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 failure of development in Dagbon — which is known somewhat ironically as the development capital of West Africa with its plethora of NGOs and initiatives such as women’s shea butter collectives — is a cause as well as a result of the conflict in Dagbon, as both sides in the dispute acknowledge that their most formidable enemy is poverty.

“Life in Yendi is hard. We don’t have money. As soon as we have finished school we leave — to go to Accra or to other countries,” said Mohamed Abdullai, an 18-year-old student and follower of the Bolin Lana.

“The problems in Yendi are very, very extreme,” said Baba Idrissu, the NDC’s MP for Yendi.

“There is an absence of security, it puts off investors. Who wants to invest in an area that still has the propensity to have war? Most of the NGOs have fled. When there is any little skirmish the first they do is burn businesses,” he said.

As Ghana’s elections approach, the clear allegiances between rival political parties, and the centuries-old family feud in Dagbon have prompted unease in a region already predisposed to swiftly escalating violence.

“We have plenty guns. They came from Europe, from America. We go to buy guns. If people misbehave or are ignorant, we kill them,” said Abdullai, voicing his anger at the refusal of the Andanis to allow the funeral of Abdulai IV.

It is the potential of this anger to spill over into other parts of Ghana that causes the most serious alarm here. Dagombas, as members of the Dagbon kingdom are known, are the second-largest ethnic group in Ghana and by no means confined to the rural north of the country.

“The ya-na murder set a precedent for violent murder, and people are very bitter that their king was treated in this way,” Andani said. “Any crack in the Dagbon kingdom is going to escalate everywhere else in the country.”

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