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30.01.2005 Feature Article

Why Dagbon May Split a Second Time in 800 Years- Part II

Why Dagbon May Split a Second Time in 800 Years- Part II
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Although some people have played down the role of the committee of chiefs seeking to reconcile the factions in the Dagbon, the committee 's work is important. The setting up the committee was a brilliant move by Government, because the reconciliation process is an optimistic way of resolving the problem in the domain of looking into the future. It is a laudable process, which the parties' accepted because such arbitration has been useful in the history of Dagbon. In the past, Dagbon conflicts were referred to the Nayiri or King of Mamprugu (English corruption-Mamprusi). The Nayiri is traditionally the senior brother of Gbewah's children and perhaps still represents the compound of Na-Gbewah. That is why the elders of the King of the Moshi in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) have to persuade him when he bluffs on special Fridays that he is going to abandon his throne and go back to his father's home in Gambaga (Nalerigu).

However, the reconciliation is contingent on justice and whether or not the parties are really ready and committed to the process. At this stage it appears that both sides are not really committed to the process, and the rumours show that both are in entrenched positions.

The Positions and Mentality of the Factions:

The Andanis hold that :

1.The king was murdered

2. The perpetrators must be identified and punished.

3. The king did not die of natural causes and the Ya-Na's son must be allowed to continue his interrupted rule.

The Abudus hold that :

1. The King died in fighting.

2. As the victors they should be allowed to ascend to the Nam (Kingship).

The problems with these positions are that the Andanis never saw the events as war but rather an assassination. The families of the Andanis who died still want some explanation in so far as they consider the deaths unjustified, while Abudus celebrate victory. And like the usual war-time memorials there occurs two feelings- in recognizing the triumph of the victors, the public is also pulled by humanity and sympathy to remember the dead. This is where the criminal aspect of the deaths in the Ya-Na's court becomes more important in entangling this conflict through the reconciliation process.

The absence of justice will make any reconciliation difficult; particularly with the lack of remorse from the Abudus to their half-brothers Andanis. The problem facing the mediating body of Chiefs is that the parties are not yet on the same wave-length. The parties need to be on the same wave-length for any agreements to be mutual.

The Andanis in particular are not satisfied with the status given to the incident in which the Ya-Na died. The Abudus call it death in war, and the Andanis say it was murder. In these positions the Abudus are not any anyway going to point out those who were involved in the fighting /killings, for such will not serve their interests. On the basis of the different definitions or classifications of the circumstances of the deaths, the Abudus do not see any need for remorse. The Andanis on the other hand see it as murder and request two things- Justice and remorse.

Many Andanis believe that the Abudus saw in the NPP government an opportunity to take a second go at assassinating the Ya-Na, after the failure in a similar style attack in 1969, under the Busia government. To many Andanis, the Abudus were certain to execute their plan and go with impunity just as they did in 1969. (In 1969 many Andanis were killed as in 2002, but the Ya-Na, a regent at the time survived, and no one was charged). Against this background the death of the Ya-Na and his elders is no accident but a provoked conflict designed by the Abudus to realise their dream-Eliminate the Ya-Na. For the Andanis, no one should be rewarded for such a crime.

The Andani argument that the son of the Ya-Na be allowed to rule is unreasonable because it seeks to put aside the long established rotational system, which was further endorsed by the supreme court ruling of 1986. The truth is that the ruling and the established rotation do not define or specify the type of death that should allow the other gate to ascend to the Nam. This is the argument of the Abudus-The Ya-Na is dead and every death is death. The Andanis say that all deaths cannot be equal especially when the people who cause the death have a vested interest in the Nam.

No doubt, the Andanis expectation that the Ya-Na's son will be allowed to continue to rule is not a healthy position as far the reconciliation and looking to the future are concerned.

These positions are all entrenched and though many people talk of the reconciliation, it is clear that any reconciliation is unlikely to gain ground until both parties accept some cardinal conditions. Any reconciliation requires the acceptance of some principal conditions and in this case, the conditions are:

1. Commitment to listening to each other's feelings- without that the continuous use of provocative language will never cease.

2. Accept that harm was done in the 3 days of conflict, and the victims need to some justice.

3. The arrest and prosecution of the killers on both sides must take place, because some Abudus also died-But no one is going to identify them.

4. Be prepared to show some level of remorse for the many dead whose children are orphaned and brought only grief and suffering to the families and Dagbon.

5. Be prepared to avoid any similar actions that have the capacity to culminate in the same results-death and destruction.

It does not appear the parties will accept such conditions at this stage. Many Andanis say that if the Abudus were to accept that the killings were wrong, it would be appeasing to some extent, and people will be prepared to move forward. The chance is that if these issues are not resolved the Andanis may not recognise the any Abudu king. This spells trouble for the Abudus. Some powerful among the Abudus are inclined to choosing the son of the last Abudu Ya-Na (Mahamadu Abdulai I , who was deposed in 1974) as next Ya-Na. This in itself is dividing the Abudus because it seeks to relegate the oldest person in the Abudu line of succession (The Mion-Lana) to the doldrums. *The fact that Government ministers who visit Yendi are not taken to consult with the Mion-Lana, who is by tradition the next in line to be Ya-Na is testimony to this rumour. This is also supported by the recent report on the Ghanaweb, which talked about possible war over succession.

If the whole of Dagbon were to be united under a Ya-Na, from the Abudu gate, it would require the Abudus to work to establish trust and confidence in the Andanis, as well as pacify them in regard to the deaths.

However, it does not seem such a call for remorse will be answered. In the absence of remorse, perhaps justice for the dead will sooth the heartache of the Andanis, but this is unlikely to happen either. The expectation is that the next Ya-Na, who is most likely to be an Abudu, will have problems.

My personal evaluation of the current entrenched positions is that many selfish and short-sighted Dagombas still harbour in their minds and hearts the seeds of hate, contempt and destruction, which reached its most cruel expression on 23 March 2002 in Yendi- A day Dagbon registered her saddest achievements in recent history, with a Dagomba interior Minister who did not know about the war because he reported to the Nation that Yendi was calm. If the interior minister did not know who else should know?

That day was when contempt of one Dagomba for another reached its abyss and most cruel expression, and two years on, leaves the Dagomba confused and stupefied.

A Dagomba friend of mine said to me 4 days ago that he feels that Dagbon is like a person suffering from an incurable psychosis who is prone to self-injurious or self-mutilating behaviour; it is treatable but a cure is perhaps an unrealizable dream. When all other Ghanaians are aspiring to lift their standard of living the Dagomba are looking for more resources to stop or inflame the perpetuation of their self-mutilation.

Where is the hope for a cure for a unified Dagbon when she still has thousands of her sons and daughters who carry in their minds and hearts the seeds of the destruction, hate, contempt for one another. There is no doubt that some day and some how one of these dangerous minds will again unleash the terrible mechanism of destruction. When one visualizes what these dangerous minds can still do to peoples' ideas, thoughts and actions one wonder what the eventual balance would be for Dagbon in terms of suffering and retrogression. More worrying is the fact that many of the well-educated (Lawyers, PhDs) Dagomba are only thinking in terms of Abudu and Andani, and it is hard to imagine that the murder of a King and fellow Dagombas is no crime to a Dagomba PhD holder in International Law. It is just a pity!!

If Dagbon divides, one of the factions will be the loser because it would have less recognition from the people of Dagbon, due to the fact that the support for the two factions falls along an East-West divide. It now time for those short-sighted, and selfish individuals in Dagbon who hold no compassion for the rest of the population to come to their senses and remember that every life is important, be it Abudu or Andani and that the population deserves to look into a brighter future. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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