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General News Wed, 4 Apr 2001

Suspend Aboakyer Festival

.... Tufuhene, Asafo companies appeal

A SECTION of the people of Winneba, including the two asafo companies, have called on the government to place an indefinite ban on the celebration of the annual Aboakyer Festival, to ensure lasting peace, law and order in the town.

They maintained that the chieftaincy dispute in the town has polarised the town into warring factions to the extent that the festival, which has, since time immemorial, unified them now continues to be a source of division and tension among the people.

Consequently, they said, the imposition of an indefinite ban on the celebration until the law courts settle, once and for all, the issue of who is the rightful occupant of the Winneba stool would help restore sanity in the town as well as reunite the people.

Speaking at a news conference at Winneba, Nana Otubua Siripi II, Tufuhene, who acted as the spokesperson, said the celebration of the festival without the performance of rituals by a recognised chief constitutes a violation of the customs and traditions of the town and since there is no chief as such, all efforts must be made to prevent any “self-imposed person” from breaking the traditions of the land.

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According to him, if the celebration is allowed to go on, it would arouse the anger of the gods who would impose hardships, deaths and suffering on the mass of the people of Winneba.

He said the announcement by Neenyi Ghartey to the effect that plans are underway to celebrate this year’s Aboakyir is creating tension in the town and if care is not taken, there would be bloodshed and loss of lives, should the celebration be allowed to go on without the approval of the mass of the people.

Nana Siripi said “the Aboakyer Festival is a festival for the people of Effutu and not for a faction of the Asafo groups or any particular house or “prama”, neither is it for Otuano Tuafo splinter groups”.

He said the two Asafo companies, which are by tradition supposed to go for the catch, are unwilling to do so because they feel that there is no chief to step on the animal when caught.

“To avert any nasty and rebellious acts this time too, we have declared our intention not to celebrate the festival and have, in a letter to the Regional Minister, indicated our intention not to do so,” he said.

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Giving a brief background to why the people do not recognise Neenyi Ghartey as their legitimate chief, Nana Siripi said “the installation rituals of the said Nana Ghartey were not done at Ayensuano, the age old ritual sanctuary”.

He claimed that in 1996, Nana Ghartey swore the oath of allegiance to the head of Otuano, Kweku Kyikyibi Gyan, and his factional supporters in the presence of heavily-armed policemen. “In effect, the whole installation was with the force of arms and support of state security agencies under the pretext of restoring peace, protecting life and property”.

Nana Siripi said as much as the people recognise the pronouncement by the Central Regional Minister to the effect that only gazetted chiefs will be recognised by the government, they believe that Neenyi Ghartey is not one of them and the people will not recognise him as such.

It will be recalled that when the Central Regional Minister, Mr Isaac Edumadze, paid a courtesy call on Neenyi Ghartey at his palace last week, he said the government will only recognise gazetted chiefs and any factions which will seek to disrupt the peace of their community, particularly during festivals, will be dealt with by the security agencies.

Source: From Charles Benoni Okine, Winneba