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Opinions of Saturday, 27 December 2008

Columnist: Agbodza, Kwami

Free market Electoral Discrimination

In seeking political power, the NPP campaign machine, seeks to deny the human rights of Ewes by either denying their freedom of movement or disenfranchising them in order that Akuffo-Addo will win the 2008 election. But Ghana’s constitution upholds the human rights of all Ghanaians including Ewes.

The establishment of a just and free society turns out to be the strategic goal of the constitution of Ghana. Akuffo-Addo has never understood this and the imprisonment of Tsatsu Tsikata is testament that an Akuffo-Addo Presidency is dangerous for the security and stability of Ghana.

And when the security and stability of a nation is threatened by irresponsible civilians, its Armed Forces have a duty to uphold it. And yet in our beloved nation Ghana the same Armed Forces, the Ghana Armed Forces, one of the finest forces anywhere in the world, are being robed into planned electoral ethnic discrimination in meetings of Akan Service Commanders amongst others.

When Kwaku Boateng published his Feature Article of Wednesday, 17 December 2008 titled “Why NPP must go”, I said to Kwaku Boateng,” mo; misi mo; wakasa - well-said! You have spoken! And ended by saying that May God ensure Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo never becomes President of Ghana our Motherland.” Clearly, my praying Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo never becomes President is neither on ethnic nor personal basis since my Ewe family is married into the Ofori-Atta family. It is purely on ideological grounds.

But this is what another Ghanaian, perhaps unaware that Ewes are married to Akyems too, said (exact quote – see comments section of said article by an unnamed person called zzzzzzzzz: “AYIGBENII GHANA IS NOT YOUR MOTHERLAND, REMEMBER YOU'RE TVT, #9, AND TOGOLEESE. KWAME NKRUMAH SHOT GHANAIANS' FOOT BY LESTERNING TO LEAGUE OF NATIONS.BENIN WAS VERY SMART REFUSING TO ACCEPT LAZY TOGOLEESE. NOW THEY HAVE THEIR PEACE OF MIND.FIND YOUR MOTHERLAND AYIBGENII.”

Things are so ethnically bad that Nana Kofi Amankwah in the Feature Article of Monday, 22 December 2008, titled “NPP Stop Blaming Central Region”, had this to say: “Akuffo Addo thinks people are that stupid to forget about the tribal politics he and his uncle have orchestrated in Ghana. History will continue to judge him but not the people from the central region or the Ashanti region the majority of who have not forgotten what he did to their son.”

Nana Kofi Amankwah went even further with this indictment of the ethnicity of Akuffo –Addo: “Akufo Addo is the most tribalistic politician who has ever lived in our modern time. He always wants things to go his way. In this year's December 7th 2008 election Ghanaians have not yet started voting but his Akyem boys were jockeying for juicy positions in an Akufo–Addo led Government. Akufo Addo’s Gabby Otchere Darko has declared himself as the Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs before the first vote was even caste.”

Some Ewes see it as a wider Ewe -Akan problem which is becoming more and more serious. The Ewes are always insulted by the Akans; most of them (Akans) still consider Ewes as non Ghanaians or Togolese as the unidentified zzzzzzzzz’s quote shows. And yet historically, Eweland was in the Gold Coast and it was The Ashanti Protectorate that was not. Being in the Gold Coast is not being acknowledged as a matter of pride.

Indeed members of Southern Eweland have more claims to Ghana than Ashantis who together with other subgroups constitute Akans. And if Akyems were part of the Gold Coast, they do not have a higher claim to Ghana our Motherland than Ewes. Ewes like TVT who joined Ghana by choice can be said to have done so as free men and women. Choice in freedom is better than being forced into a union. And the anti-British opposition of Ashantis of both slavery and independence can be traced directly to Manhyia Palace, the alleged destination of the 77 Parcels of Cocaine that got lost from MV Benjamin.

As a matter of fact, some argue that the Trans Volta Togoland (TVT) was not consulted before the region was annexed to the Gold Coast prior to independence and that there is no document anywhere (especially in the United Nations) testifying that there is an agreement uniting TVT to Gold Coast , which is now part of Ghana. But others like this writer attest of documents in the District Assembly library at Kpando which shows accent to join Ghana. This document was sent to the United Nations at the time.

