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General News of Thursday, 9 January 2003


Andanis Reject Govt White Paper On Wuaku Report

One of the factions in the Dagbon crisis, in which Ya Na Yakubu Andani II was assassinated last year, the "Andani Gate" has rejected the Government White Paper on the Wuaku Commission's report.

It said the commission and the Government White paper have not made an attempt to unmask the perpetrators of the crisis that resulted in the murder of the Ya-Na, Yakubu Andani ll and several others to bring them to justice.

Dr. Alhassan Wayo Seini, the spokesman of the family, said this at a press conference in Accra yesterday, attended by 33 chiefs from the Dagbon Traditional Area and other parts of the country.

The Spokesman, who dwelt on certain key issues in the White paper, said the paper sought to distort the facts of the matter and turned the victim into the aggressor.

He accused the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo of manipulating the media reports to help exonerate key government officials who were allegedly accused of complicity in the matter.

Here is a full text of the press conference below.

We welcome you to this media conference which we have called to react to the Government White Paper on the report of the Wuaku Commission of Inquiry, issued on Monday December 23, 2002.

You would recall that in our press statement of Tuesday, September 17, 2002, we did explain the circumstances that led to the suspension of participation in the sittings of the Wuaku Commission. We indicated that the

Commission had turned out to be a circus, and that it did not intend to get to the bottom of the matter and unmask the perpetrators of this heinous crime for justice to be done.

We did also predict that the hearings at the Commission were being deliberately skewed to present the gruesome murder of Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II as being the result of an armed conflict between the Abudu and Andani Gates rather than a premeditated criminal act by the Abudu Gate. We also protested at the strenuous effort the Commission was exerting, including the bending of its own rules in order to implicate Mr. Ibrahim Mahama, the legal advisor of the late Ya-Naa.

We wish to add that we are not at all surprised that in its reaction to the Government White Paper on the Wuaku Commission's report, the Abudu Gate has faked dissatisfaction with it. This is clearly an attempted preemptive strike that is devoid of substance beyond its propaganda value.

The Wuaku Commission is alleged by Government to have found "that the remote cause of the disturbance in Yendi is the outstanding chieftaincy dispute between the Andani and Abudu Gates". We would like to make it clear that this finding is a complete distortion of the facts. There has not been an outstanding chieftaincy dispute since 1987 when the Supreme Court ruled definitively on the matter and put it to rest.

We now turn our attention to some specific issues contained in the Government White Paper.

1. Was the assault on the Gbewaa Palace and the murder of the Ya-Naa the result of a war between the Abudu and Andani Gates?

True to our prediction, the Government White Paper has accepted the description of the assault on the Gbewaa Palace as a war between the Andani and Abudu Gates. Yet, it is quite strange that in the aftermath of the carnage the Abudu faction suffered no damage whatsoever. The palace of the self-styled Bolin Lana, which supposedly was the target of an attack by the Andanis, had not a single sign of a bullet scar, nor any remote semblance of damage. Neither did a single person from the Abudu gate die in the process. All the thirty or so deaths were from the Andani side. We are equally amazed at the assertion by the White Paper that "the first casualty in the exchanges was an Abudu Abudulai Issahaku". This revelation should come as a surprise to all who were following the proceedings of the Wuaku Commission because it is factually inaccurate.

We insist that what happened in Yendi from 25th through 27th March was a criminal and terrorist act. If it had been a war, the Dagbon state has its own traditional process of engaging in war, and the King of Dagbon, the Ya-Naa had the authority and capacity to mobilize all his chiefs for this purpose. In fact when the Abudus launched the terrorist attack on the Gbewaa Palace, the Andanis within the precincts of the palace resorted to legitimate self-defence. The Ya-Naa issued specific instructions to his bodyguards to shoot into the air because he said he did not want to shed a single drop of Dagbon blood.

