Leaders of the Mamprusis in Bawku have asked their Kusasi counterparts to desist from beating war drums and rather direct their protests over the controversial Chaka-Orleans video documentary to the proper channels.
The leaders, who say they will not allow any warmonger to derail them from using all lawful means at their disposal to reclaim the Bawku paramount skin for the Mamprusis, also describe as misdirected the interpretation by the Kusasis of the documentary as “a recipe for war”.
“Forgotten Kingdom” resurrects “Forgotten War”
The Chaka-Orleans Heritage Foundation is said to have produced the documentary to promote peace among four ethnic groups including the Dagombas, the Kusasis, the Mamprusis and the Nanumbas who trace their roots to a common ancestor, Naa Gbewaa.
Dubbed “The Forgotten Kingdom”, the documentary was premiered recently in Tamale, the Northern regional capital, to also raise funds to start up a university to be named after Naa Gbewaa. But “The Forgotten Kingdom” turned into an irony last Friday when it rather exhumed a protracted ethnic conflict the war-fatigued factions in Bawku most probably had decided to forget.
Angry prominent chiefs and queen mothers of the Kusaug Kingdom, led by Naba Asigri Abugrago Azoka II, the Paramount Ruler of the traditional area that covers six constituencies (Garu, Tempane, Pusiga, Bawku Central, Binduri and Zebilla), registered an unreserved protest against the documentary at a news conference, unanimously describing it as “biased”, “unacceptable” and with some labeling it “a recipe for war”.
Speaking to Starr News Monday at Bawku in response to the protest, leaders of the Mamprusi faction questioned how a film meant to foster peaceful co-existence could lead the same target parties into crossing swords.
“Kusasis not part of Gbewaa family”― Mamprusis
Bashiru Salifu, a youth leader and former Assemblyman for South Natinga, said the Kusasis had no ancestral link with Gbewaa (a name the Kusasis strongly say is a corrupted word for Gbanwa) hence needless for them to cry even if the makers of the documentary did not interview any Kusasi person about Gbewaa.
“I don’t see any bias about the Chaka-Orleans Foundation. Many groups were invited and the same time was allotted for every group. Maybe we the descendants of Gbewaa have a lot to say than somebody who is not related to Gbewaa. If they (the Kusasis) think they are members of the Gbewaa family, they should justify their inclusion. If anybody thinks that he has been left out in the research, he should put his case forward to the researchers and let them understand through which of the Gbewaa’s sons,” Mr. Salifu challenged.
He also ignored an objection raised by the Kusasis against an alleged posturing by somebody as the Regent of Bawku at the Tamale premiering, maintaining that Bawku “has a regent” who is only waiting to be installed as the Paramount Chief of Bawku someday.
“We don’t recognise chiefs made by decrees. From 1981 [when] the Bawku Naba, Alhaji Adam Zangbeo, died, his first son, Alhaji Ibrahim Adam Zangbeo, is still our regent and is registered within the Gbewaa family as the regent until we enskin a Bawku Naba. So, if anybody says he is the Bawku Naba, we are also saying that he (Alhaji Ibrahim) is our regent,” he stressed.
Brother to the Regent, Issah Zangbeo, pressed: “The Bissas are here; but they are not part of the Gbewaa family. So, if the Kusasis are here, it does not mean they are part of the Gbewaa family. If they think that they are members of the Gbewaa family, how come they have said (in their press statement) that Gbewaa was even making efforts to learn the Kusaal Language?”
Lawyer Condemns Regional Minister
A Mamprusi-born legal brain and instrumental advocate for peace building in Bawku, Lawyer Mohammed Tahiru Nambe (generally known as MT), descended heavily on the Upper East Regional Minister, Albert Abongo, calling the hint the minister gave of a possible withdrawal of the documentary in an interview with Starr News as “a hasty conclusion”.
“I take it to be an issue of indiscretion on the part of the Regional Minister to, as it were, allow himself to be pushed into the war-drumming attitude of the Kusasis. If there is any complaint, even in law there is something we call the natural justice; hear the other side, too. If they have brought out a complaint, you also have to listen to the other side before you come out with a conclusion.
