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06.02.2009 Politics

More petitioners rail against Avoka

By George Kyei Frimpong - Ghanaian Chronicle

An Accra based Bawku Youth Development Association have also joined in the protestation against the nomination of Hon. Cletus Avoka, as the Interior Minister designate.

In a petition signed by the President of the Association, Mr. Mohammed Tahiru Nambe, the group have asked the Appointments Committee of parliament not to approve of Avoka's nomination because he has a vested interest in the Kussasi and Mamprusi dispute.

The group suggested to President Mills to rather send him to a different Ministry other than the Interior.

Below is the petition they sent to parliament.
Dear Sir,

We, members of the Bawku Youth Development Association – Coastal Zone, do hereby petition against the nomination of Hon. Cletus Avoka, M.P. for Zebilla for the position of Minister for the Interior.

We wish to state categorically, however, that our petition does not seek to challenge Hon. Avoka's competence as a Minister of State, but it is focused on the security threat that the Hon MP's nomination for the Ministry of Interior and likely approval, will have on the conflict situation in the Bawku Traditional Area and the Bawku municipality for that matter.

As Hon members of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee are aware, the Minister designate for Interior hails from Zebilla which is part of the Bawku Traditional Area. But what Hon members may not be aware of, is that Hon Cletus Avoka has in various capacities represented the Kusasi faction in the Mamprusi-Kusasi conflict in Bawku both as an opinion leader, and/or legal counsel for which reason he becomes a party to the notorious ethnic conflict in that part of the country.

The security situation in the Bawku Traditional Area has consistently been of very worrying national security concerns to the Ghana Government, and to the Ministry of Interior for that matter. This is due to the persistence of the chieftaincy dispute and its attendant ethnic clashes which has been a constant source of worry to the good people of this country, and which has so far claimed hundreds of lives and costs the nation billions of the tax payers hard earned cedis.

While the National Peace Council, the Regional Co-ordinating Council, the security agencies and other concerned institutions have already done an excellent job in their efforts to broker peace between the Mamprusis and the Kusasis, albeit fragile, it is important not to disturb these remarkable achievements made so far, which we have course to believe will succeed in finding a lasting and / or permanent solution to the conflict.

However, our fragile peace of mind has suddenly been jostled by His Excellency, the President's nominee for the position of Minister for Interior. This is because we cannot for one moment trust the Hon. MP's sense of impartiality with regard to the Bawku conflict in so far as his standing as an indigene of the Bawku traditional area is concerned, and the roles he has so far played in this ethnic conflict. This is the source of worry for all genuinely concerned people of Bawku.

We wish to put it on record that the Hon. M.P. for Zebilla, while acting as an opinion leader for the Kusasi faction in the conflict, has on several occasions and platforms, and in various capacities acted in such a manner that has compromised his sense of neutrality thereby rendering him an obviously wrong choice for this very delicate and all important Ministry.

We therefore believe that we have a duty and responsibility to raise these concerns for the attention of Honorable Members of this all important committee, and to the nation as a whole.We do hereby petition against the approval of Honorable Cletus Avoka for the position of Minister for Interior for the following reasons:

1.Firstly the Hon. M.P. for Zebilla has been an active member of the Kusasi Youth Association, which is a faction in the Bawku conflict, and which was outlawed by PNDCL 98 in 1996 until the law was repealed at the onset of the 1992 Constitution.

This is evident in the fact that the Hon. M.P., in 1984 was among some Kusasi opinion leaders who delivered various inciting speeches to crowds of Kusasi youths at a local festival, the Samanpiid, thereby unleashing on to the streets of Bawku, irate Kusasi youths to pillage and cause mayhem amidst firing of gunshots.

The activities of the Kusasi Youth Association in 1984 and 1985 resulted in further violent clashes between the Kusasis and the Mamprusis thereby creating a serious security concern for the Ministry of Interior and the whole nation for that matter.

As a result of these clashes the Hon. M.P. together with other Kusasi and Mamprusi opinion leaders were arrested and held in military custody in Kumasi and at Burma Camp in Accra for several weeks.

They were subsequently bonded to be of good behavior and to restrain their youths from further disturbing the peace and security of the District and the country as a whole.

2.Secondly the Hon MP and Minister designate for Interior is also on record as having represented his faction when they appeared before The Minyella Committee. This was a Committee set up by the PNDC administration to investigate the cause of the 1985 Mamprusi-Kusasi conflict which erupted as a result of the seizure by some Kusasi youths of farms belonging to Mamprusis.

In this regard the Hon MP did not represent his people as Legal Counsel but was a member of the Kusasi opinion leaders, and indeed took a hardline position during deliberations of the Committee.

3.On another occasion the Hon MP was counsel for the Bawku Naba,Asigri Aninchema who is a Kusasi, when the latter appeared before the National House of Chiefs in a suit titled Naa Gamni, The Paramount Chief of Mamprugu Traditional Area vrs Asigri Aninchema of Bawku. In the above referred suit, the respondent filed his response on the 11 of July,1988, and was represented by Mr Cletus Avoka of Malsim Chambers, Bolgatanga (Copy of respondents pleadings is attached for your attention).