One other basic contradiction in the report has been the murder charges brought against Iddrisu Jahinfo and Yidana Sugri. If indeed what happened in Yendi on those fateful days was a war, as the Government White Paper would want the whole world to believe, we would like to ask the Attorney General and the government whether deaths that occur on the battlefield in times of war are considered under the law as murders.

Iddrisu Jahinfo and Yidana Sugri have been charged with the murder of the Ya-Naa, but who murdered the dozens of others who perished alongside the Ya-Naa? The White Paper has maintained absolute silence over this very pertinent question, and we demand answers. We also demand to know whether it was only these two individuals who waged what the White Paper has described as the "three-day war"? All along it has been the Abudu Gate that characterized the crisis as a war, and we are not surprised at all that this has now been adopted by the government. We have always maintained that the Abudu Gate and the government have been working hand in glove, and the White Paper has only come to confirm this.

2. Exoneration of the self-styled Bolin Lana. Abdulai Mahamadu

You would recall that we had earlier disclosed that it was from the house of the self-styled Bolin Lana, Abdulai Mahamadu, that the assailants from the Abudu Gate launched the assault on the Gbewaa Palace. This self-styled Bolin Lana claimed at the Wuaku Commission that he gave orders for his people to push the Andanis back. For three consecutive days, this self-styled Bolin Lana was the hub around which the conspiracy and murders were organized. It was also disclosed at the Wuaku Commission that the murderers of the Ya-Naa mounted his severed head on a spear, and took it to the house of this self-styled Bolin Lana where he sat in state and received it. It was there that a victory parade was organized amidst singing, drumming and dancing.

The charge the Commission's report is said to have preferred against one Iddi Iddrisu, the ex Zalinkon Lana is based on the fact that he received the severed head of the Ya- Naa from Iddrisu Jahinfo on behalf of the self-styled Bolin Lana who, as we indicated earlier, presided over the ceremony. Yet, this self-styled Bolin Lana has been found not culpable. The exoneration of such a man makes a tragic mockery of a government which claims that it has a "scrupulous respect for the rule of law and due process."

We would like to refer your minds back to the fact that the severed head and limbs of the Ya-Naa were secretly returned to the precincts of the burnt palace after their disappearance for seven days. It is very strange that the Wuaku Commission made no finding concerning the return of these body parts, and who was responsible.

The Wuaku Commission identified that it is the inalienable prerogative and the customary duty of the Ya-Naa to preside over the celebration of the Bugum Festival in Dagbon as the sole traditional authority. Yet, it was the insistence of the self-styled Bolin Lana and his followers to flout the authority of the Ya-Naa and celebrate a rival Bugum Festival that precipitated the crisis. Indeed his followers, prior to this, openly boasted that they had government on their side, and that if they were not allowed to celebrate a rival Bugum Festival, then they would impose a curfew on the Ya-Naa and thus prevent him from performing the festival, which as you may probably be aware, is celebrated in the night. This self-styled Bolin Lana is also not a political authority; yet, it came to light at the Wuaku Commission that it was he who requested the District Chief Executive to impose the curfew on Yendi prior to the assault on the Gbewaa Palace, and the DCE acceded to this request.

We are outraged at the contempt with which government has all along treated Dagbon custom and traditions. The White Paper refers to this Abdulai Mahamadu as Bolin Lana when in actual fact he is not. It is the Kuga Naa who confers such titles, and to the best of our knowledge he has not conferred such a title on any one. It is also on record that the said Abdulai Mahamadu told the Wuaku Commission very explicitly that he was not a chief, and certainly not the Bolin Lana. Why then should the government insist on referring to him as such?

3. Exoneration of key government officials.

In all civilized societies and those governed by the rule of law, it is the responsibility of the government to protect all its citizens. Specific offices are assigned this responsibility, and those in charge are held accountable for any dereliction of duty in this regard. Recently in Senegal, the Minister of Transport and the Navy Commander were dismissed following a boat disaster that claimed several Senegalese lives even though these officers had no direct connection with captaining the boat that sank. These are some of the yardsticks that are used to measure good governance. It is sad to note that on this count, our government has failed woefully.

