For some of us who have been observing the vacuous histrionics of the Nkrumacrats vis-à-vis continental African politics, the yearlong celebrations of the centenary birthday anniversary of modern Ghana’s first constitutionally elected premier could not have been better climaxed by the Bawku refugee contretemps. Indeed, that May 25, 2010, which witnessed the convergence of several of the continent’s political dinosaurs on our nation’s capital of Accra, also saw the president of Ghana bashfully negotiating with Togolese government officials for the repatriation of nearly 4,000 Ghanaian refugees, must serve as a meaningful metaphor for the ringing and abject failure that is the institutional apparatus of the so-called African Union.
Needless to say, we have no illusions, whatsoever, that the government of the so-called National Democratic Congress is apt to learn any meaningful lessons from this most embarrassing episode, coming as it did, poignantly and coincidentally, on the 47th anniversary of the erstwhile Organization of African Unity, now dubiously morphed into the theoretically more functionally cohesive African Union.
But that desperate attempts were initially made on the part of the Atta-Mills government to vehemently and categorically deny that, indeed, any such major refugee situation existed is all the more pitiable. While obviously understandable, such infantile assay at mendacity is inexcusable, although it eloquently attests to the kind of stuff of which the NDC apparatchiks are made.
In any case, what makes the Bawku conundrum even more disturbing is the fact that as far back as 1994 and 1995, at least 1,000 people were killed in what the Rawlings-led National Democratic Congress government then cavalierly characterized as “clashes over land ownership” (See “Ghana-Togo: Government Prepares for Refugees’ Return” African News Analysis.com 5/28/10). Then shortly after Mr. Rawlings reluctantly handed over the reins of governance to the Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party, in 2001, 28 people were reported to have died in ethnic clashes in the same Bawku locality. Coupled with the present crisis, it sadly appears as if the National Democratic Congress, the most dominant government of the period, did very little to find a lasting solution to the Bawku problem.
Indeed, in the wake of the crushing defeat of the NDC parliamentarian for the district in the 2008 general election, hired NDC operatives spent the better part of a whole year ineffectually disputing the citizenship and electoral legitimacy of the triumphant New Patriotic Party candidate.
The foregoing maugre, what rankles more than any aspect of this national contretemps is to hear Ghana’s Deputy Information Minister, Mr. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, cynically dispute the refugee figures jointly provided by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Togolese government. As of May 28, 2010, the latter had pegged the number of refugees who had fled the Bawku conflict into Togo at 3,247, while Mr. Ablakwa stubbornly and imperiously insisted that such figure hovered around the “relatively insignificant” statistic of just under 1,000.
The relevant question here, of course, is whether there had been any need, whatsoever, for even a single refugee from the Bawku conflict to have entered Togo’s geopolitical space. It is also significant to note that while daily news reports glibly attribute the Bawku question, as it were, to periodic clashes between longtime residents and recent migrants over land and other natural resources, in reality, as recently narrated to this writer by an indigene of the area, the Kusasi and Mamprusi ethnic conflict is one that is steeped in pre-colonial African history and involving the delicate subject of slavery and liberation, with the traditionally more powerful Mamprusi having been solicited by a besieged Kusasi to protect the latter from indiscriminate and brutal subjugation and summary enslavement at the hands of the marauding Busanga nation.
Needless to say, it is this aspect of the Bawku riddle that needs to be clearly and promptly delineated in order to arrive at a lasting solution. I am, of course, certain of there prevailing disparate and competing historical narratives.
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and the author of 21 books, including “Obaasima: Ideal Woman” (iUniverse.com, 2004).
The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of AfricaNewsAnalysis.