11.02.2005 Feature Article

Dagbon - hear no crime, see no crime, punish no crime

Dagbon - hear no crime, see no crime, punish no crime
11.02.2005 LISTEN

We are all criminals as far as the situation in Dagbon today is concerned, the whole lot of us – the government, council of state, the police, the military, human rights and religious organisations, the media, Dagbamba, abudu or andani. First we failed to stop terror that reached undesirable levels of savagery; then we failed to apprehend the criminals pretending there is no evidence, and then we have closed our eyes to continuing criminal acts. We are criminals who refuse to see, hear, catch, let alone punish criminals.

Let us start with some fresh news of criminal impunity from Yendi which would illustrate that it is lack of resolve that is perpetuating the so called Dagbon crisis. The story is this: Recently, on January 16 this year, the police went to a suburb of Yendi to enforce the law. A certain Alaasani Waa (son of Mba Waa who is one of the people said to have made a necklace of the severed hand of the Ya Naa) was reported to have defrauded a young teacher of some amount and refused to heed repeated invitations to the police station where a complaint had been lodged. Two young policemen were then detailed to arrest and bring Alaasani to the station and after they apprehended and put him in handcuffs, a group pounced on them and beat them mercilessly. The two managed to flee for their lives with torn uniforms and without shoes from this no-go-area of Yendi (where severed body parts of the King were paraded when he was murdered). The offending group then tried to use a sledge-hammer, with the assistance of a blacksmith, to remove the handcuffs. The police have since been lackadaisical about the matter.

But this is a slight display of impunity because this time they did not kill. There have been several others before to which the authorities have closed their eyes, and therefore causing more impious acts to occur.

You recollect that when a high-level government delegation went to Yendi a day after the King was murdered a man told them in the face that he and others were responsible for the slaughter because the Ya Naa was not giving them peace? The senior minister was not impressed with this evidence – why has he confession so early? And so Ghana Television was instructed to spice-up (or is it sex-up) the news item and never to repeat the incriminating portion.

And you remember that the Ya Naa's body was headless for some days after his murder and also that the severed hand was missing? The body parts were in the custody of the criminals. Then someone in government or close to government insisted the body parts be produced. The police conveniently closed their eyes and went into prayer. Lo and behold, the severed body parts were produced and no questions were asked about who returned them to the scene of the murder! Are we really serious?

Then soon after the guns had died down in Yendi on that infamous day March 27, 2002, we recall that a crowd looted the palace before burning it down. Many who looted items (carpets, suitcases, clothing, and cooking bowls) were pointed out to the security but no action would be taken; a day later some of the items were found on rubbish dump sites. Among the items looted are regalia of the Dagbon State, some dating back many centuries. It is common knowledge in Yendi that these precious items are being ferried from village to village and from house to house. Each time the security in Yendi has been alerted but they choose to neither see nor hear of these happenings.

Also in the weeks following the killings a truck loaded with cattle stolen from the Ya Naa's kraal was arrested on its way down south. The owner of the vehicle, one Mahama Dikpung the NPP chairman for Yendi, was invited to the police station to give a statement. He had one short message for the police: he reminded them of who he was and told them that he had boys who could turn Yendi upside down if they continued to quiz him. And thus were the police intimidated to withdraw from the case and the matter ended there.

After the government's committee of eminent chiefs sanctioned the construction of a new palace in early 2004 a group led by a man who has been involved in murder way back in 1986 and was placed on remand, one Mahamadu Ziblim alias Parishe-naa, destroyed the foundation that had been dug out as an open challenge to the authorities. The offending group was arrested by the police but after some intervention from some high-up they were given only a tap on wrist and told not to do it again. But they did again and again.

A couple of months after this they forcibly returned to the old palace which they had desecrated and burnt down, hurriedly patched the bullet marks on its walls, renovated and occupied it.

Then later in the year man who was on remand for murder at Nsawam in 1986, Baba Abdulai Iddrisu alias Baba Zohe, led a group of arsonist who set fire to the palace of the Zohe-naa. He was arrested by the police but released after another interference from a high-up.

These acts of outright criminal impunity are what government authorities refer to as delicate matters in Dagbon. The unwillingness to apprehend criminals fits into the agenda to cut off Dagbon from the rest of Ghana and treated them as hotheaded northerners who are trying to involve the rest of the country in problems they have brought upon themselves. The long delay and inaction on the horrific crime of Yendi is consistent with other cover-up attempts. Bring to mind how conveniently the Wuaku Commission postulated that the attack on the palace was a war. And the other incredible and completely trumped-up story in their report that the King actually escaped to Tamale on 25 March but returned to Yendi to face death on the 27th! Too many people, including even the Inspector General of Police, in their pronouncements ignore the main cause of continued tension, evade their duty to find the perpetrators of murder, and divert attention to the effects. There are double standards with regard to democracy and the rule of law in this matter for, we hear of murders in other parts of the country where suspects are promptly arrested. Why is it different in the case of Dagbon? Or is it the agenda to destroy the Dagbon state with all its rich culture? For the criminals in Yendi, as an old Chinese saying goes: “Heaven is high and the Emperor is far away” so they can take the whole of Ghana to ransom without any worry about natural justice or the law.

And lastly, did you hear that the alarm bells are sounding again in Yendi? This is sad indeed. The problems continue because government has given scope to trouble makers that they have a grievance in the performance of an outstanding funeral. But as has been explained over and over again, the matter has nothing to do with the Dagbon state. Sometimes ones faith is shaken thinking questions as to why evil things happen to the good people of Dagbon.

A lecturer in African politics commented on the type of good governance principles advanced by NEPAD and thought them unachievable. For his reason he said that in spite of the façade of the modern state, “power in African polities progresses informally, between patron and client along lines of reciprocity. It is intensely personalized and is not exercised on behalf of public good” It is a zero-sum game in which political support is constructed – those who vote for presidents have their way, others are left in the abyss.

This is why the trouble makers of Dagbon, who are part of the support constituency, keep on taunting the soldiers and police in Yendi (who have the power but not the will to respond), and ask them: don't you know that we voted so we can do as we like? But the situation in Dagbon needs statesmanship not partisanship. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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