As you are aware, it is obligatory that the National Security Advisor give daily briefings to his Chief Executive on the security situation in the country. Did something go wrong on 25th, 26th and 27th March? On these specific days did the BNI not file reports on the situation on the ground in Yendi? If it did, then the question we would like to ask is: Did the National Security Advisor not brief His Excellency the President7

The White Paper has also exonerated Mr. Malik Yakubu Alhassan, former Minister of Interior. However, it is a matter of public record both nationally and internationally, that while the unprovoked attack on the Ya-Naa's palace was going on, and the armed security personnel had refused to protect lives and property, Mr. Malik Alhassan Yakubu, who is also the Member of Parliament for Yendi and then Minister of Interior, was heard on national and international radio saying that Yendi was calm, and that government was in firm control of the situation. He branded those who presented evidence to the contrary as mischief-makers. This was even after a telephone call from Yendi was broadcast live on Joy FM on Monday, March 25th confirming that the Ya-Naa was under attack, and listeners could even hear the sound of gunfire in the background. Later at the Wuaku Commission Mr. Malik Alhassan Yakubu claimed that he had fallen sick on March 24, and only got well on March 28, a day after the murder of the Ya-Naa. Yet this is the man the Government, according to the White Paper, has "expressly commended for the speed and timeliness of his interventions in the crisis". This is unbelievable!

We now turn our attention to the evidence given by Major Abubakar Sulemana. He testified that when he learnt about the shootings and killings in Yendi in the morning of March 25,2002, he went to inform the National Security Advisor who confirmed to him that, and I repeat, government was aware of what was going on.

According to the Tamale Municipal Chief Executive who chaired the meeting of the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) on March 26, 2002, the REGSEC received the distress message from the Ya-Naa requesting security personnel to come and rescue him from armed attack. Thereafter, according to the Municipal Chief Executive, REGSEC on Tuesday evening mobilized ninety policemen at Yendi, an unspecified number of military personnel from the Operation Gong Gong contingent in the Eastern corridor, sixty men and two officers to save the Ya-Naa from the armed attack. We are being asked to believe that in spite of this meticulous response, the Ya- Naa was killed the following morning Wednesday, March 27, 2002.

Also according to the Tamale Municipal Chief Executive, the Regional Security Council was not even aware that the Ya-Naa had been killed as at 4 PM on Wednesday, March 27, 2002. But Major Sulemana testified that he saw a security report in the office of the then National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Joshua Hamidu in the morning of Wednesday March 27, 2002 detailing that the Ya-Naa had been killed.

These are very remarkable revelations which raise a very serious question. If the topmost security body in the Region did not know of the death of the Ya-Naa even in the afternoon of that fateful Wednesday at a time it was already dead news for the office of the National Security Advisor in Accra, could it be that the office of the National Security Advisor was dealing directly with Yendi and was monitoring the progress of the assault from his office? Yet, the authorities claimed that they had adhered rigorously to the chain of command involving the district, regional and national outfits in that order.

The exoneration and commendation of the District Chief Executive Mr. Habib Tijani is also a slap in the face of the rule of law. The said Habib Tijani was seen in broad day light in a war attire and busily facilitating the Abudu assault on the Gbewaa Palace.

4. Echoes of a conspiracy

Military experts will confirm that in the process of any military assault, communication systems are among the first targets of attack. This was exactly what happened during the attack on the Ya-Naa when telephone lines to Yendi were severed. Strangely enough the Commission did not see this as part of a grand conspiracy and only recommended that the Area Manager of Ghana Telecom be reduced in rank a mere slap on the wrist.