Some Akan insults insinuate that Ewes should go back to Togo. Since Independence, it has been noted that only Dr. Nkrumah's CPP Government seems to have been able to unite the whole Ghana. It is the view of many that the NPP Government has worsened the ethnic divisions and attendant problems in Ghana. As a result, some Akans keep on reminding Ghanaians that Ewes are not Ghanaians.

Some are therefore asking the unthinkable, whether Ewes have to start considering cessesion in order to reverse the earlier accession arising from the plebiscite? Similarly some Akans want an Akan-only nation recalling not the desire for a federal Ghana but the legalisation of Matemeho – literally separation. It has however never been clear that Ewes will miss Ashantis in any cessesion. What is clear however is that some misled Ashantis have feelings of animosity towards Ewes with whom they share the same class characteristics. The NPP use of ethnicity (either Akan or Ewe especially) and personality (either Rawlings or Akuffo-Addo especially) in Ghanaian politics has taken a decisive bend for the worst. Some like Okoampa-Ahoofe are even calling for either a coup or a civil war or both in Ghana, in general NPP use of ethnicity in Ghana’s political free market, should the NDC win political power (see his latest demented argument in article titled “The Islamic Salvation-Front Effect of Election 2008”). Note Islam in the title of his piece because he calls for violence; some Muslims will surely taken offence at.

During the December 7th elections the Ghana-Togo border was closed without prior warning, stranding Ewes in Togo for several days. This was a deliberate anti-Ewe policy. Nevertheless, while the NPP government continues to close the Togo border, it leaves the Northern and Western borders open. This has become a matter of concern for Ewes who are determined to take the matter up. It is seen as a divisive and antagonistic gesture toward Ewes.

The stated reason for closing the Ewe side of the border is the prevention of foreigners from voting in Ghanaian elections. But it is clear to the Ewe people who are amongst the most educated Ghanaians that this stated reason is untenable on logical grounds not that the NPP is capable of logical thinking. And there are Ewes in the NPP.

Foreigners do not enter Ghana only through the border with Togo. If a person's name is not on the Electoral Commission's voters register they cannot cast a vote. So unless the NPP are in possession in Ashanti of a hatched plot by which foreigners are voting in Ashanti that they fear Ewes will replicate in Volta Region, we fail to see the logic.

So, the stated reason for closing the border (to prevent foreigners from casting a ballot) is untenable. No foreigner can enter Ghana on Election Day to cast a vote. Rather Ewes who live in Ghana and do business in Togo are the target of this anti-democratic NPP policy. Thousands of Ewes (farmers, traders and other workers) cross the border on a daily basis. Non-Ewes also do.

These Ewes are being disenfranchised unconstitutionally by the NPP when it decides to close the border without prior warning, keeping bonafide Ewes stranded for days.

The real issue at stake here is NPP's antagonism toward Ewes, who know this, hence the consistent voter rejection of NPP at the polls in the Volta Region. As long as NPP brands itself as an Akan-Ashanti party and remains hostile to Ewes, it has no prospects of winning more than 10-15% of the Volta vote. Having adopted a hostile attitude to Ewes since 1992, they have been reaping the fruits of their actions. No amount of promises by Akuffo-Addo including building a University in Volta Region can endear Akan NPP to Ewes. This mirrors the reported Ashanti assertion that even if NDC builds a golden road in Kumasi for them they will not vote NDC. Clearly, this is an issue of ethnicity and not of issues.

