The inter-relativity and connectivity of human endeavor has made conflict something unavoidable as it has come to eventually be part of the normal routine of human social interaction. Ethnic conflicts and civil wars continue to plague many African countries especially in the last two decades. There are growing concerns about the impacts of these conflicts on sub-regional and regional stability as well as security, with adverse implications on economic growth, environment and development. The impacts of these conflicts have been severest on the vulnerable groups such as the aged, women and children reversing many development efforts in conflict zones (John Kusimi; Julius Fobil; Raymond Atuguba; Isabella Erawoc; Franklin Oduro Abstract: Conflicts in Northern Ghana a Mirror of Answers to Sub-Regional Stability and Security Questions). Conflict has both a colloquial meaning and a discouragingly long list of specific definitions. The list includes four rather different usages if the term: (1) antecedent conditions to some overt struggle (2) affective states (tension or hostility) (3) cognitive states (for example the perception that some other person or entity acts against one’s interest and (4) conflictful behavior, verbal or non verbal ranging from passive resistance to active aggression. According to Wiktionary, conflict is an incompatibility of two things that cannot be simultaneously fulfilled. In simple terms conflict denotes a situation when two or more organizations or persons are in a contradiction between them…….. Conflict is more expansive than normally perceived. The conflict is a contradiction, a war, maybe a competition exist but the real conflict condition is more greatest way to express violence, and where this take place and violence take effect, it generate more and more conflicts.
Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”) is a term that has different meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: a Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. However, the word “culture” is most commonly used in three basic senses:
Although largely ignored as being a key element in the generation of conflicts, culture is an essential part of conflict and conflict resolution (LeBaron, Michelle Conflict and Culture: Research in Five Communities in British Columbia, Canada). Culture, mostly acting within the parameters of a toothless bulldog, it permeate all spheres of the normal daily occurrences and it does so in the least expected ways. It serves as collating avenue which sends us messages that shape our perceptions, attributions, judgments, and ideas of self and other. Cultures are powerful, they are often unconscious, influencing conflict and attempts to resolve conflict in imperceptible ways. For the single individual, cultures are a shifting, dynamic set of starting points that orient us in particular way and away from other directions.
Each of us belongs to multiple cultures that give us messages about what is normal, appropriate, and expected. When others do not meet our expectations, it is often a cue that our cultural expectations are different and thought or projected as un-respected. We may mistake differences between others and us for evidence of bad faith or lack of common sense on the part of others, not realizing that common sense is not cultural. What is common to one group may seem strange, counter intuitive, or wrong to another. In the dividing circles of two groups, culture projects a huge sense of uniqueness; something most individuals would prefer to die for than to witness it degraded by the opposing group.
Whether a conflict exists at all is a cultural question, and by way of mutual illustration and interconnection between culture and conflict; cultures are embedded in almost every conflict because conflicts arise in human relationships. Cultures affect the ways we name, frame, blame, and attempt to tame conflicts. On the contrary, when any of the above is diverted by one cultural group vis-Ã -vis the other, conflicts are the emerging consequences. Most people especially in Africa and other parts of the globe take pride in engaging in activities with a cultural sense than advancing the course of the general good. Conflicts between teenagers and parents are shaped by generational culture, and conflicts between spouses or partners are influenced by gender culture. In organizations, conflicts arising from different disciplinary cultures escalate tensions between co-workers, creating strained or inaccurate communication and stressed relationships. Culture permeates conflict no matter what, sometimes pushing forth with intensity, other times quietly snaking along, hardly announcing its presence until surprised people nearly stumble on it.
For this reason, this essay seeks to reconcile the role of culture in the Dagbon conflict in Northern Ghana and how these same two connections of conflicts are again intertwined for the purposes of conflict and conflict resolution. The challenge is that, given cultures important role in conflicts, it is given little thought and consideration as it mostly labeled in the unconscious circle of human behavior vis-Ã -vis conflicts and some approaches cultural resolution to the management and resolution of the conflict compound this problem because they minimize cultural role and influences in the tensed situation. We will consider the Dagbon conflict in and try to fit it within this frame of neglect. This is because the Dagbon conflict although largely considered ethnic has a huge cultural dimension which goes largely unattended to. Culture is always a factor in conflict, whether it plays a central role or influences it subtly and gently.
