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Opinions of Thursday, 27 May 2010

Columnist: Akudugu, Alhassan

Ghanaians beware! The Nayiri is inciting violence in Bawku

The Nayiri, Naa Bohagu Mahami Abdulai Sheriga, has been reported to issue a statement concerning the protracted Bawku conflict. In that statement, he has enumerated and elucidated many issues, which to him are hindering the search for lasting peace in Bawku. This statement is coming just few days after both the Kusasis and the Mamprusis had struck a peace deal brokered by the West African Network for Peace Building and thus agreed to coexist peacefully.

The timing of the statement and the issues raised are in fact troubling. It is a subtle attempt on the part of the Nayiri to scuttle the recent peace deal entered into by both sides. In the said statement, the Nayiri has been reported to state, among other things, that the non-performance of the funeral of Zangbeo is what is hindering the peace process. This statement is to me very sinister and irresponsible and only intended to complicate the conflict in Bawku.

It would be recalled, as I stated in my earlier write up, that the Bawku conflict predated Ghana’s independence. The committee of enquiry that was tasked to look into it recommended to the last governor of the then Gold Coast that Bawku is undisputedly for Kusasis. This report which was fully implemented by Ghana’s first president, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, as part of the preconditions for Ghana’s independence didn’t go down well with the Mamprusi community in Bawku.This compelled the Mamprusis to turn against Dr Nkrumah and even to the extend of helping to coordinate and execute a bomb attack on Nkrumah at Kulugungu in the Bawku east municipality.

In 1969, when Dr Busia came to power, he rewarded the Mamprusis by deskining the present Bawku naba’s father, who was the then Bawku naba, and replacing him with the said Zangbeo. Fierce fighting broke out between Kusasis on one hand and the military and the Mamprusis on the other at a community called Zabugu. It ended up with the Kusasis being subdued after three of their compatriots – a brother and the uncle of the current Zabugu naba and a family friend- were killed. The 1969 fighting marked the first bloodshed in Bawku.

Unfortunately for the Mamprusis, Busia was overthrown in 1972 and the Kusasis immediately took the issue to court, which subsequently ruled in their favour, and the said Zangbeo was deskined paving the way for the present Bawku naba.

It is therefore not out of place to state that Zangbeo was never a Bawku naba since his enskinment had no legal locus. His enskinment, which was later declared null and void by a court of competent jurisdiction, should be regarded as such. He never died as a chief and as such, a call by Nayiri for a funeral rite befitting a deceased chief is most unfortunate. This call is intended to achieve two things; first, it is aimed at establishing a dual royal gate in Bawku and secondly, it is a subtle and diabolic attempt on the part of the Nayiri to discourage the Mamprusis community in Bawku from respecting the recent peace accord.

This position by the Nayiri who happens to be the paramount chief of the Mamprugu traditional area in Northern region should be a worrying signal to all well meaning Ghanaians. This is because any attempt to foist a dual and illegitimate royal gate on Bawku will open the floodgates for similar wrangling across the country- especially in a country like our beloved Ghana where chieftaincy disputes are rife. I don’t know the one who decided to include the Nayiri in the Bawku peace efforts. I can’t simply fathom the mental processes that led to his inclusion. It is now obvious that the man is a complete disaster!

The Nayiri also alleged that the Kusasis have seized the farmlands of the Mamprusis. By this allegation the Nayiri has decided to take side in the conflict and also intend causing disaffection for the Kusasis.The truth of the matter is that Bawku is deeply polarised to the extent that each of the feuding factions are confined to their respective strongholds- you only enter your opponents’ stronghold at your own peril. The Mamprusi stronghold is only restricted to parts of the town centre. The rest of the town centre, the whole of the outskirts and the villages within and around the municipality plus Bawku west and Garu-Tempane districts are all within the Kusasis stronghold. The Kusasis control more than 99 per cent of the traditional area. The Mamprusis have therefore only deemed it unsafe to go to the villages to farm and not that they are prevented by the Kusasis from doing so as alleged by the Nayiri.

Another outlandish allegation made by the Nayiri in his one sided statement was that Kusasis who were arrested by the security services were given fair treatment whilst the Mamprusis were not given fair treatment. If the Nayiri cares to know, he would realise that since the Bawku chieftaincy dispute turned bloody in 1969, and despite all the heinous crimes committed, nobody has ever been sentenced except one Kusasi man who was sentenced this year to three years in prison by a magistrate court for breaking the curfew. No Mamprusi has ever been convicted in relation to the conflict even though they are noted to have ever committed worse atrocities than the Kusasis- for instance, the 2008 massacre of women and children. In any case the Nayiri is neither resident in Bawku nor a national security operative and for that matter cannot comment on the security situation in Bawku.

The Nayiri’s statement is ill advised, ill motivated and ill timed. It is intended to further stoke ethnic tension within the municipality especially at the time both factions have agreed to coexist peacefully. The Nayiri needs to understand that it is the Mamprusis who are bearing the brunt of the conflict hence the earlier there is peace there, the better it will be for them. His inclusion in the Bawku peace efforts, I suppose, is to enable him prevail on his kinsmen to live peacefully with the Kusasis. He should try to do just that. Kusasis and Mamprusis are already mixed in blood and nothing can be done to change that. What is needed therefore is for everybody to let reason prevail.

By Alhassan Akudugu 0244477639