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Feature Article of Saturday, 16 June 2012

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Muslim or Christian: The Dead Deserve Dignity and Peace

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

It is increasingly becoming clear that the Mills-Mahama government of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) is fast losing control of our national security apparatus, with the National Security Advisor, Brig.-Gen. Joseph Nunoo -Mensah, preferring to fruitlessly engage in a sideshow over whether Nana Akufo-Addo’s free-education up to SHS campaign promise is either feasible or even desirable, than purposefully hunching down the trenches and helping to keep the peace in an increasingly volatile nation caught in the grips of interethnic and religious conflicts.
In the latest of such incidents, at least two residents of the Hohoe municipality, in the Volta Region, were reportedly killed in clashes between the Ewe youths of Hohoe and their counterparts in the Muslim community (See “Hohoe Muslims on Rampage over Exhumation of Imam” Ghanaweb.com 6/11/12). The story itself is rather sketchy and about the only agreement that all the media reports on the incident have in common is the fact that the Paramount Chief of the Gbi Traditional Area, which includes the Hohoe municipality, is smack behind the conflict.
Another common thread, as with other similar flare-ups in the Central and Northern regions of the country, is the fact that tensions between the primary players in the conflicts appear to have been simmering for quite a good while; which leaves many concerned citizens and observers wondering precisely what the Minister of the Interior and his National Security Advisor have been doing at their posts.
What we know so far is that a 21-year-old man who was reportedly electrocuted and rushed to the Hohoe Government Hospital and later died and was buried in the Zongo – or Muslim – quarter of the city, later had his corpse exhumed, on the apparent instruction of the Paramount Chief of the area, Togbega Gabusu, who was reported to have curiously warned that “henceforth, no Muslim should bury their dead on [his] land.” However, what appears to have broken the proverbial camel’s back was the desecration of the remains of the recently deceased Chief Imam of the Hohoe municipality a couple of days ago, with the same order of summary exhumation that had greeted the mortal remains of the 21-year-old Muslim man who had died a day, or so, before the Chief Imam.
Even more unpardonably repugnant and outright barbaric is the fact that the exhumed remains of the Chief Imam of Hohoe would be dumped either on or by the side of the highway between Hohoe and Jasikan. Clearly, it appears that Togbega Gabusu, the Paramount Chief of the Gbi Traditional Area, which includes the Hohoe municipality, had summarily declared war on the dignity and humanity of the immigrant Muslim community in the district. The fact that the ruling National Democratic Congress government has not been prompt and forthcoming with details on the incident, clearly indicates that it may well be guilty of a gross dereliction of duty. And this, of course, is another cogent reason why the electoral mandate of the Mills-Mahama government ought not to be renewed come December 7, 2012.
What makes the Hohoe conflict relatively more complicated than other flare-ups around the country is the religious factor – in this instance Islam. In most of the other conflicts, ethnic difference has been the dominant factor. What the foregoing means is that on the Muslim side, more than a single ethnic group may well be involved. In sum, Togbega Gabusu may well have picked a fight with several ethnic groups against his indigenous Ewe host community. That Muslims constitute only 16-percent of a predominantly Christian and animist Ghana, may be far less significant than the potential risk of turning a purely socioeconomic and political conflict into a religious war, at least on the part and imagination of the embattled Muslim community. And while, indeed, Ghanaian Muslims are by and large disciplined in deportment, there can be no definitive mode for determining the extent to which the latter group would be willing to take the kind of abominable abuse allegedly meted it without turning what presently clearly appears to be a local misunderstanding into a battle between Muslims and Ewes.
Consequently, it comes as rather refreshing to learn of the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Nuru Sharabutu, having passionately appealed to the Hohoe Muslims to exercise restraint in the face of Togbega gabusu’s rather intemperate exercising of his invested chiefly powers (See “Hohoe Violence: National Chief Imam Calls for Ceasefire… Gov’t Imposes Curfew” 6/11/12). Whatever acts of indiscipline Togbega Gabusu has to complain about the largely Zabrama-Muslim community residents in the Hohoe municipality ought to be promptly and jointly taken up with the National House of Chiefs, local, regional and national authorities in order to find a lasting solution to the conflict. For, it is highly unlikely that Hohoe Muslim residents are going to be leaving the Hohoe municipality any day and time soon. And what is more, the rapid ECOWASIZATION of the West African sub-region and the eventual unification of the African continent as a whole, means that Togbega Gabusu and Ewe indigenes of Hohoe and Ghanaians at large had better get used to peaceably coexisting with our kinsfolk from the greater African community. I am personally not very crazy about pan-Africanism, but it is the inevitable wave of the future. And the sooner we get used to it, the better positioned and stronger we shall become in an increasingly cosmopolitan and global community.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net.
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