Geographically and historically, Ghana lies between latitudes 50 and 110N and longitudes 10 and 30E with a landmass of 23.9million hectares. Ghana’s estimated total population is 19.5 million (GSS, 2002:1), comprising a vast mosaic of several ethnic groups speaking over hundred local languages. Northern Ghana on which this paper focuses is co-terminus with a vast acreage of land that spans the White Volta, Black Volta and Oti River Basins. The area is divided into three political/ administrative regions comprising the Upper West (18,476km2) and the Upper East(8,842km2) regions bordering Burkina Faso in the extreme northern limits of Ghana and the Northern Region (70,384km2) to the south of Upper East and Upper West. Populations in these areas witness deep poverty levels and low literacy rates, with low school enrolment rate and inadequate health care services. Over 90 percent of the population in this area is engaged in subsistence agriculture and animal rearing (GSS, (2002). Population and Housing Census 2000: Summary of Final Results). Therefore, land ownership determines to a large extent, the nature of social and power relations among the ethnic groups inhabiting these three regions and has also been a major source of conflicts among them. The three regions harbor inconceivable heterogeneous groups of people speaking over 30 local dialects. The hidden truth is that, most of these heterogeneous groups have historical connections dating back to the sixteenth century. The sociocultural organization of most of these peoples of the northern belt is patrilineal with a strong tradition of centralized administration under the lordship of a powerful king such as the Mossi-Dagbani Kingdoms. In recent national political discussions, the Mossi-Dagbani groups are referred to as the ‘major tribes’ in Northern Ghana. However, there are also stateless or acephalous groups such as the Konkomba and the Tallensi. Therefore politically and administratively, there are a lot of historical and present day commonalities. This is what causes and infact possesses the bane of shock when it comes to the issue of conflicts and the most effective tools in dealing or handling them. The past 25years have witnessed a number of destructive ethnic conflicts in Northern Ghana. The very explosive ones are those of 1980 (Konkombas against Nanumbas) and the Guinea Fowl War of 1994 (between the Konkombas on one hand and Nanumbas, Dagombas and Gonjas on the other hand) (Brukum J. N. K, The Pito, Mango and Guinea Fowl Wars: Episodes in the History of Northern Ghana, 1980-1999).
In 1980/86 and 2000, Mamprusis and Kusasis went to war in Bawku. Dagombas also fought among themselves; these and more are the most recent (and of which this essay critical look) of these intra-Dagbon clashes were those between the Andani and the Abudu Gates in Yendi, in 2002 (Brukum J. N. K, The Pito, Mango and Guinea Fowl Wars: Episodes in the History of Northern Ghana, 1980-1999).
There has been much similar communal violence among the Gonjas and other ethnic groups in the Northern Region of Ghana. A critical assessment of the causes of most of these conflicts can be traced to colonial and post-colonial actions of governments. This certainly is no news as the impedes of colonialism is still being felt in Africa today. Certain actions and in-actions of governments have led to the marginalization, deprivation, exploitation and the exclusion of the ‘minority groups’ in many decision-making processes and governance issues that affect them. This has led to dissatisfaction among the ‘minority’, hence any little dispute between the ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ explodes into ethnic conflict.
With these analysis deduced, let us now try to envisage how the presence of culture among the people in the northern hemisphere of Ghana is contributing to conflicts among the people using the silent pistol. Culture, as already noted, forms the core around which most individuals normalize their relations with others but this relationship does take a different dimension when one gets the slightest hint of foul play in the unique identification of the other individual. This however differs from ethnocentrism, where people openly act and portray the supposedly uniqueness of their traditional origin and heritage over that of others and to some extent cause others to follow their fray. It is important to state unequivocally that culture has a canny way of taking on the characteristics of ethnocentrism but however does with a gradual pace.
Due to the heritagecal and ancestral dimension of culture, conflicts resulting from culture and cultural practices do occur undetected for a very long time. Conflict of this nature sometimes begin from a mere proclaim which is interpreted to downgrade or cast the other side’s image into disrepute. At times it start with a poorly resolved dispute (in our case the Andani and the Abudu Gates in Yendi) which forces the youths of the opposing party to rise up in arms against their foes after several years of the poorly settled dispute, which obviously one party wasn’t satisfied with. When this happens, all possible gates of negotiations are closed due to the lengthy or at times the generational nature it usually takes to emerge in full scale. Recent political events and expression also mean the relaxation in conflict in one side and subsequent uprising in other with political transitions. In other words, the envisioned premise is ignoring the cultural dimension of conflicts by most Ghanaian governments with the impression that Ghana is the most peaceful nation on earth. Similarly, the lay magistrate often without really solving the dispute to any side’s satisfaction ended up taking sides. Culture, with the trait of a silent killer largely goes undetected due the stable political climate Ghana is reputed for but the critical thing that most conflict analysts fail to take into consideration is that conflicts of this nature are intra-tribal rather than taking on the general good or in the form of civil wars, which has stalled the core of most African country’s government setup and social development. In exact terms, a cursory look at all historical conflict on the African region reveals tremendous ethnic and religious inclinations, albeit many of them also have subtle causal relationship with land and resource use, which could be a core of protest of one group against the other.
The concept of nationhood/statehood is misplaced in many African nation state building contexts. Nations on the African continent, unconsciously motivated by the great diversity of ethnic groups, continue to trivialize national homogeneity and ethnic unification thus allowing for powerful disaggregated ethnic formations. The inevitable tendency of this phenomenon is that, many national policies by governments tend to be ethnocentric and is some unconscious instances cultural, which create suspicion, rivalry, discontent, mistrust and enmity among different ethnic groups or even within the same group of people as is the case in northern Ghana, resulting in ethnic conflicts and civil wars in extreme cases.
In the case under discussion, most analysts in conflict prevention turn to focus solely on the tribal or ethnic sentiments forgetting that there cultural influences even on professional judgments vis-Ã -vis the heated situation and culture prevent people from giving accurate feedback.
