Mon, Jul 09, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Rival royals risk pulling Ghana apart

In Yendi’s palaces, competitors for the throne threaten to reignite a murderous conflict between the Abudu and Andani families

By Afua Hirsch  /  The Guardian, YENDI, GHANA

The Andanis insist the party in government at the time, the National Patriotic Party, played a role in the massacre, which it denies.

“Where were the police when our palace was under attack?” Abdoulaye Yakubu Andani said. “Where were the security agents? And the weapons that were used — you wonder that the people of this town had such sophisticated weapons and were firing like people who were trained. We believe that some people were brought in from elsewhere.”

The Abudus, who admit members of their family perpetrated the killing, likewise have their suspicions as to who fomented the violence.

“The pictures of weapons and ammunition retrieved from the palace that emerged after the events of 2002 included a machine gun that you can mount and shoot, countless AK47s, the private car of the ya-na with several guns in the boot,” said Ziblim Iddi, a professor of political science at the University of Ghana who speaks for the Abudu family, implying that the Andanis were prepared for a violent confrontation.

The Abudus claim a legitimate grievance against the Andanis. They are still seething from a decision by the military regime that ruled Ghana in the 1970s to strip the then-Abudu king, with about 60 chiefs beneath him, of his title.

Abdulai IV — Mahamadu’s father — died in 1988, but has still not been buried.

This issue has played a central role in the deadlock between the two sides. Dagbon is a place of deeply held and ancient beliefs, with a power structure reliant on soothsayers and charms for the most crucial of decisions.

“The funeral can only be done in the Gbewaa Palace,” said Mba-Dugu Iddrisu, senior adviser to the Bolin Lana. “If the funeral is not performed, he cannot reach the place of the ancestors — how can anything then be resolved?”

The Abudus believe the Andanis have created their own fate by endorsing the events of 1974.

“[Stripping a king of his title] is not known in Dagbon,” Mba-Dugu Iddrisu said. “We have our traditional beliefs. If you wrong the tradition, if something is forbidden and you go against the gods, you will be punished for it.”

The irony of the situation, which has seen countless failed attempts at mediation and even a formal roadmap to peace led by another famous Ghanaian king, the king of Ashanti, is that the entire community is suffering.

The failure to agree on who should become the new ya-na has created a power vacuum, which leaves the region without anyone able to sign leases and process land sales.

“There are 20,000 leases pending in the region,” Andani said. “We are talking about people coming to invest and create jobs.”

“I feel it’s unfortunate that if someone dies, it means that the citizens in that community should not eat. I am the regent, acting in the capacity of my father. I don’t see why I should not sign leases. It is for the benefit of everyone,” he said.

The crisis has seriously affected investment in the north, according to a source at the government land agencies.

“Most demand for land in this region is from outsiders who want to develop land for commercial use,” he said. “A lot of banks are coming here, looking for land to develop and property to buy — filling stations and office buildings should be springing up. The crisis is holding all this up, and that makes this even more serious.”

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