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09.11.2007 Author

Efo And The Kung Fu Thing


A cobbler's leather cutting tools being so markedly different from a surgeon's scalpel, the former ought to be content with the handy job of mending shoes, and not bother himself too much with what goes on in the surgical theatres of hospitals.

The only exception to the rule, Jomo, might be people in my line of business. We are expected to know a little bit about everything, from the implications of a development scientists' prognosis for the future of our nation, to the mating habits of mosquitoes.

We are supposed to have a fair idea for example of what police training schools teach recruits about crime scene management.

I woke on Wednesday morning to the distressing sounds of women wailing and trying to scream the sky down. It turned out to be live radio coverage from the scene of a murder in Accra : Another day in the troubling new Ghana that is emerging.

Another wanton killing: A young man and his female partner gunned down in a hail of bullets as they flee their car on foot. Motive? We are waiting on the cops to tell us.

The radio man who co-ordinated the live coverage from the studios was a real master of his craft.

He conducted a most revealing interview with the reporter on the crime scene.

“Are there police personnel on the scene?”
“Yes. Two…no…three, including the police driver”
“Are they writing down any notes?”
“Are they dusting for finger prints or searching around for clues?”
“Are they just standing by?”
“Are they wearing hand gloves?”

That should have summed up the week's update on the internal security situation, but there is more:

The unrelenting threat of chieftaincy disputes to internal security was affirmed yet again, by bloody chaos in the Volta Region.

The threat of chieftaincy conflicts to internal security here, appears to be attracting international attention:

To avoid the vexatious distractions of negative environmental stimuli the other day, I escaped to cyberspace and walked straight into a wealthy online database of various social, anthropological and political studies on Ghana by various foreign academics.

To my surprise, there was this study that had been done by a foreigner, who travelled to Ghana several times to investigate from historical and anthropological perspectives, the killing of the late King of Dagbon and more than a hundred people, at the peak of the Dagbon conflict in 2003.

If foreign academics can sneak into Ghana incognito, to conduct studies into our conflict prone institution of chieftaincy, then there must indeed be a problem here serious enough to have engaged the interest of the world.

Unless limbs get broken, scores of skulls cracked open, and big bonfires made of whole towns for good measure, chiefs rarely get made in this country any more. What kind of African traditional electoral democracy is that, do you know?

In the wake of blood letting at Anloga over the installation of a new chief this week, opened the chieftaincy institution caught flak: One human rights activist was beside himself with rage over the killing of a policeman and several civilians:

He said it did not make sense for so many people to be killed repeatedly over the enstoolment and enskinment of people whose favourite pastime appears to be sitting around like Buddhas receiving homage from their subjects.

To him, the preoccupations of many chiefs include flirting with politicians and engaging in the multiple sales of land, mineral and lumber concessions. 

Another, is to sit in palanquins at cultural festivals, weighted down by ten-tonne gold ornaments, and brandishing arms in the air in the good name of aerial dancing.

I told him we have an obligation to posterity to conserve our culture and traditions in all their unique richness, Oh yes I did, Jomo. The challenge is to find a solution to the disputes, I said.

Since political independence, they have been as unrelenting as they have been widespread, from Accra all the way to Nandom.

There has always been the warning from the media and indigenes of conflict prone areas of a coming blood bath. This is usually followed by the predicted bloody communal upheaval, and then the  dispatch of army and police personnel to keep the peace.

Then the cycle starts all over again!
Those who can tell us what is really going on in the conflict- prone areas of the country over chieftaincy succession are the politicians.

Unfortunately, many people do not trust politicians at all, Jomo.

Alright, so the fellow who has never lied is probably the fellow who has never farted. We lie to escape punishment for our actions, to protect someone or to maintain our self esteem.

However, when it comes to handing out trophies for lying, the champion's crown goes to politicians. Politicians do it frequently to come to political power. Thereafter, they continue to lie about many things to maintain favour with voters.

Hey, my brother, I am not the one saying it. Many are the books that have been written, exploring and recounting the lying habits of politicians: There are for example, Damn Lies and Statistics, by Joel Best, Al Franklin's Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Lying in state, by Tim Slessor” and Peter Osborn's “The rise of political lying.”

Who would you trust to be honest with the truth about anything- the politician or the scientist? Although there is such a thing as researcher bias, scientific research is generally sanitised against the corrupting influence of political propaganda.

That is why we should call forth all our historians and social science researchers to give us a clue regarding the causes of the unrelenting bloody chieftaincy conflicts across Ghana. 

The national House of Chiefs and the courts appear helpless in stopping the bloody disputes. Successive governments have seemed helpless in identifying and rectifying the legal and customary flaws which have repeatedly led to the conflicts countrywide. Talk about messy monkey business, Jomo.

There are unsubstantiated allegations about these conflicts which never seem to go away: It is alleged that the usual two opposing factions in the chieftaincy conflict-prone areas, typically draw their strengths from political leanings.

The typical trend, it is alleged, has been for one faction to support the ruling government, and the other political opposition.

Thus, when there is a change of government, there is always renewed agitation by the faction out of power to assume traditional authority, with the secret support of the new government.

There are allegations of corruption in the choice and installation of chiefs too: If people who are unqualified to ascend thrones proceed to buy them with hard cash, and this leads to communal violence, they commit a criminal offence bordering on indirect terrorism, don't you agree?

If campaigning politicians promise to deliver traditional authority to a faction in a chieftaincy dispute in return for votes, they are no less culpable, are they, Jomo? 

Article by George Sydney Abugri