The Dagbon chieftaincy dispute is a good example of the passions that chieftaincy issues can inflame in Ghana, and of the extent to which these matters have become politicised. In the Dagbon case, a traditional matter has become the main subject of local politics as well as an issue of national politics. The Dagomba people or Dagbamba as they call themselves, constitute the single largest ethnic group in Northern Ghana. They speak the Dagbani language, a subgroup of the Mole-Dagbani family of languages, which belongs to the much larger Gur with starting the Dagbon migrations from Mali to what is now the Upper East Region of Ghana. Here he married Sihisabigu, the daughter of a Tindana in a place known as Bion, and eventually replaced the Tindana after assassinating him. Kpagunimbu and Sihisabigu had twin sons called Nyamzisheli and Nyarigili, who are believed to be the ancestors of the Talinsi and Nabdam ethnic groups of the Upper East Region. Following his exploits as a warrior, the King of Grumah, Abudu Rahamani married off his daughter, Suhuyini, to Kpagunimbu. Suhuyini gave birth to Gbewaa, two of whose sons Tohugu and Sitobu founded the Mamprugu and Dagbon kingdoms respectively. Sitobu’s son, Nyagsi, who reigned between 1416 and 1432, expanded the Dagbon kingdom through wars against aboriginal peoples throughout what is now present-day Dagbon. Thus the Dagbamba came to the area they now occupy as conquerors and established the traditional state of Dagbon, bringing with them the institution of chieftaincy, which had not been found among the original inhabitants. The Dagbon capital is Yendi where the King, whose title is Ya Na, resides.
The Dagbamba are strongly attached to the institution of chieftaincy, which partly accounts for the intensity with which conflicts over chieftaincy are carried out. Conflicts tend to revolve around questions of succession, since the rules for succession tend to be rather flexible and allow for a number of candidates. Part of the current dispute (known variously as the Dagbon conflict or the Yendi chieftaincy affairs) hinges on whether or not it is a rule of tradition that succession to the throne should alternate between two rival sections of the royal family. These two sections originated in the late nineteenth century, following the death of Ya Na Yakubu who was succeeded first by his son Abudulai and then by another son Andani. Since the death of Andani in 1899, there has been in some measure an alternation between descendants of the two brothers, and the extent to which this rotation constitutes another rule for determining the succession remains unsettled.
In addition to the question of rotation between the two families, there is also disagreement over who has the right to select a successor, and over which particular act in the installation ceremony makes one a Ya Na. Formally, the selection of a successor rested in the hands of four kingmakers. In 1948, the membership of the kingmakers was expanded to eleven with the addition of seven divisional chiefs to form a selection committee. The legitimacy of the Committee, which probably represented a final attempt by the British to codify the rules and procedures of succession to the Yendi skin, has been in dispute.
In the 1940s, the educated elite of Dagbon – most of whom were from its royal families – played a major role in the setting up of the controversial selection committee. The institution of the selection committee coincided with the era of active pre-independence politics, and the pioneer-educated elite was poised to exploit the situation. Having a king who was more amenable to their political ambitions was of vital importance to them. By 1954, there were complaints that the committee system was adopted to protect the interest of the Abudulai family and ultimately eliminate the Andani family from the contest (Sibidow, 1970).
One major source of conflict in modern times is the tradition that “you do not destool a Ya Na”. In former times, a Ya Na who proved unacceptable was simply killed. As this is no longer a practical alternative, once installed a Ya Na cannot be destooled even if he is found to have violated customs. Thus Dagbon custom as a whole is ambiguous on this point if not outright contradictory (Ladouceur, 1972). Such an implicit ambiguity facilitates the intervention of an outside power to settle outstanding disagreements as to the correct interpretation of tradition. It also serves not only to foment disputes but also to sustain them.
Another source of the Dagbon conflict is intergenerational in nature. Intergenerational conflict arises because of the exclusion from succession of the senior sons of a king by his junior brothers. Conversely, the junior brothers in the older generation could find themselves excluded by the sons of their senior brother. According to Ferguson et al. (1970), the critical nature of exclusion is apparent. By virtue of the Dagbon rule that no son may assume a higher rank in society than his father, a candidate’s failure to attain office carries with it the implication that none of his descendants may ever aspire to it. Intergenerational conflict appears then to be a structural feature for succession to higher office in Dagbon. There is, however, probably a contingent association between such conflicts and the polarization between rival factions that is also a characteristic feature of the conflict. The candidates from the senior generation may tend to attract the support of the more conservative factions and those from the junior generation, that of the more radical.
The Dagbon conflict gradually spilled over into the national political arena over the years as each side mustered what forces it could with politicians taking an increasing interest in this and other chieftaincy disputes. Each side in the Dagbon dispute has articulate well-educated spokesmen and, since 1954, prominent national political figures as well. It was largely through their activities that the dispute became a political issue shortly after independence. On the Abudu side was Alhaji Yakubu Tali, Tolon Na, while the Andani side had J.H. Alhassan. Both men had become prominent figures in both Dagbon affairs and in the emerging modern political system in the early 1950s. Both were elected to the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly in 1951 and to Parliament in 1954, the former on the opposition regional NPP ticket and the latter to the governing CPP.11
If politicians can make use of their power base in the modern political system to interfere in traditional affairs, some traditional rulers are also quite capable of seizing opportunities presented by national politics to consolidate their own positions. Ya Na Abudulai III, sensing that he might be destooled, withdrew his support for the opposition and together with his followers, including Alhaji Yakubu Tali, joined the then ruling party, the CPP, en bloc in 1958. Political interference in the Dagbon conflict continued with changes in government. The overthrow of the Kwame Nkrumah government in 1966 marked radical changes in official ideology and priorities. In general terms, the policy of the National Liberation Council (NLC), the military regime, in traditional matters was to restore chieftaincy to its former position and reduce government interference. However, chieftaincy affairs took on an added importance in post-coup Ghana and government interference increased instead of diminishing. In the case of the Yendi dispute, government interference was taken to new heights when in September 1969, the selection and enskinment of Ya Na Andani III was declared null and void by the NLC government. It was felt that a factor in this decision that had objectively benefited the Abudulai family was the presence of B. A. Yakubu, a family supporter, in the NLC government. Thus the murder of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II in March 2002 took place during a time when the NPP government, successor to Prime Minister K. A. Busia’s party which succeeded the NLC, was in power was seen as significant. It succeeded in evoking memories of the killings in the Gbewaa palace in 1969.
