Re: Bawku conflict: Truth must be told (2)

[This is the second

part of the article published on March 15,

2023 issue of the paper]

Furthermore, the attempt and misrepresentation to say choosing the Bawku Naaba as head of the canton chiefs was choosing a head chief for the Kusasis is a fallacy. They are deliberately allowing themselves to be misled by the misnomer earlier chosen by the colonialist to refer to the area as Kusasi. However, as the colonialist themselves acknowl­edged and confessed in their 1931 Annual report, the Bawku area was “DISTINCTLY Mamprusi”.

Furthermore, the 18 cantons were not all Kusasi. Binduri, Worikambo, Tanga, Teshie, and Sinnebaga are also purely Mam­prusi and their genealogical royal lineages have been clearly traced by J. K. G Syme in his book. Kulu­ngungu is Bissa, Kugri is Mossi, Kpikpira is Bimoba whereas areas like Kusanaba, Binaba, Zebilla, etc were Kusasi with each can­ton having it’s own chief. So the cantons were ethnically diverse all under the jurisdiction of the Nayiri and not Kusasi cantons. But unfortunately, the bizarre narrative of “colonialism” is pushed by the likes of Rev. Azumah who as a reverend minister and professor as he claims should have shown fidelity to the facts and not mislead the Kusasi youth into fighting what they wrongly believe is a struggle for independence.

A question for Rev Azumah and those on his path is that what are you telling the Bissa cantons and Bimoba cantons who you claim to enskin? Is that also colonialism since divisions like Kulungungu and Kpikpira are purely Bissa and Bimoba respectively?

It will be interesting to note that the reign of Na Atabia who found­ed the Bawku skin coincided with the reign of Ndewura Jakpa who founded the Gonja Kingdom as well as Otumfour Osei Tutu I who founded the first Asante state.

It was also during this period that the chieftaincy and skins of places in the Upper East like Bongo and Nangode were started by two sons of the same Na Atabia. Also, it was a grandson of the same Na Atabia who started the Builsa (Sandema) skin. This is the comparative context that will help the reader understand why the agenda spearheaded by the likes of Rev Azumah is one of destruction and not peace building. It is just like saying the chieftaincy, skins, and stools started during the same period as the Bawku skin be disintegrated and dismantled.

With the facts established above showing how the Bawku skin and its surrounding areas have been from the beginning part of the Mamprugu Kingdom and the falsity of the claim that some people in the North-East are crossing over to Bawku, let’s now interrogate his claim that Bawku is part of the Kusasi traditional territo­ry. For the uninitiated, Rev Azumah’s claim which is false even on the face of it has been misrepresented severally and repeatedly to appear to be the truth. In fact, there are people who claim to be Kusasis and their first orientation is that Kusasis were created on the Bawku land.

They are very ignorant of the fact that all the historical records (oral and written) are replete with evidence that the Kusasis migrated to the Zebilla and Bawku areas from Yuiga, Biengu, Zawga, and Abugre which are all located in presented-day Burkina Faso. This fact has been repeated severally by J. K. G Syme in his book and Addendum and has never been denied by Kusasis.

In fact, in a written memorandum submitted by Cletus Avoka and Joseph Abanga on behalf of the Kusasis to the 1984 Committee to Investigate the Bawku Lands Dis­putes, they admitted this fact stating that Kusasis migrated from Yuiga and Biengu in present-day Burkina Faso in two large groups to settle in the Zebilla and Bawku areas. All these migrations to the Bawku area and Zebilla areas occurred after the founding of the Mamprugu King­dom by Tosugu when he inherited his father Naa Gbewaa.

This fact is clearly stated by J. K. G Syme in his book when he acknowl­edged that the history of the migra­tions in Bawku and its surrounding areas he delved into excluded the period of the first founding of the state by Naa Gbewaa. Thus, in so far as the Nayiri’s control over the area since the 13th/14th century has been established as above, subse­quent migrations by the Kusasis from present-day Burkina Faso to the Bawku area can never be described as owners of the Bawku Traditional territory.

In fact, J. K. G. Syme acknowledg­es this fact when he narrated how the first Kusanaba after migrating from the Kusasi ancestral home in present day Burkina Faso to settle in the present-day Kusanaba had to travel to the Nayiri to pay homage. This clearly showed that he acknowledged the authority of the Nayiri over the area and that he the Kusanaba and his people were migrants/ settlers in the area. Unfortu­nately, these incontestable facts have been hidden by Rev Azu­mah whilst fallacies are spread to the youth leading them to fight a senseless war built upon false convictions.

He does not see the 21st-century usurpation attempts by people (he and his likes) who migrated from present-day Burkina Faso as a problem but pretends to see people who founded Bawku as aliens from North-East Region. On a lighter and funny note, the question Rev Azumah should answer is, between someone from North – East Region and someone from Burkina-Faso who can claim the right of territory in Ghana?

From the discussions above, it becomes abundantly clear that the attempt by Rev Azumah to latch onto the self-contradictory and political findings/ conclusions of the 1958 Opoku Afari Committee is unsustainable.