In the intervening period since the murder of the Ya-Naa and the sacrilegious destruction of the Dagbon state, there have been similar infractions of traditional authority around the country, and all have been dealt with swiftly by the security agencies. We refer specifically to violent incidents in the Volta and Upper West Regions and in Tema, where the security agencies, in all those instances, reacted with remarkable speed to take control of the situation. Why was the attack on the Ya-Naa treated differently?

5. Interference from the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice

We are not at all surprised at the haste with which the Attorney General wants to clear the affected officials. We mention the Attorney General specifically because issues relating to the writing of the White Paper are his responsibility. We had earlier had occasion to protest at the interference of his office even in the domain of the media where it manipulated some aspects of the news coverage of the proceedings at the Wuaku Commission.

We refer specifically to the distorted coverage of the Wuaku Commission's decision on Lt. Gen. Joshua Hamidu, Alhaj Malik Alhassan Yakubu, Alhaj Aminu and Major Abubakar Sulemana after their first appearance before the Commission on August 15, 2002. It was reported by GTV, and GBC that the f6ur persons had been "cleared" by the Wuaku Commission when in actual fact the Commission had merely "discharged" them. Why then did the GTV and GBC carry such distorted information? According to the testimony of the GBC Brong Ahafo Regional correspondent, in the original story that he filed, he used the word "discharged" and not "cleared" as was reported by GBC and GTV. He also indicated that it was in Accra that the story was changed. It later turned out that it was the office of the Attorney General which issued instructions for the story to be changed. Why will the office of the Attorney General go to such an extent as to manipulate media coverage of the work of a commission of inquiry?

6. Persons to be prosecuted.

The Executive Summary of the Commission's report indicates that thirty people are to be prosecuted. The majority of them are Andanis against whom there hasn't been any evidence of their involvement in the carnage except that they volunteered to appear before the Wuaku Commission to give evidence. This is no doubt a very cynical attempt to turn the victims of this heinous crime into the aggressors, and is yet another demonstration of the extent to which the government would go to subvert the truth and to satisfy the Abudu Family.

7. Attempts to implicate Mr. Ibrahim Mahama.

In our earlier press statements, we did express outrage at attempts to implicate Mr. Ibrahim Mahama on account of some bizarre testimonies from witnesses of doubtful integrity whom the Wuaku Commission had bent the rules to accommodate. We are not surprised at all that Mr. Ibrahim Mahama is the only individual to attract the most extensive coverage in the White Paper in which Government has accepted the contrived confessions at the Wuaku Commission accusing Mr. Ibrahim Mahama of establishing military training camps for weapons handling. This accusation would have been funny were it not an obscenity. The good people of Ghana should demand to know from our government when, how, and where did Mr. Ibrahim Mahama establish those military training camps, and whether he did that during the three days of carnage that ended in the murder of the Ya-Naa.

We wish to point out to you that a military expert such Major (rtd) Courage Quarshigah, Minister of Agric and member of the government delegation which visited the destroyed Gbewaa Palace, and a ballistic expert such as the Police Special Investigator DSP Apeatu who testified before the Wuaku Commission have both indicated that the bullet holes in the walls of the palace could only have been inflicted by sophisticated weapons used by those who attacked the palace. And it was the Abudus who attacked and killed the Ya-Naa. The alternative questions we would therefore like to ask government are:

Who recruited the Abudu warriors?

Who trained them?

Who armed them?

Who planned, financed and facilitated the attack on the Ya-Naa?

Why is the Government White Paper silent on these very critical questions and rather trying very hard to turn the victim into the aggressor?

We note with grave concern that Government's attitude toward Mr. Ibrahim Mahama brings back memories of attempts that had been made in our recent history to silence him. There has even been an attempt on his life before. We hasten to point out to the NPP government that any diabolical attempt to deflate the moral authority of Mr. Ibrahim Mahama will collapse, and that his stature will continue to dwarf that of all the members of the NPP Dagomba caucus put together. If the Government White Paper is part of a conspiracy to cast him aside in preparation for the 2004 elections, then this is a pipedream, and the earlier the government woke up to the realities of the North, the better.