Zamfara state of the early Hausa kingdom. Drum history9, however, traces the origin of the Dagbon kingdom to ancient Mali whose king had been so impressed with the exploits of Toha-zhie, a wandering hunter, that he recruited him into his service. Toha-Zhie eventually married one of the daughters of the King of Mali called Paga-wobga, who bore him a son – Kpagunimbu. Kpagunimbu is credited
This administrative initiative was implemented by Chief Commissioner Armitage. This was done for political and administrative expediency because the colonial administration at the time did not have sufficient logistics and personnel to govern the entire colony, especially the protected territories in Northern Ghana. Subsequently, there was the introduction of local police called “Nana Kana”, who constituted tribunals and for the collection of taxes and tried general cases except criminal ones. This enhanced the loyalty of the stateless ethnic groups to the paramount chiefs.
The implication of these developments are that, with time emotional sentiments and passions are brought to bear with general official arrangements which gradually leads one side to call for changes. If the call is not heeded by the authorities involved, one side feels cheated and with the lapse of time lead to ethnic based but largely culture oriented conflict.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to conflict resolution, since culture is always a factor. Cultural fluency is therefore a core competency for those who intervene in conflicts or simply want to function more effectively in their own lives and situations. Cultural fluency involves recognizing and acting respectfully from the knowledge that communication, ways of naming, framing, and taming conflict, approaches to meaning-making, and identities and roles vary across cultures.
In retrospect, culture as a key factor in conflict generation and orientation it that of a silent creeper. The kind that is in no way given premise by conflict analysts as being the prime cause in conflict situations. In the other words, the largely ignored role of culture as being a key factor in conflicts and subsequently, tackling the antecedents of culture in conflicts.
The conflict between the two principal gates in the Dagbon crises, in this case the Abudu and Andani, and other related conflict zones in northern Ghana largely take on a cultural uniform or outlook due to the cultural landmarks that exist between these gates and which binds them together. Most of these groups share a common lineage and heritage, and then again share a common unique culture and heritage and largely define their uniqueness within the same cultural framework. When this occur as is the case in most parts in northern Ghana, people, most of whom define their common orientation from the cultural setting turn to be sentimental and passionate about issues ordinarily considered trivial. There is usually heckling of each other and the perceived down grading of the image of one group towards the other. This gradually deteriorates into a heated, mostly unconscious and mostly ignored situation, taking on and parading within the cultural parameters, and generations down the line lead to an unending cultural and in rear cases civil conflicts.
The Dagbon conflict might have taken a succession element between two previously friendly and brotherly gates (Abudu and Andani) but with a more hidden image and agenda, being that, these groups co-existed generations before the advent of colonialism and with the sudden u-turn in traditional leadership and orientation, due to the “Whiteman’s” style of governance, culture has and continued to play the role of determining who gets the nod to rule both sides of the house.
In finding a lasting and more purposeful solution to the Dagbon situation, conflict analysts would have to focus their sight on the role of culture first within the various groups’ involved (Abudu and Andani) orientation and culture among the general populace, effectively tackle the cost of culture vis-Ã -vis conflict in the long term. Stakeholders would also be entreated to be mindful and watchful of the principal although mostly unconscious role of culture in conflict. The unique attribution of culture among not only the Abudu and Andani but others makes it critical for conflict resolution experts to begin to give prominence to culture in the conflict resolution process.
In typical traditional society, people are so interwoven they turn to have commonalities in almost every sphere of daily activity and general administration. This inter-connectivity and mutual connection, it must be said does not take place without unpredictable implications. In instances where the general good rests with the sole declaration of a single individual, it becomes imperative that when the sole judgment of the single individual (in our focus the chief) is perceived not to favor a particular group, the resulting implication is hostile tension of the feuding party and which subsequently result in chaotic atmosphere.
Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”) denotes several connotations. When the concept first emerged in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, it connoted a process of cultivation or improvement, as in agriculture or horticulture. In the nineteenth century, it came to refer first to the betterment or refinement of the individual, especially through education, and then to the fulfillment of national aspirations or ideals. In the mid-nineteenth century, some scientists used the term “culture” to refer to a universal human capacity. The bane at which people identify themselves in the cultural setting especially on the African frame has led the word to imply to a significant degree, a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group (C. Kluckhohn, (1952). Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions). With specific reference to culture LeBaron reiterate two things are essential to remember about cultures: they are always changing, and they relate to the symbolic dimension of life. The symbolic dimension is the place where we are constantly making meaning and enacting our identities. Cultural messages from the groups we belong to give us information about what is meaningful or important, and who we are in the world and in relation to others….. Our identities. And the moment the question of identity sets in, people turn to approach even the most nonsense issues with emotions and sentimentalism of whose identity is the ultimate among the pack. When this occurs, conflict becomes the next issue to emerge heading but in a much slower undetected pace. This take semblance with culture as both culture and conflict complement each other to the final escalation of the insecurity present and they both take a creping pace in achieving this fate.
