Diasporian News of Sunday, 1 July 2012
When Ghana native and former Palmer Township resident John Quartey arrives in Easton today, he’ll have a chance to clear up any confusion about his identity back home.
When Mayor Sal Panto Jr. announced Quartey’s visit, it sparked controversy about whether Quartey is really a king.
Quartey identified himself in a letter to the mayor as the “supreme commander” of the Ga people, who live around the coastal capital of Accra.
But Kwame Essien, a Ghana expert, who will be an assistant professor of history and Africana studies at Lehigh University in the fall, said Quartey is a council leader under the authority of the Ga king. Essien said he spoke to Ga elders in Accra.
There are about two million Ga people, Essien wrote in an email from Ghana, and a traditional council of chiefs from seven divisional stools, or states, helps the king rule. Quartey is a leader in the king’s council, according to Essien. His formal name is Nii Guate Asuasa Ekasee Ako II.
The king reigns over the chiefs but is subject to the political authority of Ghana’s president, John Atta-Mills, Essien wrote.
Rivals dispute current King Tackie Tawiah III’s claim to the throne, said Essien and Obiri Addo, adjunct associate professor of Pan-African studies and religious studies at Drew University.
“Despite ongoing tension, Ga King Tackie Tawiah III is recognized by many as the only Ga king who is required by Ga traditions to perform specific cultural duties and play specific social roles,” Essien wrote.
Tawiah is the king based on the decision of the elders, he wrote. Quartey is not one of two challengers to Tawiah’s legitimacy, according to Essien. Addo said chiefs have considerable influence on their subjects, especially when land is at stake. They hold the land in trust for their people, and the Ghanaian government respects that.
They also have a duty to keep Ga culture alive, he said.
“All these groups have a common culture, and the king has the duty of maintaining and making sure these values and cultural norms are respected and upheld,” Addo said.
Panto said the Easton Area High School graduate is visiting the city for a royal homecoming and a mission of peace in advance of Ghana’s December election. He said the members of Quartey’s cultural dance troupe, who were going to perform at Heritage Day, were denied visas. Former professional boxer Azumah Nelson will be arriving later, he said.
Panto said regardless of Quartey’s title, he grew up in Easton and has encouraged free elections in Ghana. He said he gets calls to his office every day from people who want to see Quartey.
“We’re just looking forward to having the gentleman we know as John Quartey come home,” he said.