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13.03.2009 Feature Article

Letter to Jomo: Who has the list of Bawku war lords?

Letter to Jomo: Who has the list of Bawku war lords?

I have this high-voltage conviction that this small African nation of ours was destined to become one of the best places to live in on earth but thanks to a mixture of incurable sloth, disunity and one unpardonable blunder too many, we are stuck in one quagmire of a rut, with problems as multiple as they are complicated.

The good news: There is hope. A national revival could steer us back to the path of our original destiny, if we can clean up the environment, get more people jobs, halt the daily slaughter on our roads, take a thousand monstrous steel hammers to armed robbery and pass a law against crass stupidity.

Indiscipline in all its forms and manifestations tops the list of our very worst enemies:
Doorways for example, are not for standing in but for passing through, right? Try walking into or out of public places and you will see two or more characters standing in the doorway engaged in conversation or something else, totally oblivious of others' right of passage.

If you miss the picture, let me re-create it in the street: The other day, a bus driver parked his bus right in the middle of the Accra-Nungua Road when motor traffic was at peak volume. Vehicles coming from the rear kept veering dangerously off the lane to avoid running into the bus, their drivers shouting insults and curses at the bus driver.

I looked through the bus window and the bloke appeared to be totally detached from this world. He was staring at a point in infinity to one side of the road. Could the man not see the trouble he was causing? Did he not care? It is crazy, Jomo. Absolutely wacky, but that is how far the lunacy here has gone.

There are a few other things we need to do to make our nation mighty and strong, Jomo:
Engage poverty in the fiercest wrestling match ever since someone came up with the expression "human development" and bring the armed ethnic conflicts, especially in the north of the country, to an end.

I went to a place this week and people were watching the afternoon news bulletin on TV. It came to the Bawku conflict and the footage showed heavily armed police and military personnel swarming all over the screen as the news reader read a report on last week's renewed fighting.

"I don't know what is wrong with these people", someone standing close to me said, glancing at me as if he thought I might have a clue.

Another gentleman said: "Yesi akokofem baako koraa betimi ama womoa ko." (I gather a dispute over one guinea fowl is enough to get them fighting.)

They could not have known that the graying old boy seated close to them was a native of Bawku himself. It hit me hard, Jomo. Darned hard.

Yet I must concede that slowly, surely, systematically and with an unrelenting, methodological madness that has defied restraint for decades, they are destroying our great old town.

They are destroying the soul, spirit, infrastructure, people and what are left of the latter's chances for survival in a part of the country which to complicate matters, has been cruelly ravaged by the ecological rampage of the advancing Sahel.

Who are "they?" Darned it Jomo, if anyone knew the answer, this conflict would not have threatened to outlast eternity, would it?

The problem now appears to have progressed beyond a conflict to a blind, raging, apocalyptic force which knows no compromise and which at best can only manage two or three months of relative peace at a time, before the beast wakes up again.

That is why in recent times, emphasis has shifted from any discussion of the origin and causes of the conflict and the question of why it won't go away, to the more pressing problem of enforcing peace and protecting the vulnerable.

Any public discussion of the cause of the Kusasi-Mamprushie conflict can only spark off multiple rounds of very fierce arguments in which each of the two parties is the custodian of the truth and the other merely promulgating falsehood about the causes.

My verdict? The problem has an ethnic dimension and then it has a partisan political dimension. Those who know understand and concede this, will probably see the kingdom of peace come near the troubled Savanna town.

The following question was posted on the Ghana Districts homepage on March 3: "What words of condolences and advice would you send to our brothers and sisters in the Bawku Municipality urging them to stop the violence?"

These are some of the responsive postings. I have edited them very slightly for grammar and punctuation:
''They are just too foolish and should continue to kill each other. We are fed up with them."

"I agree perfectly with Musah. They are fools. In this modem age they are still backward."
"Arrest leaders of the warring factions, try them and let them serve long prison sentences. Once the leaders are inside, the foot soldiers will lay down their arms. What is going on is neither political nor tribal; it is criminal activity."

"I told you that (name supplied) and (name supplied) were mobilising their youth to re-start the conflict and see how Mills and Avoka will handle it. Track these people down. They have ideas of the 16th century and keep on causing confusion."

Vice-President John Mahama was up in the Savanna warning that the new administration would not allow anyone in the area to get away with murder and arson. If only catching the perpetrators had proved easy!

I recall telling you how the post-independence commercial boom at Bawku brought the whole world running over: Nigerians, Burkinabe, Malians, Nigerien, Togolese, and Southern Ghanaian entrepreneurs and settlers.

That was the era of the "Calabar." A sizeable population of middle-aged women from Nigeria trooped into the town to service men for cash. They lived in rented rooms in alleys.

The rooms opened to the outside of "compound houses" so that their activities were shielded from the prying eyes of other tenants. The women erected trade mark "zana mat” enclosures around the entrances to their rooms for enhanced privacy.

Everyone called them Calabar, allegedly, after the name of their town of origin in Nigeria.

Men from the Sahel region appeared to make up the majority of their clients, although on a "market day" an indigene with a skull full of pito would stagger out from the• room of the Calabar sweating like a giant tilapia fished straight out of the ocean depths and fastening the waistband rope of his traditional trousers.

I mean no offence, Jomo, merely trying to recollect history as best as I can, about the old Bawku I used to know.

Credit: George Sydney Abugri, Daily Graphic: Email: [email protected] . Website: www.sydneyabugrLcom

George Sydney Abugri
George Sydney Abugri, © 2009

This author has authored 23 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: GeorgeSydneyAbugri

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