Conflict occurs largely when according to Wiktionary, there’s an incompatibility of two things that cannot be simultaneously fulfilled. In simple terms conflict denotes a situation when two or more organizations or persons are in a contradiction between them…….. Conflict is more expansive than normally perceived. The conflict is that, a contradiction, a war, maybe a competition exist but the real conflict condition is more greatest way to express violence, and where this take place and violence take effect, it generate more and more conflicts. It is also prudent to note that conflict that occur within the same group (especially between those with similar and mostly the same cultural background) are high to resolve than those that exist between two different groups with different distinct cultural heritage. In the former, both sides of the feuding parties may claim to have the right argument in the conflict owing to the similar mutual respect while the other may not be prepared to back down their demand, so therefore, there is no ending to the conflict in sight. On the latter however, both sides of the conflict may have different distinct demands and therefore easier to resolve the conflict when the various demands are met.
Overall, it is widely acknowledged that due to the closeness of most African societies dating to hundreds of years, most of these African communities share common culture, heritage and ancestry. With the advent of colonialism however, most of these communities and societies were divided by colonial rule and made to feel they were different from one another and not as previously thought. The resulting consequences are scenarios where most African communities who previously lived and shared common heritage raise up arms against each other after several years of colonial segregation and exclusion. A common case is the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda which claimed an estimated 800,000 lives in just hundred days of conflict. In Africa, there are growing concerns about the impacts of these conflicts on sub-regional and regional stability and growth as well as security, with adverse implications on economic growth, environment and development4. (John Kusimi; Julius Fobil; Raymond Atuguba; Isabella Erawoc; Franklin Oduro Abstract: Conflicts in Northern Ghana a Mirror of Answers to Sub-Regional Stability and Security Questions). The fact behind most of these conflicts that occur on the continent is that owing to the largely similar style of governance and administration and the inter-relativity of most African societies, they share a common culture and that also turn to influence the source of the conflict.
In regional Africa and especially Africa south of the Sahara, ethnic based violence/civil strives are very common and continue to threaten the stability of the region. Those in the early African nation-states’ history include the Biafra war in Nigeria and the relatively recent ones such as the Liberian Civil war, the Sierra Leone Civil war, the great lakes conflict (between the Tutsis and the Hutus in Rwanda), the Ethiopia- Eritrea war, civil war in Cote d’Ivoire, and the civil war in the Sudan. Civil wars have rolled back over 100 years in history, the development successes made in both colonial and post-colonial eras in several African Countries. These ethnic conflicts are miniature civil wars, a critical study of which can provide insights to the causes of the many senseless conflicts sweeping across several African nations (John Kusimi, et al., Conflicts in Northern Ghana). In the case of Ghana for example in reference to the relative closeness in African societies, the Akans who are the dominant group of people are both in Ghana and the southern part of Cote d’ Ivoire and they speak the same language.
Let now consider the critical issue of state formation in the northern belt of Ghana.
Historically, according to Rattray, most of the people of the north are invaders and migrants who arrived to meet the indigenes. He recounts, “The majority of the tribes who inhabit Northern Territories were, I am convinced, residents in or near the localities where we now find them, even centuries before the ancestors of those names, many of the divisions now bear names that had not arrived in this part of Africa. Upon these, more or less autochthonous peoples, with their very primitive institutions, descended small bands of strangers within comparatively recent historical times. They were better armed, better clothed, familiar with the idea of kingship/chieftainship in our modern sense, in some cases conversant with the rudiments of Mohammedanism”(Ladouceur, 1979:29). These invaders are said to have imposed their political institutions on the indigenes. The Tendaanas were either killed or permitted to carry on with their sacred duties in relation to custodianship of the land, while the invaders’ chiefs became secular rulers. According to the same author, a fusion of the two group took place so that today the two are found in many of our societies (including the Mamprusi, Dagomba and Gonja), living side by side and indistinguishable from another by broad cultural and linguistic criteria. Notice the cultural underpinnings between the groups afford mentioned in even present day setting.
So far, no historical record reveals where the acephalous people migrated from to present day Ghana. However, all records indicate that the Mole-Dagbani group came to meet the stateless people where they currently inhabit. Unlike the other stateless groups, the Konkomba hitherto the beginning of the 1980s had never gone to war with any of these invaders of the Mole-Dagbani, the first of the kind being the Konkombas and the Nanumbas in 1980 and the subsequent ones (Brukum, 1999:11). “The reverie Konkomba, at least, and probably all the Konkomba except those in the chiefdom of Gushiegu (who were more integrated into the Dagbon system, but were neither expelled or assimilated by the Dagomba), never admitted Dagomba rule and in 1944 the Benafiab (a clan of Konkomba) who live around Wapuli rebelled against continuous extortion of the Dagomba sub-chief of Sunson (Dzagberi Na) and had him killed”, Tait (1961:9-10).