For instance, the committee after acknowledging that the customary law, customs and traditions pertaining to the Bawku chieftaincy since the time of Naa Ali until the time of the inquiry (1721 – 1958) was that Mamprusis were chiefs with the Nayiri as King maker, it made the bizaare contradictory conclusion that Abugrago Azoka was validly elected as chief of Bawku per the “customs and traditions”.

This was despite the fact that Abugrago Azoka was not a Mamprusi neither was he enskinned by the King maker, Nayiri. Furthermore, not only was the so-called election of Abugrago Azoka against the customs and traditions, it was actually an illegality against the law at the time (State Councils Ordinance).

Also, the committee after acknowledging the fact that Naa Ali was the first Bawku Naaba went further to say the Mamprusis came to Bawku 150 years ago. On his part, Abugrago Azoka claimed that Mamprusis came to Bawku with the British as cooks.

A simple arithmetic would have told the committee that 150 years before 1958 is 1808. And so their as­sertion is very inaccurate because all the historical records puts the reign of Naa Atabia who founded the Bawku skin in1721 as 1690 – 1740/1 and not 1808.

Secondly, it was not until 1896 that the British arrived in the Northern territories and got to Bawku in 1907 which is over 185 years after the Mamprusis had founded and ruled Bawku as established above and in Part One.

So it is arithmetically wrong and fallacious for the committee to have accepted the assertions of Abugrago Azoka that the Mamprusis came to Bawku as cooks of the British. This was the clear fraud that was perpe­trated and to which Rev Azumah is happy to associate with.

In addition, as part of “telling the truth”, Ghanaians deserve to know that it was the attempted illegal “elec­tion” of a parallel chief in 1957 by persons claiming to be Kusasis that marked the genesis of the Bawku conflict.

The key question Ghanaians would love to ask Rev Azumah is that, did the Mamprusis issue violent threats at the time when the Kusasis enskinned a parallel “chief ”? Absolutely No. The Mamprusis were told by Gov­ernment and the security agencies that the matter was a civil matter.

So Mamprusis had to file a case at the court citing the Kusasis and Ab­ugrago Azoka for contempt. But the Kusasis refused to enter appearance and relied on the Government which was hostile to the Nayiri to set up a committee of inquiry on the subject.

This was despite the fact that the then Government Agent and Re­gional Commissioner wrote separate memos to the Parliamentary Secre­tary for Local Government telling him why it was unconstitutional to set up such an inquiry. But the Government proceeded to set up the political committee because it viewed the Nayiri as an enemy because he was the patron of the Northern People’s Party which had entered into an alliance with the National Liberation Movement. As such, it is not surprising that the committee’s findings contradict logic, common sense and the facts.

Rev. Azumah further claimed the Mamprusis contested the findings of the committee at the Appeals court. Contrary to his assertion, the Mam­prusis obtained a High Court ruling which set aside the findings of the committee so how can the Mampru­sis win a case at the High Court and then go to the Appeals court again? It was the Government that refused to implement the decision of the High Court which was in favor of the Mamprusis.

In fact, the Government issued a release saying they still recognized Abugrago Azoka even though the High Court had set aside the con­clusions of the committee. They went further to appeal the decision of the High court for the Kusasis at the Appeals Court whilst exiling the 13th Bawku Naaba Yirimea Mahama to Togo who could not get a chance to make his case. A clear miscarriage of justice.

Thus, Rev Azumah’s claim that NLCD 112 deskinned chiefs sim­ply because they were sympathetic to the Convention People’s Party of which Abugrago Azoka was one is inaccurate.

On the contrary, NLCD 112 restored the normalcy and sanctity of the chieftaincy institution in over 500 areas across Ghana of which Bawku was not an excep­tion. This led to the restoration of chiefs that were deskinned, destooled and exiled for political reasons by the CPP Government which replaced them with political stooges like Abugrago Azoka.

And if the NLCD 112 did prove anything, it was the fact that the model of peaceful co-existence in Bawku since it was founded in 1721 until the political interference in 1958 by politicians was the best model for the ethnically diverse Bawku Traditional Area.

And indeed after the status quo was restored and the Nayiri enskinned Naa Adam Zangbeo the 14th Bawku Naaba in 1967, there was a very peaceful coexistence between all tribes with Mamprusis being chiefs in their cantons, Ku­sasis chiefs in their cantons, Bissas chiefs in their cantons, Bimobas chiefs in their cantons, etc.

Sadly, in 1979 despite the 14th Bawku Naaba Adam Zangbeo being the Vice President of the Upper Regional House of Chiefs, legally gazetted and recognized by the National House of Chiefs, the Kusasi Youth Association led by Cletus Avoka, John Ndebugre, Sulley Agholisi et al claimed they had once again elected a parallel chief for Bawku.

The Mamprusis again did not issue violent threats but went to the High Court to get a restraining order against the Kusasis to which the court granted on 25th July 1980. Not even the 31 March 1983 findings of the eminent chiefs committee set up by Asantehene Otumfour Opoku Ware II and the May 20, 1983 ruling by the Judicial Committee of the National House of Chiefs all of which were in favor of the Mamprusis was able to cause the Kusasis to back down on their illegal actions.

To be Continued

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