Mahama Ayariga and the Law and Order Crisis in Bawku
I have become aware of the agitations on social media and demands that I make public pronouncements on the crisis in Bawku. Those who are behind the lies and misinformation on social media know me very well and are aware that I don’t give in to cheap politics, deepening of ethnic divisions and outright promotion of violence. I will continue to call for peace and, if possible, reconciliation between the Kusasis and Mamprusis in the Bawku municipality. I urge all other tribes to help the two ethnic groups to appreciate and live with each in peace. There are people like me who are part Kusasi and part Mamprusi and these moments become difficult and challenging to us.
I was adopted by the Zugran Abugrago Azoka II, the lawful overlord of the Kusasi Traditional Area (which stretches from Tili to Timpane) as his son, when my own blood and maternal grandfather and then leader of the Mamprusi in Bawku, the late Akalifa (of blessed memory – father of my mother) disowned me because I had advised against his leadership of the Mamprusis in their quest for chieftaincy in Bawku and also my stance against the effort of Mamprusis in Bawku to overturn the Chieftaincy in Kusasi land.
I remain indebted to Abugrago Azoka II for taking me in as his son and providing me the sanctuary and protection I have enjoyed in Bawku till this date. The Zugrana was personally present when my own grandfather, Akalifa, asked the late President Evans Atta Mills to dismiss me as an appointee in the NDC Government because, as a lawyer and a grandson, I had advised my grandfather and uncles who made up the Mamprusi delegation that was going to meet President Atta Mills that no government could ever reverse the constitutional arrangement which affirms the status of Abugrago Azoka II as the overlord of the Kusasi Traditional Area. Given my expertise in constitutional law, I also told them that the courts will not review the status quo. Today, my position has been vindicated by President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo and his minister of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs.
I also made it clear at that time that the Kusasis will never accept another ethnic group lording over them on their own land and so there was neither a feasible legal, political or violent option available. The Chieftaincy matter in Kusasi land is settled forever.
Since the recent outbreak of violence, I have focused on the restoration of calm in Bawku and preventing the extension of the conflict beyond the borders of Bawku, given the dimensions that some elements in Mamprugu have sought to bring to the matter. I condemne the actions of those who seek to escalate the issues in Bawku and extend it to Mamprugu.
As a person uniquely positioned to relate to both Kusasis and Mamprusis by blood, and as a sitting Member of Parliament representing all the different ethnicities in Bawku, I have chosen the path of working towards the restoration of peace and security in Bawku. I have tried not to stand in the way of the law enforcement agencies in their difficult quest to control the violence in Bawku. Whilst sympathizing with them, I however condemn their excesses.
I condemn the killings attributable to both Kusasi and Mamprusi factions and their loyalists in Bawku. I have not been blind to the violations and regrettable loss of lives attributable to the actions of the security agencies. Except that I don’t want to make it more difficult, in the meantime, for the security agencies to do their work, I would have immediately called for a full blown inquiry into the modus operandi of the military in their peace keeping efforts in Bawku. I however condemn the senseless killings of unarmed or fleeing combatants and will demand that those should be looked into.
Whilst aware of the present impasse relating to the relocation of the markets, it is difficult to guarantee that Kusasis and Mamprusis in Bawku can immediately safely share the same social and economic spaces without risk of retaliatory actions by both sides. It is the reason why I am silent about the issues of the relocation of the markets. In the fullness of time such matters may be resolved.
Given that President Akuffo Addo now represents that he is committed to standing by the actions of President Jerry John Rawlings who passed the Chieftaincy (Restoration of Status of Chiefs) Law 1983 (PNDCL 75) to finally settle the matter of the sanctity of Kusasi rule over the Kusasi Traditional Area. And given that all arms of government under the 1992 Constitution, including the executive led by President Akufo Addo, are enjoined to ensure compliance with the law, I do not expect the President to pay mere lip service to PNDCL 75 and the Supreme Court pronouncement that the status of Zugran Abugurago Azoka II as overlord of The Kusasi Traditional Area can never be litigated again.
I remain doubtful about the commitment of President Nana Akuffo Addo and the NPP government to ensuring peace in Bawku. When people were stocking fires on social media and beating war drums and we brought it to the attention of government they did little to the provocateurs. Government has done nothing about the frequency license of Bawku FM radio station which has been used as a platform for, challenging the legitimacy of the overlord and undermining his authority and provoking Kusasis. When people defied a court injunction and came into Bawku to engage in acts that did in fact provoke violent conflict, the Akuffo Addo Government did nothing to them and this further fueled anger and more violence on the ground.
It is not surprising that this level of suffering is allowed to take place in Bawku anytime NPP is in power. The senseless loss of lives in Bawku could have been prevented if the Nana Addo and NPP government had acted with dispatch to prevent the activities of those who openly stocked the fires on social media and even on radio. The people of Bawku have been let down by Nana Addo’s penchant for sleeping on the job.
Let me conclude by demanding that President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo matches his rhetoric with action by treating the situation in Bawku as a simple law and order problem. Giving it a Chieftaincy and ethnic coloration has provided the excuse for all sides to the conflict to burn, maim and kill and not be held accountable. I am yet to see one person successfully prosecuted in relation to the various rounds of the conflict in Bawku. Irrespective of ethnicity, all those who act in disregard of the law must be dealt with so that they will stop disturbing the peace of Bawku.
Let me once again appeal to all sides to refrain from deepening the crisis and making it even more difficult to promote peaceful coexistence.
Mahama Ayariga MP