Geographically vis-Ã -vis the Konkombas, this group are settled in Saboba and Sambu (approximately 11 kilometers west of Yendi), and 24 kilometers to the south of Yendi (present-day Bakpaba). To the east, the Konkombas share common boundaries with the Bassares and Kabres in the Republic of Togo. To the north, they are found beyond the Oti River as far as Yogu and to the northwest, they share boundaries with the Mamprusi. According to Tait (1961:1) the Konkomba live in what were formerly the French and British Mandated Territory of Northern Togoland along the banks of Oti River and on the Oti plain north and west of the Basare and Kotokoli Hills. Konkombas are known to be farmers and as a result they continuously migrate (a quasi-nomadic life) in search of fertile lands for farming (Brukum, 1999:11). Thus, they often settle away from towns in contrast to Dagombas, Nanumbas and Gonjas who reside in towns and are known for their preoccupation in petty trading, a historical activity of the Mole-Dagomba group. The economic and occupational arrangements of the Mole-Dagbani group have led to their dominance in towns in the northern region. The nature of Konkombas’ occupation (farming) have not only deprived them of formal education and ownership of major towns or their territories, but have gravely led to the under estimation of the numerical strength of the Konkomba by all national censuses since 1960. This is because the Konkomba in search of fertile arable lands, move to inaccessible thickets, which are not easily reached by enumerators. It was therefore not surprising to hear some of the 1994 Peace Keeping Forces that, the ‘dead/ancestors’ of Konkombas were ‘resurrecting’ to fight in the conflict. The underestimation of the numerical strength is a ploy by the ‘majority’ groups to divert development funds to the ‘majority groups’ interest. The underestimation of the numerical strength of the Konkombas has been so entrenched that, ironically the Konkomba has been classified as a minority group.
In the case of the Mole-Dagbani, history has it that, the Mossi, Dagomba, Mamprusi and the Nanumba are descendants of a common ancestor Gbewa or Bawa, believed to have come from Zamfara in Western Nigeria during the 15th century or earlier to the north or east of present-day Ghana. The descendants of Sitobu founded Dagbon, the capital of which is present day Yendi-Dabari. Mamprugu was founded by the descendants of Tohogu, and Nanun, present day Bimbilla by those of Ngmantambu.
In trying to annex territories westwards, the Dagbon Empire came into war with Gonja Empire. The Gonja defeated Dagbon, under Na Daariziogo and compelled them to resettle at present-day Yendi, which was then a Konkomba town called Chare. Dagombas met Konkombas in Yendi as the original inhabitants (Ladouceur, 1979:30) and these two ethnic groups have co-existed in this area through interesting partitioning. Notice again the creping element of culture in the pending conflict. Cultural arrangements make it difficult to clearly envisage the causes of the conflict because the two groups in question have supposedly co-existed in a peaceful setting for generations as hear-now recounted. However here is the warning, the two ethnic groups did not and still never wholly mix their built structures. Even in settlements where both ethnic groups are found together, there are clear spatial demarcations and vast belts of unoccupied spaces separating them (Tait, 1961:6). Except in few cases where individual feuds could scale-up to assume tribal confrontations, both tribes co-existed peacefully and respected each other’s traditional values. The Kusasi, B’Moba and the Tallensi became neighbours of the Mamprusi group when the descendants of Sitobo moved northeast wards to found the Mamprugu state at Nalerigu and Gambaga. They sought to claim ownership of the area from Nakpanduri as far as Tumu. South Mamprusi (East Nakpanduri) then inhabited by the B’Moba and other ethnic groups was said to have been conquered by Mamprusi. What gives credence to this story is that, the chiefs of the B’Moba are installed by the Nayiri (Mamprusi paramount) after nomination by the B’Moba. However, this claim is still unsubstantiated as it is believed that the B’Moba could have been compelled by the colonial government at some point in time to honor their allegiance to the Mamprusi. The Mamprusi also sought to lay claim on the Frafra and Kusasi but this has been very controversial. A study by Fortes shows that the Tallensi society to the north of Mamprugu is of two cluster clans, the Namoo clans and that of Tali. The latter referred to as the ‘real’ Tallensi, see themselves as the original settlers of the area, whiles the Namoos are said to be, the descendants of immigrant Mamprusi who fled from Mamprugu many generations ago.
Hence they claim remote kinship to the ruling aristocracy of Mamprugu. Their chiefship is derived from that of the Paramount Chief of the Mamprugu, and this is the ultimate sanction of its politico-religious status in Tale society (Ladouceur, 1979:31).
The Talis, on the other hand, were organised under clan heads and Tendaanas. Several Namoo chiefs sprang up as new villages were founded, but there was no over-riding political authority. The histories of the chiefly clans of the Gurensi and the Nabdam also include traditions of migration from Mamprugu. The housing units patterns in Kusasi are somewhat similar. There were a number of Mamprusi settlements among the Kusasi, but unlike the Namoos in Tali, these Mamprusi settlers are comparatively of recent origin and remained a distinct social group. Traditionally, five of the Mamprusi chiefs in Kusasi were installed directly by the paramount chief of Mamprusi. The main function of these chiefs was to keep open the trade route between Nalerigu, Mamprusi capital and Tenkudougou in Burkina Faso, and also to provide escort for traders and slaves from the north. The Kusasis had no chiefs but rather Tendaanas. For this reason, when the British arrived and needed chiefs for purposes of indirect rule, the five Mamprusi chiefs were useful and had their authority extended, thus strengthening the power of Mamprusi under the British rule.
In Kusasi localities, some Tendaanas were made de-facto chiefs by adding secular functions to their religious powers. This institution of Kusasi eventually evolved into a system of eighteen local chiefs whose territories were known as cantons (Ladouceur, 1979:31).