“But reading through the Regional Minister’s response, it’s like he has taken sides. He thought that what the Kusasis had presented to the world was the truth. Therefore, he’s calling for the withdrawal of the documentary. What he should have done is to have called for the other group to bring the documentary and give their reasons. It’s a well-researched documentary. The minister is speaking like a Kusasi man. Is he telling us he is part of the Kusasis? We expect him to do it with fairness,” he pointed out.
Whilst cautioning the Kusasis against doing whatever could disrupt the ongoing peace talks in the recovering municipality and its neighbourhoods, Lawyer Nambe told the youth of Bawku to rededicate themselves to the collective search for lasting peace in the area.
Mamprusis twice withdrawn from peace table
The Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee (BIEPC) was forged in 2010 by Mark Owen Woyongo, who would later win an international peace prize, when he was the Upper East Regional Minister.
The committee, which was constituted to replace strife with dialogue and to nurture a common bridge of oneness over the ethnic plurality and divide in the municipality, was rocked by a forewarned withdrawal by the Mamprusis in 2012. The group pulled out after it had consistently complained about selective arrests during intermittent disturbances and, to end with, was barred by the security agencies from openly celebrating the Damba Festival inside Bawku.
The group returned in 2013 after profuse pleas largely from government submerged their stronghold. But it withdrew again in 2014 after another attempt to celebrate the Damba Festival was frustrated by the security agencies who found some images and inscriptions on the anniversary paraphernalia a highly combustible mix. It reportedly took a meeting between Mr. Woyongo, then as Interior Minister, with the Nayiri, the King of the Mamprugu Kingdom, Naa Bohagu Mahami Abdulai Sheriga, to bring back the Mamprusis to the peace negotiation table in Bawku in 2015.
The committee comprises mainly the feuding factions, the Kusasis and the Mamprusis, each of whom has six representatives. The other ethnic groups in the area, including the Dagombas, the Bissas, the Hausas and the Moshies, who reportedly have taken sides in the hydra-headed conflict, have two representatives each on the committee. A rural development veteran and a high-ranking official of the West Africa Network for Peace-building Ghana (WANEP-Ghana), Shaibu Abubakar, is an ex officio member of the committee mandated to facilitate its activities.
Toll of the conflict
At least 182 people including children lost their lives in the violent clash that raged from 2007 to 2012 in the area. More than 80 houses were set ablaze with many injured. Target killings, nocturnal gunshots and extremely harsh curfews forced many people to relocate and brought about the closure of some shops and business institutions including the Bawku Branch of the Barclays Bank.
And whilst the Paramount Chief of Bawku, Naba Asigri Abugrago Azoka II, who wants to be a free monarch, has confessed he is not too happy with soldiers surrounding his palace round the clock and accompanying him everywhere to protect him, the regent on the Mamprusi side, Alhaji Ibrahim Adam Zangbeo, has waited for 35 years since 1981 as perhaps Ghana’s longest-waiting regent, confronted with an untold agony of uncertainties.
“The amount of money that we use if there is conflict, if there is even common tension, the amount of money we use to put fuel in the armoured cars, is not small. You have no idea the amount of fuel the armoured cars consume. This money can be used to bring development in our municipality,” the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Bawku, Issaku Bukari, once told the youth at the 2015 World Youth Day celebration in the area.
Chaka-Orleans under pressure
Pressure is mounting on the Chaka-Orleans Heritage Foundation from all angles, perhaps except from the Mamprusi side, to come out with an official apology statement to those offended by its invention as quickly as possible. An open admission of guilt from the filmmakers, with or without a resolution to come up with another documentary which would be generally acceptable, is a piece of news the Kusasis cannot wait to receive.
Even the Mamprusis, too, have pointed out two faults in the controversial documentary Salifu Bashiru says cannot be tossed aside. They are: the failure to translate into English for the Ghanaian audience what is being said in the film by the French-speaking natives of the Moshie Kingdom interviewed in Burkina Faso and the failure to invite representatives from the same Moshie Kingdom to the Tamale premiering.