Feature Article of Friday, 5 October 2012

Columnist: Kpou & Slanger

West Africa: Echoes from the Past – Part I

By James Kpou & Tiah J D Slanger

In sub-Sahara Africa there are successions of historical events that deserve our serious attention. In 2011 Sudan was broken up into two separate countries - north and south Sudan. The north became mostly Muslim; the south natives are Christians.
The information emanating from Mali since the middle of March 2012 continues to confirm that Mali as well is potentially facing the same north (Muslim) and south (Christian) religious divide. The Tuaregs and other radical Islamists are presently threatening to tear that nation apart. Of course most western accounts inaccurately blame the violence in Mali on the spill-over from Libya, with the fall of Col. Kaddafi. But such violence goes way back in history.
The Nigerian Muslim North (Boko Haram) continues to bomb churches, attacks government and Christians in the south by using sectarian violence to test the patience of non-Muslim communities in hopes of imposing Sharia Law in order to enforce Muslim domination throughout the country.
In the Ivory Coast for almost ten years since September 2002, the northern Muslim region is locked in a violent on-going struggle against the Christians and non-Muslim communities in the South and western part of the country. Last year (2011) it was reported that over one thousand (1000) civilians (westerners - specifically Guere/Weh) were killed by rebels and Dozo traditional fighters in a single day in a remote town of Duékoué located in the western region of Ivory Coast. The clever ruse of Ouattara’s rebels was they were en-route to capture President Gbagbo (Bete of the Kwa tribes) who was residing in Abidjan. History repeated itself recently in July 2012 when the same supporters of Alassane Ouattara and Guillaume Soro again invaded Nahibly refugee camp of the Guere people in the suburb of Duékoué and murdered over 200 innocent Guere tribal people. The information of the Duékoué massacres was confirmed by all international human rights watch organizations. Allegedly sponsored by Alassane Ouattara, the Ivorian rebels, complemented by Dozo warriors were initially headed by Guillaume Kigbafori Soro.
Guillaume Soro, who served as rebel leader since the incursion of rebels in the Ivory Coast in 2002, was persuaded to serve as prime minister under President Laurent Gbagbo with the hope of ending rebel activities in the country. Although Mr. Soro served as prime minister since 2007, he refused to disarm his rebels before and after the presidential election in 2010.
Immediately following the bitterly disputed election that President Gbagbo thought he won but was awarded to Ouattara by the United Nations through the persuasion of French president Nicolas Zarkozy, Soro crossed carpet to join his true boss, Alassane Ouattara – Mossi man who nearly every Ivorian believes originated from Burkina Faso. And by all indications, all logical fingers pointed to Alassane Ouattara as the invisible hands which encouraged and sponsored Soro and rebels that invaded Ivory Coast in 2002 through Burkina Faso – a predominantly West African Mossi nation that has been sponsoring rebel activities and destabilizing other regional countries since the mid 1980s. It must be recalled that the dictator (Blaise Compaorê – a Mossi man with Mossi agenda) of Burkina Faso came to power through military coup d’état that brutally killed the legendary President Thomas Sankara in October of 1987. Ouattara’s aim was to distort peace in the Ivory Coast so as to ascend to power through the assistance of his French allies.
What is going on in West Africa? Is there a historical precedent for this north-south religious divide in the region? What has been the historic relationship between Voltaic – Mossi people and the Kwa tribes? How do African leaders and the people of West Africa hope to deal with this increasing destruction and destabilization of society?
Historically there is absolutely nothing “new” about what is going on in West Africa right now. However, it appears that it is only the Islamic West African population that is well schooled and educated about its past and what it wants. What is unusual is that most of our non-Muslim leaders and the traditional Africans, with the exception of Laurent Gbagbo, have yet to absorb the core value of their history. This point was made enormously clear when earlier this year a BBC correspondent questioned the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan about the violence in Nigeria. In response, President Jonathan said: “This kind of violence is new to Nigeria.” But historically, Mr. Jonathan’s answer was wrong. This aggressive behavior against sub-Sahara traditional Africans is not new or strange. Perhaps the reason for such mental lapse is the compartmentalization of history. Because centuries before Nigeria ever became a nation there were Muslim Extremists such as the Almoravids which were led by Abu Bekr. The Moroccan Islamic extremists who finally destroyed the Songhai Empire in the late 1590s were also led by Judar Pashar. These Islamic extremists successfully recruited and indoctrinated the Mande tribes and the likes of the Mossi tribes who connived and drove the people of the Songhai Empire (Kwa tribes) out of their towns and villages. The only known crime committed by the Kwa people was their obstinate refusal to subscribe to the Islamic religion.
History tells us that the first group of Kwa people that fled the Empire for fear of religious persecution was the Akan tribes. The conglomeration of the similar tribes that resided in the Songhai Empire was the Kwa tribes with their headquarters situated in the city of Gao, now a remote village in the nation of Mali.
Hence, the slaughtering of non-Muslim West Africans is not new; it goes ways back to the beginning of written history of Africa – 200 AD, to be precise. But it seems that nobody wants to entertain the discussion about this extremely important issue. Either people are ignorant about the events that drove the non-Muslims into the dense forests of Central and West Africa, or they just want to evade or conceal history. But concealing history has only one inescapable outcome: a guaranteed repeat of history.
Nonetheless and regrettably, the unresolved problem of Muslim and Mossi aggression against the original West Africans which was eclipsed by colonialism is oozing back to the surface once again. The non-Muslim Africans need to wake up before it gets too late. First, we need to recognize that Islam – like Christianity – is not native of Africa. Furthermore, there is no one anywhere in West Africa that is safe with this looming issue of religious bigotry that is leading to intrusion on natives’ lands and a potentially land disputes. If history foretells the future, it is that there is no compromise between religious extremism and the African personality, simply because there has never been. And if we understand this uncompromising religious extremism of some of our brothers who embraced Islam by force or willingly, we will certainly begin to appreciate the effort of our struggle to co-exist.
Second and most significantly, we need to know that the history of West Africa is predominantly the history (struggle) of the Kwa people – the original inhabitants of the Songhai Empire that were forced to migrate in these uninhabitable dense forests of Central and West Africa because of fear of religious prosecution and slavery. Nowadays, some of the known countries that inhabit Kwa people include: Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Liberia. Obviously there may be just a few Kwa speaking people still residing in Burkina Faso and Mali. But about 95 – 98% of the Kwa people took refuge in West Africa beginning 1500s, shortly before the proliferation of African Slave Trade. Accordingly, Ghana’s population is 75% Kwa people.
If we know the details of “why” and “how” we were driven into these isolated areas centuries ago, we will be on our way to understanding and proactively finding our way out of this nightmare that is now gradually creeping upon us once again. ?
Part II: West Africa: Echoes from The Past
The Mossi: Who are the Mossi people and what has been their past and current role in today’s West Africa? Why and how did they and other Muslim indoctrinated Africans drive and pursue the Kwa people into south-central and West African forests? What are some of the major Songhai (Kwa or Gao) tribes in West and Central Africa? The answers in the next articles!

West Africa: Echoes from the Past is a series of articles that are intended to educate West Africans on their past and present in order to make informed decision. Authors:
James Kpou:jameskpou1@gmail.com:
J D Slanger: jdslanger@gmail.com