4.In a very recent development after the December 2008 Mamprusi-Kusasi clashes, the Hon MP is on record as having acted as counsel for members of the “ Kusasi Youth Association” in Court Case No 1/2009.Ironically, while other lawyers thought it prudent to be neutral enough by sympathizing with and acting for all the accused persons regardless of their tribes, Hon Cletus Avoka was more concerned with his partisan interests as a member of, and counsel for the Kusasis who were among the accused persons.

The Hon MP is a professional lawyer and is therefore entirely free to choose his clients as he thinks proper, but for a potential Minister for Interior to have identified himself so openly with one faction in a conflict that presents very serious security concerns for the same Ministry for which he is being vetted to take charge of, obviously raises serious questions on his ability to play a very neutral role required of the Minister for Interior in times of conflict, hence our humble and passionate petition.

It is our contention that the Hon MP cannot, for obvious reasons afford to be neutral in his ministerial responsibilities with regard to the conflict in Bawku between his ethnic group,the Kusasis, and the Mamprusis.

As we have indicated, the Hon MP is a party to the conflict and can therefore not play an impartial role as a peacemaker. His personal and/or ethnic interests will obviously conflict with his duties and responsibilities as the Interior Minister, and we humbly believe, and pray that the Hon MP for Zebilla is rather made to serve this dear nation of ours in a different capacity or at a different Ministry rather than the Ministry for Interior.

We crave the indulgence of Honorable members of this all important Committee to make reference to the Dagbon conflict and its consequences, which is quite similar to the Bawku conflict. Honorable members may recall that the then Northern Regional Minister, Prince Imoro Andani, and the then Interior Minister, Alhaji Malik Alhassan, who were perceived to belong to factions in Dagbon were compelled by the circumstances to resign their positions after the murder of the Ya Na. It is our humble opinion that this dear nation of ours does not deserve to witness any such incident ever again.

5.Finally,we wish to draw the attention of Hon members of The Parliamentary Appointments Committee to a publication in January 1999 of the Daily Graphic to further buttress our contention that the Hon MP and Minister designate for the Interior Ministry cannot afford to maintain a non partisan role in the Mamprusi-Kusasi conflict in Bawku should he be approved for the position of Minister for Interior. ( A photocopy of the publication is attached for your attention).

In the above referred publication, the Hon. MP for Zebilla and then Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, issued statements concerning the Bawku Traditional Area and which statements we consider as bias in favor of his ethnic group.

The publication captioned “ CLETUS AVOKA MEETS CONSTITUENTS” refers to a meeting of the Kusasi Youth Association in Tamale where the then Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, Mr Cletus Avoka sought to advise the Bawku East District Assembly to resolve to petition the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development on their demand to change the name Bawku District Assembly to “Kusasi-Agolle” District Assembly.

Honorable members may note that the name “Agolle” identifies with the Kusasis and was meant to enhance Kusasi claim of the Bawku traditional area which is inhabited by Mamprusis, Moshies, Bimobas, Yangas, Bissas, Talensis, Nabdams and Kassenas, and which is the main cause of the Mamprusi-Kusasi conflict.

We believe that this veiled incitement from the then Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, for the change of names from Bawku District Assembly to “Agolle District Assembly” was not in good faith and suggests the domination and prominence of one ethnic group, the Kusasis, over the other ethnic groups such as the Mamprusis, Bissas, Bimobas, Yangas and Moshies who are also land owners and who make up the population of the Bawku Municipal Assembly area.

It is our belief that these inciting comments and advice, among others, coming from an influential Kusasi opinion leader in the person of Mr Cletus Avoka, culminated in the explosion of three consecutive ethnic clashes between the two factions, the Mamprusis and the Kusasis, during the period 1999 and 2000, thus leading to the loss of hundreds of lives, and a total breakdown of law and order in and around the Bawku municipality.

We crave the indulgence of Hon members of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee to restate our position clearly that we do not in the least doubt the competence of the Hon MP as a Minister of State, but we wish to call upon Hon. Members to be mindful of the security threat that the Bawku traditional area will continue to present to the peace and stability of Ghana and to advise His Excellency the President to, as a matter of urgency reconsider his nomination of Hon Cletus Avoka for the Ministry of Interior since he will be confronted with a clear case of conflict of interest at the Interior Ministry.

Further to that, our petition is prompted by the numerous concerns raised among the residents of the Bawku municipality who are genuinely petrified by the news of Hon Cletus Avoka's nomination for the Ministry of Interior which is so sensitive and of utmost importance for the peace and stability, or otherwise, of Bawku.

In view of the above reasons, we the Members of The Bawku Youth Development Association and all concerned residents of Bawku strongly believe that the fragile peace that has prevailed in Bawku by courtesy of the efforts of the National Peace Council, the security agencies, the Regional Co-ordinating Council and other concerned institutions, will be compromised by such utterances and actions typical of Kusasi hardliners such as The Hon MP for Zebilla as outlined above.

And we further believe that the security situation in Bawku will not receive the much needed urgency and attention devoid of non-partisanship under a Ministry of Interior headed by Hon Cletus Avoka.

For these concerns, we hereby register our profound disapproval of Mr Cletus Avoka for the position of Minister for Interior, and it is our candid opinion that the Hon MP may be considered for other equally important positions in which he can best serve the interest of Mother Ghana.

Thank You.
Yours Truly