the Senior Minister I can do this?? The question is: Is it Iddrisu Iddi?s spiritual power that is protecting him or that he is truly untouchable? The media people may not know all these facts because they have refused investigate, but all these facts and more, are not unknown to the police and BNI in Yendi. So to those who say that the government cannot do anything about the murder because of the lack of evidence, they better think again. I think it is rather that the Ghanaian media have been deluded that the events of March 2001 was something other than murder.

As for the propaganda against the victims, led by an Accra daily using fabricated documents, that they pray and wish for the unconstitutional overthrow of the government or that they are preparing to attack and the like, Ghanaians should realise that it is the guilt of sinners that fills them with suspicion, fear and the expectation of evil.

The conduct of the government and the Ghanaian media regarding the murder of the Ya Naa has a tint of prejudice and stereotyping of people from the north of the country. Again in the words of THE STATESMAN columnist: such a stance only stirs up public opinion against northerners and perpetuate the view that they are a ?regressive and insignificant fringe, dispensable in calculating the overall agenda for progressive economic and political plans that involve interfacing with the outside world.? Never mind that the north too has untapped mineral resources, shea-nut, rice, cotton industries, and above all human resources which when exploited and developed would uplift the fortunes of the whole country. Let us be aware also, that such discrimination can lead to catastrophic happenings.

The President and his advisors refuse to see anything beyond winning the 2004 elections. If somehow the Ya Naa?s murder can be ignored and will not affect the electoral fortunes of the President and the NPP, then it is fine. After all, the question is asked: ?How many seats did we win from the north in the last election?? But Mr. President may well heed this Machiavellian admonishment that ?When certain crimes against the state occur officials may wrongly judge them too lightly and may choose to do nothing to punish the criminals, but unless a wise leader corrects the situation to bring justice, the state could be ruined.?


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