The Dagbon Clashes: Ghana's Worst Nightmare
It was just another day - a dull Monday morning on March 25th 2002. JOY news reporters had been assigned as usual to their scheduled programs to scrounge for news, and they slouched off with little hope of excitement from their news beats. But the dullness was only momentary.
How It Began
The phones begun to ring incessantly as call after call came in from Yendi in the Northern region.
The first call was almost ignored. But the phones kept ringing with calls from Yendi and Tamale. The callers were frantic and frightened and literally screamed the alert while bullets wheezed past them.
The message was terse and simple- fighting had erupted between the Abudu and Andani royal families.
In our quest to establish the veracity of the numerous calls we phoned the Gbewaa palace to find out what was happening. The Secretary to the Ya Naa, Tumu La Na told a story of how the conflict started.
According to him, the Ya Na sent an emissary to call one of his elders. On his way back from the errand, opponents of the Ya Na - the Abudus allegedly attacked him and beat him up mercilessly. This infuriated the Ya Na and his people who also attacked the Abudus leading to a free for all fight.
At the time JOY FM spoke to the Ya Na?s secretary on Tuesday, fighting was still going on but the police were no where to be found.
JOY News attempts to reach the residence of the Bolin Lana for the Abudu side of the story proved futile. It later turned out that phone lines to Yendi were cut immediately after the interview from the Gbewaa palace.
Despite the warning signals, government officials still insisted and even broadcast on national radio that Yendi was calm. Not even alarm signals from the advisor of the Dagbon king pushed government officials to action.
Government rather accused JOY News of mischief. The flurry of activity that followed was to develop into concise reportage of the country?s worst chieftaincy feud in recent times. A bloody war that has cost Ghana at least 6 billion cedis so far and the life of the revered Overlord of Dagbon, Ya-Naa Yakubu Andani II.
Ya Na?s Death
Twenty-four hours after news of the fighting broke it was reported that the King of Dagbon had been murdered in the conflict. The aftermath was a flurry of outburst from both factions in the conflict with the Andani family emerging as the most outspoken side.
A state of emergency imposed on the area still remains and has since been extended six times. As part of the emergency measures government ordered that all reports from the Dagbon area to be cleared with the Information Ministry before publication. But this has largely been ignored.
Members of the Andani family raised several questions ranging from the security lapse and telecommunications failure and accused three government officials in charge of security of complacency.
Visibly hurt by the murder of the king, an Andani elder, Dr. Wayo Seini who broke the family?s silence after the death of the king broke down in tears twice during his address to the media. At the press conference, the Andanis wondered why government refused to heed to calls of the massacre at Yendi leading to the death of the Ya Na and demanded an explanation.
The Abudu faction remained quite but later broke its silence to stop what it described as the vilification of its sons in the government. The Abudu family also called a press conference where they insisted that the king died in a war and not through any orchestrated plan as alleged by the Andani family.
They alleged that the war had been planned by the late Ya Na. The Abudus argued that the Ya Na evacuated members of his family to Tamale before the war broke out, and wondered why he took that action if he had no ulterior motives.
The police administration initiated criminal investigations into the Yendi conflict. This investigation prompted the former Interior Minister, Alhaji Malik Alhassan to resign.
One of the major fallouts of the Yendi conflict was the accusation against key government officials including former Interior Minister Alhaji Malik Alhassan, National Security Advisor, General Joshua Hamidu, and Major Abubakar Sulemana of National Security Council.
Members of the Andani family accused the men of complicity in the conflict. Alhaji Malik Alhassan was the first causality of the conflict. The Minister who is himself an Abudu and MP for Yendi said he did not want to interfere with investigations.
He announced his resignation immediately the first investigation into the crisis begun. The National Security Advisor, General Joshua Hamidu also resigned but despite several calls on him to join the fray, Major Sulemana of national security apparatus refused to resign and remains at post to date.
The Government also set up a commission to investigate the clashes. The three-member commission headed by Justice I. N. K. Wuaku became known as the Wuaku Commission. It conducted its sittings in Sunyani and presented its report to government on November 7. A day after, two Abudus - Iddrisu Jahinfo and Yidana Sugri implicated in the murder of the Ya Na were arrested by members of the security agencies in Tamale and brought down to Accra. But their arrest was the beginning of another drama.
Their lawyer, Nana Obiri Boahen argued that his clients were being detained unlawfully and issued a three-day ultimatum to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to state the whereabouts of his clients.
The three days elapsed and no word came from the IGP. Nana Obiri Boahen therefore filed a writ at a Sunyani High Court against the IGP, the Director of Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), and the Brong Ahafo Regional Commander of Police. The court granted his application and summoned the three people before it. However it turned out that the Jahinfo and Sugri were arraigned before a competent court of law in Accra, which remanded them in custody. The case was therefore struck out.
On December 23, government issued a White Paper on the Wuaku Commission?s report. Thirty people were implicated in the clashes. They are to be arrested and prosecuted for various offences including murder, conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, arson and negligence.