Many have noted how a JoyFM pro-NPP news bulletin ridiculed Ewes for voting for Mills because they thought he was an Ewe. This is augmented by Okomapa’s unfathomably twisted anti-Ewe logic: “In any case, in the just-concluded Ghanaian general election, it was the people of Nkwanta who maturely and sensibly demonstrated to the rest of the people of the Volta Region that politics is essentially about the greater good of our country at large. For looking at the traditional voting pattern of the Ewe of Ghana, one would think that other than their arch-political kingpin and Mary-Jane-chomping Butcher of Dzelukope, no other Ghanaian leader or political party has done anything worthwhile on the eastern bank of the Volta. This quite curious spectacle may well have informed Mr. Victor Owusu’s timeless and incontrovertible observation that the Ewe are an incurably “inward-looking people.” Okoampa went on, “Indeed, the British scholar and literary critic Robert Fraser was to make the same observation regarding the poetry of the two leading neo-oral Ewe practitioners of the trade, namely, Professors Kofi Awoonor and Kofi Anyidoho.” In other words racists and tribalists think alike. What about the Akans is Ewes are so guilty? At the same time, the question has been raised as to whether the Ashanti Region has ever voted for Prof. Mills in an article titled “Has Ashanti Region Ever Voted For Prof. Mills?” of General News of Tuesday, 16 December 2008. According to that article, “Mr. Kojo Mbir, has called on Ghanaians to stop accusing the people of Central Region of voting on tribal lines in the just ended elections. According to him, the region votes on occupational lines and not tribal lines, arguing that if the region was tribal, it would not have voted for President John Agyekum Kufuor in two straight elections in 2000 and 2004.” Clearly, if Ewes were also tribal, they would not have voted for Prof Mills. This contradicts the assertion that Ewes vote on tribal lines. If an Ashanti were to become the Flagbearer for NDC, Ewes will still vote for NDC. We know for a fact that an Ewe can never lead NPP because it is an Akan party. We remain to be proved wrong! Some in private discussions have argued that this issue always crops up only during election time. But then, this is strange since Ashantis cannot lay claim to being more Ghanaian than Ewes. After all, the Volta region became part of the present day Ghana before the Ashanti region. This is a historical fact. To say that Ewes should go to Togo, if this is coming from Ashantis or Akyems or whoever, must be deemed a very stupid and ignorant suggestion is the view of some. Why do they not move the border line to where they think Togo is?

A pertinent question is what are Ewes or rather the parliamentarian NPPians saying about this? It is a shame that because they want to score a political point they are mute. Volta Parliamentarians should consider forming a caucus of their own to discuss this issue to form a united front against this type of ignorant mentality. They must have the political will. Whatever happens Ewe views in the Legislature is secure.

The question of closing borders has raised the further question of whether the NDC also closed the border during elections when they were in office (1992-2000). If they did the NPPians will say that they are just following the precedence set by NDC even though they prefer “unprecedented” events and decisions as Kwaku Boateng has noted in his article “Why NPP Must Go” in the general news of 17th December 2008, on Ghanaweb. We are aware that whenever there was an election in Togo, the Togo side of the border was always closed - to prevent Ghanaians from voting in Togo.

Some Ewes have asked whether the child who said Ewes voted for Mills because they think he is an Ewe on JoyFM has been corrected. Whether the child is corrected or not , it is argued that it shows the ignorance exhibited by the Joy FM radio management, ethnic tendencies of some Ghanaians and the inability of politicians whether they are NPPians, NDCians, CPPian etc. to address these issues in public. It is the job of the politicians to correct this anomaly, otherwise it is dead end. This is why this article is being written as a political response to the concerns of Ewes.

Another group of Ewes have however argued that the insulting of Ewes is not an election phenomenon only and that it goes on even during non-election times. Insulting of Ewes has been going on for decades, elections or no elections! One Ewe remembered as a kid in the early 60s the shouts of "Ayigbe dzulor, ba ni wo shi bo!" whenever a thief is spotted, whether the culprit is an Ewe or not. It was as if Ashantis or Fantis or Gas do not steal. This is apart from the illegality of assaults since all are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Those who subscribed to Okyeame in the early 1990s found it a full-time job taking on the tribal bigots on the Internet. There were some Ewes who even came out to say that other Ewes were wasting their time challenging the bigots. The persistence of such illustrious Ewes managed to clean up Okyeame at least. They even managed to succeed briefly on SIL too.

