16.11.2005 Feature Article

Road Map to Peace in Dagbon ─ A Call for Presidential Leadership

Road Map to Peace in Dagbon 9472; A Call for Presidential Leadership
16.11.2005 LISTEN

The framers of our Constitution in their wisdom recognized and guaranteed the establishment of a chieftaincy institution under the Republic. They wisely ensured the separation of Chieftaincy and State by prohibiting chiefs from active politics. In the same vein, by way of interpretation, politicians are discouraged from interfering in matters of chieftaincy. It is therefore understandable that the President has so far been reluctant to take an active leadership role in finding a lasting solution to the protracted chieftaincy conflict in the Dagbon Traditional Area. This is far from suggesting that the President has not done anything to bring peace to Dagbon. I will be the first person to admit that the President and his government have invested a great deal of political capital and economic resources to provide an enabling environment for peace in Dagbon. Among other things, the creation of the Wuaku Commission; the establishment of the Committee of Eminent Chiefs; the deployment of security personnel to the region and the numerous efforts at reaching out to key individuals and groups representing both sides of the conflict cannot be overemphasized here. The people of Dagbon are grateful for all of the above, but I am afraid to announce that they are expecting more from you.

The time has come for the President to take the personal initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic conflict. I intend to respectively suggest five concrete things that the President should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of ending this nightmarish conflict. I would also attempt to advance reasons why Presidential leadership of the highest order is necessary at this time. Finally, I would humbly appeal to the people of Dagbon to give peace a chance.

Why Presidential Leadership Now: The traditional process that the President initiated under the auspices of the Committee of Eminent Chiefs led by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has so far not been successful in finding a solution to the conflict acceptable to all parties. The great effort and sacrifice made by the three eminent chiefs, unfortunately, have not yielded the results that the President envisaged when he tasked them with the traditional aspect of his government's peace policy toward Dagbon. The people of Dagbon and the whole nation are anxiously waiting for the next move in this game of chest called the “Dagbon Peace Process”. That next move, Mr. President, is now yours to make. The President must move past indecision to action. He must find a way to galvanize the peace process and save Dagbon from itself. If the President does not act now to save the soul of Dagbon and preserve the dignity of its people he shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without vision.

The greatness of a man, they say, is not where he stand in times of tranquility and comfort, but what he has to prove in times of conflict, challenge and disappointment. I have always believed in the greatness of our President, but the time has come for him to exhibit that greatness to all his admirers and detractors alike. The people of Dagbon are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. They are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. When the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict in Dagbon, there is always the tendency for our leaders to be on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. We no longer have the luxury to wallow in uncertainty; the time for action is now. There are four major reasons why the President must intervene to bring an end to this conflict. These include, but not limited to, National Security; Economic Development; Socio-Cultural consideration; and Political reason.

Insecurity anywhere in the country is a threat to security everywhere. As the only individual vested with the constitutional executive powers to act on matters of National Security, it is only natural that the President must act to protect, preserve, and defend the security of the country including the Dagbon Traditional Area. The security situation in Dagbon is tenuous at best. The Eastern corridor of Dagbon, the bedrock of the conflict, borders our friendly neighbors in the Republic of Togo. The President cannot continue to mortgage the security of the nation on the goodwill and non-aggression of the Togolese government. I am not suggesting that there is an imminent threat to our National Security from Togo, but I am calling on the President to ensure and guaranteed that the country shall never be expose and vulnerable to such a threat. The situation in Dagbon is highly dangerous and has created a soft target along the north-eastern corridor of our country. The continue hatred, mistrust and revenge in the area could lead one party or the other in the conflict to seek external collaborators with little regard to the sovereignty of Ghana or our national security.

Secondly, the President must act now to save the country the billions of cedis expended everyday to sustain the security forces deployed in the conflict zone. It is now obvious that resources previously budgeted for development projects in the region are now being invested in providing safety for the people of Dagbon. Given that the region is already lacking behind in social infrastructure necessary for economic development (schools, roads, electricity, and portable water), any funds diverted from the provision of these amenities dangerously rolls back the clock of development in the region. What is more, the pending conflict has not only affected tourism in the region, it has also hindered potential economic investment. It is reliably reported that two major American transnational corporations, Boeing International, makers of Jumbo Aircraft, and Coca-Cola International, makers of soft drinks, had to withdraw their initial plans to invest in the region. There are numerous potential investors today who are wisely withholding their plans until the security situation in the region improves. Granted that the region is a component part of our holistic national economic program, the President must act now to exploit the full potential of the region for national economic growth and development. The impact of the conflict on food production and its potential threat to food security in the region should not be underestimated.

