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Opinions of Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Columnist: Anekunabe, Emmanuel K

A “New” Northern Region: Gonjas & Others.

There have been calls for a new region to be carved out of Northern Region in view of its size and the challenges of managing such a diverse region. Various articles and petitions championed by many groups including Gonja chiefs, politicians and intellectuals seek to set forth, defend and further advance the splitting or carving out a new region to achieve stable socio political integration and balanced economic and infrastructure development. This might bring administrative efficiency and development closer to the people. We agree with this argument, as people who hail from the north experience on daily basis the difficulties of having to do everything through Tamale. However, we believe the debate should be based on the economic and social benefits that a new smaller region would bring and not on ethnic and tribal basis.

Yes, the creation of a new region is a popular wish by the majority of people in the north and we fully support it too. But as Ghanaians and inhabitants of the Northern Region, we need to delve into questions and challenges posed by this call for the creation, development and sustainability of the proposed new region.

Importantly, some of us are concerned about the view in some quarters that this is becoming a “Gonja Project “. And to avoid this “Gonjanisation “as feared in some quarters, there is the need for critical exploration of wider implications of the proposed regions. A broader process for engagement and dialogue of all the ethnic groups within the catchment area of the proposed region is very essential in order to buy-in and avoid resurfacing into the new region, the discrimination and inter tribal rivalries that have led to the disturbances and conflicts in the Northern Region.

Because of their population, the Gonjas wield enormous influence in the Northern Region. They also have strong influence in the two major political parties of NDC and NPP in Ghana. Inferably, such elements should not give any ethnic group any special rights and privileges over the others. It is the tendency not to respect the rights of smaller communities or people who are perceived to be different that feed the persistent conflicts in various communities.

Respectfully, Yagbon Wura’s call for the new region is commendable. We support this call and that of other people for this region. Nonetheless, the Northern Region is not all about Gonjas and Dagombas. No insult or offence intended please. The region comprises several groups: Nanumbas, Mamprusis, Nchumurus, Konkombas, Chokosis, Basares, Lobis, Bandas and Mos among others. We urge those pushing for the new region in particular, the Gonjas to engage opinion leaders and traditional rulers and youth associations from the other ethnic groups in the area. This will present a more collective and united front in their petitions than just teaming up with their immediate tribal cousins. There is the need to broaden the scope of engagement and the interests of all ethnic communities inhabiting that region have to be taken into account.

Categorically, the complexities of the geopolitics of the Northern Region should be threaded carefully by our politicians. Unfortunately, any political manoeuvrings have the potential to further complicate the pre-existing historical grievances on issues of land ownership and indigeneity. In the highly charged socio political atmosphere of today, provincial modern boundaries are not necessarily bound by old colonial or pre-colonial kingdoms. Hence, carving out a new region should be preceded by inter-ethnic reconciliation. This will galvanise cohesiveness and speed up development.

The 21st century requires that we place less emphasis on our ethnicity. It should not hold sway over our dealings with others. We need a truly inclusive new vision for the Northern Regions of Ghana. Any new region should reflect this.

Emmanuel.K.Anekunabe

e.anekunabe@yahoo.co.uk

Nchumuru Youth Association, UK Branch.