The fact is most Ewes simply don't fight back when such react to such demonization and insults. Kobla Dumor even hosted in the late 1990s on the same JoyFm a programme named “Ayigbe Jokes” and people called in to repeat all kinds of nasty stereotypical things about Ewes, as his way of combating the prejudice against Ewes! Some say they were shocked when they listened to it. It will therefore be helpful if Ewes concerned, get in touch with JoyFm to lodge a complaint as much as possible.

It therefore came as no surprise when we heard of meetings at the Castle and La Palm Royal Hotel to commit electoral discrimination. The True Democrat reported on authority that “the NPP planned to close the Eastern frontier three days ahead of the presidential run-off on December 28, 2008. With the Togolese unbending to the pressures from the NPP government, the government's decision to go ahead to close the border at least 72-hours before the run-off is likely to raise tension in the Volta Region.”

The report went on, “meanwhile, the True Democrat intelligence unit reports of a massive deployment of NPP Party Police to the Volta Region on voting day with the sole intention of intimidating, harassing and scaring the voters away from the polls on December 28. The NPP Party Police are expected to draw support from the 64 Infantry Regiment. The soldiers earmarked for the exercise are those exclusively trained in Israel, Morocco and Nigeria when the NPP came to power in 2001. Most of them were said to have been handpicked from Jamasi and Nkawie in the Ashanti Region.” Readers will recall the import of arms from Israel some years back for just such an eventuality against Ewes.

We are aware of such reports being manufactured by media sources. But the situation of the closure of borders on only one side of Ghana amounts to electoral discrimination. This is not in line with political free market, which requires that voters enjoy their freedom and that the State rather than denying those freedoms asserts them. No reason can thus be adduced to limit freedom of movement on an election day in a just and free society.

But General News of Wednesday, 17 December 2008, again reported a “Planned 72-Hour Closure of Togo Border”. If all else fails then classic indigenous capitalist free market shock tactics that was used in Chile, Argentina and Iraq amongst others will be used as follows:

(1)...sponsored agents in national security to fire warning shots or detonate hand grenades very close to the Togo border... this is to be enhanced with the deployment of heavy military presence from the 66 Artillery unit otherwise known as the Medium Mortar Regiment stationed in Ho, the Volta Regional capital; A military reinforcement from Accra is also on the cards.... (2) the state of panic to be created along the border and among the citizens of the Volta Region... (3) close the border and (4) deny Ewes who cross the border daily for business or to work in the sister country their electoral right.

This possible strategy was confirmed by Mr. Emmanuel Imprim, Assistant Commissioner of Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) who is Chairman of the Border Security Committee. He reportedly told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that he has no knowledge of any pending closure of the border and then promptly explained that any such action would purely be a national security decision.

The use of national security to commit planned electoral discrimination is on the cards. In order to minimise the possible shock on their part smart Ewes too are doing brisk business at the Aflao border as reported in the General News of Monday, 22 December 2008 entitled “Brisk business at Aflao border” not to be caught out unawares.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D, in the Feature Article of Sunday, 21 December 2008, titled “What the Volta Region Means to Me” appeared to justify such electoral discrimination. He claims that: the stereotypically traditionally introverted political attitude of most of the people of the Volta Region had often prompted me to regard the erstwhile Trans-Volta Togoland as the veritable outhouse of the postcolonial Republic of Ghana. And on the latter score, I mean “outhouse” not in terms of the pejorative or fecal, but decidedly in terms of the self-segregating and near-neurotic, clinically speaking. For whether one agrees with this writer or not, the Volta Region is a veritable sore-thumb in Ghana’s political culture.”

All this anti-Ewe rhetoric because in the world of the illogically twisted NPP, the Akyems and the Okoampas, Ewes are only “creative and constructive” if they take “electoral cue from their Nkwanta-North relatives by voting massively for the presidential candidate of the ruling New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, whose governing party has indisputably done far more for the people of the Volta Region than the latter’s own mafia kingpin, Dzelukope Jato, did in two decades.”

For the NPP and its supporters then electoral discrimination against Ewes for political office is justified as also is political violence for political office using coups and civil war because of the assumed hatred of Ewes.