8. Funeral of Naa Mahamadu IV and the NPP's Electoral promises

It is instructive to note that the White Paper identified the non-performance of the funeral of Naa Mahamadu IV who died in 1989 as one of the causes of the events of 25th to 27th March. It is instructive because it raises a fundamental question: Why should the funeral of Naa Mahamadu IV who died more than thirteen years ago now serve as a catalyst to the carnage in Yendi?

The chiefs and members of the Andani Family have all along insisted that the events in Dagbon had a direct bearing on electoral promises the NPP made to the Abudus prior to the 2000 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Confessions at the sittings of the Wuaku Commission by the self-styled Bolin Lana attest to this. He made statements to the effect that he and his people had helped the NPP to come to power, and that they expected some reward for their support.

In the period immediately following the success of the NPP at the elections, several representations were made by the Abudu Gate to the new government requesting that it fulfill its promise.

It is also a matter of public record that Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State in the Office of the President, on the "Front Page" programme of Joy FM on Friday March 29, 2002, made comments to the effect that the NPP had earlier promised to assist the Abudu Gate to perform the funeral of the predecessor of Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II. She went on to say that in order to have done that, the sitting Ya-Naa would have had to vacate the Gbewaa Palace. The attack on the Gbewaa Palace from March 25th to 27th was designed to ensure this, as the late Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II would not have acceded to this uncustomary procedure. Indeed this is a procedure which is unacceptable in all customary jurisdictions in Ghana. It is unacceptable for let's say a sitting Asantehene or Okyehene or any other traditional king to vacate his palace for the performance of an outstanding funeral of a king who did not die in office.

We wish to make it categorically clear that neither the Dagbon Traditional Council nor any other individual has ever prevented the Abudu Gate from performing the funeral of the predecessor of the murdered Ya-Naa.

In fact it was through the magnanimity of Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II that the body of Naa Mahamadu IV, who did not die as a sitting Ya-Naa, was buried in the Gbewaa Palace. Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II even volunteered to assist in the performance of the funeral of Naa Mahamadu IV, but the extremist elements within the leadership of the Abudu Gate insisted that Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II vacate the palace for a period of at least one year. Because Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II found this demand unacceptable, the Abudus decided to suspend the performance of the funeral until a time when the national political climate would be favourable to them. The time came in the year 2001 when the NPP came to power.

It is on record that prior to the burial of Naa Mahamadu IV, an agreement was reached that his funeral would not be performed in the Gbewaa Palace. It is important to shed some more light on this particular matter in order to put the Government White Paper in its proper perspective.

Ya-Naa Mahamadu IV died as a former Ya-Naa at a time there was a sitting Ya-Naa in the person of Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II. This means that the Dagbon state had no definite role in the performance of his funeral. In spite of this knowledge, and contemptuous of the Supreme Court ruling on the matter, the Abudu Gate insisted on performing the funeral of former Ya-Naa Mahamadu IV in the Gbewaa Palace, as if he died as a sitting Ya-Naa. By Dagbon custom, no funeral of a Ya-Naa can be performed at the palace whilst an incumbent Ya-Naa is still alive. There are precedents in Dagbon history to attest to this. An example is Ya-Naa Dahmani Kulkarijee who was forced into exile by a German colonial military expedition which the Abudus had invited to invade and settle in Dagbon in 1899. Ya-Naa Dahmani Kulkarijee lived the rest of his life in a village called Juni, where he eventually died and was buried. His funeral was performed there and not at the Ya-Naa's palace.