Moreover, the conflict in the area is gradually threatening the very existence of the culture and tradition of the people. A country must be proud and protective of all of her cultural heritage. The kingdom of Dagbon is endowed with great culture and tradition. The conflict has marred the various cultural festivals that use to bring joy and happiness to the people. The Dagbon ethnic group is the second largest group in the country. The country cannot afford to loose the contribution this group brings to our rich national cultural heritage.

Finally, the President must act now for his own political legacy, the image of his party and the success of our thriving democracy. The President must be reminded that all his predecessors, with the exception of the Liman Administration, were confronted with the same problem and they all faced up to the problem and acted boldly in one way or the other. Today, no one can say that they failed to act when the going was tough. Their actions may have been unpopular to some, but at least they acted to preserve Dagbon to the best of their ability. Mr. President it is now your time to act. You will be remembered for all the great achievements of your presidency but you will also be remembered for how you responded to the Dagbon crisis. Let it be said someday that you did try to find a lasting solution to the crisis. The people of Ghana are yearning to be witnesses to this testimony. They are pulling for you to try and succeed in this venture. Above all, your party is counting on you to act and eliminate the Dagbon crisis from the already poisonous politics of our time. The experience of the party in the recent Presidential and Parliamentary elections in the region has been well documented and I will not duel on it here. Suffice to say that as a true believer in the ideology and philosophy of the Danquah/Busia tradition, it breaks my heart to see the party of Yakubu Tali; S. B. Dumbo and Jato Kaleo humiliated in the 'North' as happened in 2004. There are those who are praying and hoping that the President would fail to act now so that they can continue to play politics with the crisis. Mr. President, act now and take the wind out of their sail.

Five Things that the President should do Immediately: The Dagbon peace process is undoubtedly going to be a long and difficult journey for the President. I humbly suggest the following five key steps that the President should consider doing immediately to set the wheel in motion:

1. The President should appoint a Special Assistant solely responsible for matters relating to the Dagbon Chieftaincy Peace Process. The said assistant should be reporting directly to the President, giving him daily briefings on progress or lack thereof in the peace process.

2. The President should host a Presidential peace summit of only three (3) immediate family members from each Gate (Abudu and Andani gates). The Pishigu Lana (uncle of the late Yakubu Andani II) and the Tampion Lana (brother of the late king) could be considered from the Andani family, with the third person being the first son of the late king. From the Abudu family, the Bolon Lana (first son of the late Ya Na Mahamadu Abdulai) could be accompanied by the Mion Lana (uncle of the late Na Mahamadu Abdulai) and the Mba Dugu. The Kuga Na, current custodian of Dagbon could be invited as an observer.

3. The President should ask each family to submit their plan for action in the peace process.

4. The Andani family should, in accordance with Dagbon culture and tradition, be given a reasonable deadline (March 2006) to perform the burial of their beloved father, the late Ya Na Yakubu Andani II.

5. The Abudu family should, in the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling of December 17, 1986 on: Yendi Skin Affairs; Yakubu II v Abdulai and the August 14th, 1987 Memorandum of Agreement on the Yendi Skin Dispute, be given reasonable deadline (September 2006) to perform the funeral of their beloved father, the late Ya Na Mahamadu Abdulai.

The contending issue of regency should be taken off the table for now. The two families should be encouraged and supported to do what is right by their deceased relatives. The modalities, procedure, and logistics for the burial and funeral would be deliberated at the Presidential summit. The second phase of the peace process will then be devoted to the issue of regent. It is my fervent conviction that by the time the first phase, as prescribed above, is completed there would have developed enough trust and confidence between the two families to create an enabling environment for the second phase.

Dagombas should give Peace a Chance: The aforementioned will be impossible if the people of Dagbon are not willing to give peace a chance. In the words of John F. Kennedy, Dagombas should now begin to ask what they can do to bring peace to Dagbon, not what others can do for them. The time is now for Dagombas to practice the virtue of give and take. Life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides. We as Dagombas can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation and revenge. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and people that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. We still have a choice to make as a people; peaceful coexistence or violent co-annihilation. Posterity will not forgive us if we fail to bequeath them the proud and great kingdom that we inherited from our fathers. Ziblim Iddi Atlanta, GA USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.