The Gonja Kingdom on the other hand was founded in the early sixteenth century by a group of Mande/Dyula warriors said to have migrated from Mali and settled at Yagbum near Bole.
From this place, they are said to have conquered the surrounding indigenous people. In the first part of the seventeenth century, under their King Jakpa Lanta, the Kingdom expanded to encompass the areas between the Black Volta and the River Oti, where they came into contact with the Dagomba. Jakpa is said to have put the conquered districts under his sons and relations who numbered about fifteen by the nineteenth century. These invaders became a ruling class known as the Gbanya, and had under them the conquered and integrated subjects known as Nyamesis. Although a considerable measure of unity existed in Gonja on the basis of intermarriage and co-residence, and some aspects of Gonja culture, not all groups within the Gonja Kingdom were assimilated (Ladouceur, 1979:31) Groups within this kingdom are the Vagala, Tampolense, Nchumuru and Nawuri. The Paramount chief of the Gonjas known as the Yagbumwura resides in Damongo the capital town of the Gonja Kingdom.
A variant version of the Gonja history reports of the Gonja claiming to have migrated from Mande with the Nawuris and Nchumurus, their subjects (Brukum, 1999:12). Thus after conquering what is now East Gonja, they settled the Nawuris and Nchumurus on the conquered lands under Gonja chiefs. Coincidentally, all Nawuri villages have Gonjas as chiefs and Kanankulaiwura, one of the senior Gonja sub-chiefs resides in Kpandai (Fig.1), the largest Nawuri town.
A critical analysis of history seems to point to indirect rule as the source of Gonja authority over some Nawuris and Nchumurus. These tribes have therefore been looked to be landless leading to a rebellion in 1935 and 1991 conflicts between Nawuris and Gonjas in Kpandai.
The Wala is the other major Mole-Dagbani ethnic group and they occupy the northwest of Northern Ghana. The only area, which was organised along the lines of a state in pre-colonial times, was Wa, the capital town of the Wala people. The Wala are believed to have descended from the Dagomba and Mamprusi cavalrymen who migrated westward in the seventeenth century, but the formal links between Wa (Fig.1) and the other two kingdoms (Dagomba and Mamprusi) have severed over time. Before the British occupation of the area (late 19th century), Wa was an important trading town with a large Muslim community, which was a centre of Islamic learning. Wa was and is still surrounded by stateless peoples, primarily the Dagarti and the Sissala. During the British rule, the Wa-Na was made paramount chief over a large number of these stateless groups.
Stateless peoples, Kassena/Nankani around Navrongo, Sissala at Tumu, Dagarti, Lobi and Sissala in Lawra, inhabit the remaining districts in the north. The British created chiefs for all these groups, although the origins, traditional status and personal authority of these chiefs varied enormously. Certainly, none could claim paramount status over other districts, and the British found it expedient to organise these districts on the basis of federations of relatively minor and autonomous chiefs for political and administrative convenience. The nature of traditional authority in the various society-states of Northern Ghana and their significance in the pre-colonial period are important for the understanding of changes introduced during the colonial period, the political alliances, rivalries, and disputes at the local levels, traditional institutions, and relations between groups.
With all the nemesis so far recounted present in the northern Ghana, it becomes unavoidable to say that culture plays a critical role in the lives of the people of northern Ghana and many other parts of the country as one decision on one side ultimately affects social or tribal setting of the other party. And this fact in essence touches largely on succession, and when the question of which among these same-culture oriented groupings has the rightful legitimacy to appoint an heir to the throne as a successor, a carefully crafted procedure is crafted to that effect. However, in the scenario where this generationally kept procedure is twisted to suit one group within the same social setting, conflict becomes the ensuing consequence, to which the corresponding casualties can be un-measurable. The feuding part sees conflict as the only option through which they could convey their grievances especially when all attempts to dialogue has fallen and the group feel cheated.
In conclusion, clearly the major problem in the Dagbon conflict and the subsequent killing of the Ya-Naa is a case of succession and land or better still which group of the Abudu and Andani Gates has the better stake in the issue of appointing a successor to the Dagbon throne, which has its roots in the generational germ of culture. It certainly takes a longer timeframe to germinate or erupt as far as human emotions and sentiments are concerned. On the contrary however and as a rule for the sake of stability, which is essential for nation building and peaceful co-existence between all people at all levels, for any country to make a meaningful progress towards development, peaceful co-existence is one of the cardinal ingredients for the attainment of such an objective. Surprisingly, the three northern regions are the most deprived in terms of social infrastructure, further worsening the disparities between the area and the southern part of the country. These stressing that those conflicts are not the rightful mechanism to resort to in events of perceived segregation. Ethnic tensions and political rivalry to some extent have been intentionally been devised by some groups to further deprive the people of northern Ghana, in our case Dagbon, of the benefits outlined in government policies and programmes. In the event of conflict, we should resolve to remain to dialogue table until a solution is found instead of maiming limbs and cutting heads.
Steaming from the above, it is very clear that conflict and conflict resolution are integral parts of Social organization, modern or traditional. While modern societies resort to the usual system for Conflict resolution with fines, in terms of award of costs and incarceration as may be determined by the nature of the conflict, traditional societies rely largely on arbitration which aims at reconciling parties to the conflict in resolving the differences. This avoids the “winner takes all” concept which the usual system (the law courts) provides.