It is quite revealing that the former Minister of Interior consistently stated at the Commission that the government was making frantic efforts to have the funeral of former Ya-Naa Mahamadu IV performed. According to the former Minister of Interior, government had solicited the assistance of the King of Asante to talk to Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II to facilitate the performance of the funeral of former Ya-Naa Mahamadu IV as demanded by the Abudu Gate. The import of the testimony of the former Minister of Interior is that government had chosen to ignore a Supreme Court decision on the Dagbon kingship affair, and was insisting on getting Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II to breach the law and Dagbon custom. Apparently the government was willing to forcibly evacuate the Ya-Naa from the palace to facilitate the performance of the funeral as Ms. Elizabeth Ohene disclosed on radio on March 29th.

9. Validity of charges leveled by the Wuaku Commission.

It is absurd to note that the Commission headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge has preferred a charge of what he termed as "criminal negligence" against Prince Imoro Andani, former Northern Regional Minister. This is preposterous. How can a retired Supreme Court judge invoke charges for a crime that does not exist in our statute books! We have enough reasons to suspect that this may not be incompetence on the part of the chairman of the Wuaku Commission, but a shrewd ploy to prefer the wrong charges so that they can easily be thrown out by any court.

10. Stockpiling of weapons

Of late government officials on various occasions have repeatedly stated that the two factions in the Dagbon crisis have been stockpiling arms. This has been the favourite chorus of the Minister of Defence, Dr. Addo Kufuor and the Minister of Information Mr. Jake Obetsebi Lamptey. Subsequent upon this, members of the Andani family have been subjected to numerous hostile searches by the security agencies who are yet to discover any weapon of the type they are looking for.

The National, Regional and District Security Councils have a duty to ensure that arms do not get into the wrong hands. It is the responsibility of the President and his Ministers and assigned officers to ensure that these institutions carry out this assignment. The abysmal failure to do so resulted in the carnage in Yendi.

We would like to point out that the Andani family had provided concrete evidence to the security agencies about the presence of arms in some designated locations belonging to the Abudus; yet, the government has preferred to maintain a very noisy silence over this. It is indeed very strange that in spite of the loud noises made by government officials about the proliferation of arms in the area, the Yendi township which is the centre of the crime, is yet to be subjected to any search for arms. We wonder whether Dr. Addo Kufuor and Mr. Jake Obetsebi Lamptey are aware of this, or is it a conscious ploy to abet a political ally?

l1. Financial cost of the crisis.

Surprisingly, at the presentation of the White Paper, the Minister of Finance disclosed that the government has so far spent over ?6 billion on the Yendi crisis. We interpret the circumstances of that announcement as an irresponsible attempt to incite agitation among the Ghanaian public against Northerners, and we take exception to that. Who caused the crisis in the first place? It is the government that has to be held responsible, because it had enough time and the capacity to react appropriately to prevent the crisis from happening. In fact those government officials who demonstrated gross dereliction of duty must, in addition to other criminal charges, be charged with causing financial loss to the state.

We equally find the Finance Minister's statement very insensitive to the plight of the people of Dagbon. As a result of government's irresponsible conduct, the Dagbon state and its over seven-hundred-year history and culture now lie in ruins, and the socio-economic lives of the people completely shattered. More importantly, the resultant massive human tragedy of this crisis cannot be quantified in monetary terms, and we expect the Honourable Minister of Finance to know that.

12. Conclusion:

Finally, we wish to take the opportunity to remind the government that our quest for justice is not negotiable, and that we shall under no circumstance be subdued by the overwhelming power of the government propaganda machinery. It is an exercise in self-delusion for the government to continue making loud noises about peace while at the same time it exploits state power in order to perpetuate injustice. It is with regret that we note that many a conflict in Africa has come about as a result of attempts at subverting good governance, and making a section of the national population feel cheated, disregarded and derided.

We also wish to remind the good people of Ghana that we are not fighting for the Andani family alone. We are fighting for the entire Dagbon, for the preservation of our traditions and customs against those who want to obliterate them. We are fighting for good governance and respect for the rule of law. If this gross injustice that the government is eager to inflict on the Dagbon state is allowed to succeed, then no traditional ruler in Ghana is safe. In fact the very foundations of our democratic experiment would be seriously undermined.