It needs also equally be said that the items used and the mode of resolving the conflict varies from culture to culture and society to society, and the issue around which the conflict revolves.
In addition to the arbitration system, trial by ordeal also forms the Ricans of resolving conflicts in most African societies and the societies of Northern Ghana are no exceptions.
Among the Gonjas, a conflict situation arising from adultery is resolved by adulterous man paying a specified number of cows to pacisify the man whose wife he has slept with. It may range from two to three cows depending on the social status of the aggrieved man. Additionally, the chiefs and the elders who determined the case are also pacified with a pot of pito, seven fowls, a ram and a token fee of two shillings, five pence in the colonial era (an equivalent of almost GHC 25.00.)
Another striking example among the Kussassis also of northern Ghana is where trial by ordeal is used as a means of resolving land conflict. When a land dispute is reported to the chiefs, a day is set for the settlement, each claimant or family states his or her side of the case. Witnesses are called to testify. As farming communities, land is at the heart of issues and plays a central role in the organization of the communities. As such, cases or conflict conflicts involving land are handled in very prudent manner.
After the parties with their witnesses have stated their cases, a selected team made up of men with upright integrity and who are neutral in the conflict are asked to visit the site or land of desputed area. They examine the boundaries, looking out for evidences in terms of what the parties and their witnesses have stated at the time of the hearing. On their return they present their observations and findings to the council elders and the chief.
Since it is land conflict, the Tendanaa, who is the spiritual head of the community, plays a major and a crucial role in its determination.
One major assignment of the team that visited the disputed parcel of land is to collect a sample of soil from the disputed land. Out of this soil, the Tendanaa prepares a concoction with certain sacred herbs and items not disclosed to anybody outside the circle of the office of the land priest. This concoction is presented to the two parties in the conflict to drink. All the community members are aware of the repercussion, which dealt with the party laying false claims over the land.
This system has helped reduced land disputes to the barest minimum in the Kussassi tribe. Since its institution, all parties knowing fully the outcome of a false claim, this method has been involved only on three occasions. The first was in 1908 and the second 1942. On the third occasion in 1962, the lying parties retreated and were saved from eminent death.
Our submission here is that regardless of how western cultures and societies may view and evaluate African societies and their cultures, there are time tested good aspects. What is needed is to study and document these cultures and determine which could be relevant to present modern social organizations.
A wholesale condemnation only amount to throwing the baby and the bath water away. It is society which is the ultimate looser in that case.
Attempts at resolving conflicts related to the Yendi dispute date back to the pre-colonial era.
The most prominent that is recounted by drum history relates to the dispute that arose following the death of Ya Na Gungobli in the late seventeenth century (Ferguson et al. 1970). There were numerous aspirants to the office, and the decision was taken to consult the Nayiri, the King of the sister state of Mampurugu. The Nayiri had the contestants recite their drum names and chose the youngest, Zangina, as the new Ya Na. To limit the number of candidates who might henceforth present themselves for election, the Nayiri selected three communities whose chiefs could be become Ya Na, Karaga, Savulugu and Mion. The Nayiri’s ruling may be seen as introducing a promotional principle into the Yendi succession. This was in conformity with the older rule of Dagbamba succession that no son should rise above his father, implying that only sons of previous Kings might attain that office.
In 1930, the British Administration attempted to codify the Constitution of Dagbon with a view, among other things, to eliminating succession disputes. At the end of deliberations, the chiefs of Dagbon agreed that a Ya Na would always be chosen from one of the three divisional chieftaincies designated in the Nayiri’s seventeenth-century settlement. Yet conflict of greater or lesser magnitude continued to occur whenever the office of Ya Na became vacant. In the post-independence era, several attempts were made to find a permanent solution. Following moves to deskin Ya Na Abudulai III, the CPP government set up the S. D. Opoku-Afari Commission to inquire into the deskinment charges. Even though the Commission report was not made public, it is generally known that the commission found that the installation of Ya Na Abudulai III was indeed repugnant to Dagbon custom, and recommended that he should be de-skinned and the Mion Lana Andani put in his place. The CPP government, however, decided to allow him to serve his complete term and issued a Legislative Instrument (LI) 59 that spelled out a compromise solution. Essentially, the LI59 set out the rules of succession to the Yendi skin and recognized that succession should alternate between the two royal families, but since the Abudulai family had occupied the skin twice, the Andani family should also occupy it twice and thereafter the alternation would begin. Both families agreed to the new arrangements.
After the death of Ya Na Abudulai II, however, the LI59 was repealed and the dispute raged on until the Supreme Court gave a definitive ruling on the issue, confirming the alternation of succession between the two families. With the ruling, the rotational system of ascension to the status of Ya Na had been raised to the status of law. There was optimism that this had settled the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute once and for all, particularly since a new generation had emerged that did not identify with the emotions associated with the turmoil of the past. This optimism was short-lived. Fifteen months into the NPP administration, the Ya Na was murdered in a most gruesome manner that has set back any hopes for a solution to the conflict in the short term.
In case of this conflict, need to use both traditional ways and other conflict resolution methods.
Apart from the methods mentioned above, we can use mediation as a way to resolve the conflict. The conflicting party that is the Abdu gate in Yendi and Andani gate, can choose another cultural leader from other parts of Ghana to mediate in the conflict
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