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The Distortion of Ewe History

Mon, 12 Mar 2012 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

The Distortion of Ewe History: Akadu Mensema’s Futile Crusade

Let me begin this piece by questioning Akadu Mensema’s grammar skills. I find it very amusing that Akadu Mensema would imply that the expressions “zenith of inanity” and “lugubrious animosity” are inaccurate. Which institution awarded her a doctoral degree, if I may ask? I hope she stops embarrassing herself by attempting to correct my grammar! Better still, Mensema can ask her “mentor” who wrote the two pieces on her behalf to go take some grammar lessons himself! After all, we are not dealing with doggerels here!

Notwithstanding the information in my introductory paragraph, the real reason for this piece is to take apart – piece by piece – Mensema’s deceitful and depreciatory statements about the Ewes’ yeoman contributions to Ghana’s development – then and now. Akadu Mensema would inundate us with a mother lode of inaccuracies about the history of the Ewe people, but I am here to set the record straight. I do not have the time to deal with all of Mensema’s sickening distortions of Ewe history, so I will tackle the most blatant ones.

Interestingly, we are seeing the beginning of a “truth and clarification” dialogue, which will help us correct all the misinformation and falsehood that Mensema and her ilk have purveyed about Ewes on Ghanaweb.com the last few months. On the one hand, we have Mensema whose ethnocentric writings had offended an entire group; on the other hand, we have Mensema’s epigones who had come here to express both implicit and explicit support for her ethnocentric propensities and depravity of spirit. Slowly, we are getting to know the “closet” haters of Ewes. Oh, before I forget, Mensema’s new tactic is to refer to Ewes as purveyors of “victimhood,” which is no less derogatory than some of her brazen name-calling. Mensema would, naturally, go on the defensive when challenged by right-thinking people, for in this termagant’s view, she can do no wrong. Well, no matter how much one tries, it is impossible for a succubus to transform itself into a seraphim!

Akadu Mensema does not exist. Akadu Mensema is a pseudonym, the false identity of a scoundrel. It is easy for a phantom to saunter into a tunnel of anonymity, which cyberspace conveniently offers, to espouse hatred – with few ramifications. Certainly, Mensema is a COWARD, for only a COWARD employs a pseudonym to spearhead a crusade of disparagement against an entire group. If this termagant – oops, phantom – believes that it is okay to refer to a whole tribe as having a “herd mentality,” then she should not be surprised when people come out to denounce her shamelessness. Instead of apologizing for her appalling name-calling, she gets someone to pen two articles on her behalf – each revisionist at best, each received with applause by the enemies of Ewes, each proclaimed by Ewe-hating commentators as the next great wonder of the world – to try to absolve herself of any responsibility. Wow!

Akadu Mensema writes: “Daniel eagerly wants to nail and add the civil service to the oft-mentioned superior achievements of Ewes, but his training in the historian’s craft is woefully inadequate. The historical record, both written and oral history, shows that during the late colonial and early postcolonial periods the civil service was predominantly officered by two regional groups: Gas, Akuapems, Krobos and Akyem Abuakwa (Kyebi/Kibi royal stock) in the east; and Fantes and Winnebas (Guans) in the west.”

What Mensema has done here is an attempt to delegitimize Ewes’ role in the nation’s civil service both in the colonial and post-colonial periods. Indeed, it is rather Akadu Mensema’s training in the historian’s craft that is woefully inadequate, and therefore she needs such training. Nowhere in her writings does Mensema mention the fact that about half of the Ewe-Ghanaian populations were also the original inhabitants of the Gold Coast Colony and, therefore, were Gold Coasters. Had she done that her readers would have seen that the Ewes also have been making major contributions to Ghana’s development, especially in the civil service, in education, the military, the police, the prison service and the judiciary since the colonial period. By the way, what historical record is Akadu Mensema referring to?

One of Akadu Mensema’s gross distortions is the argument that Ewe history in Ghana really began in 1916 and/or during the 1956 plebiscite! It is quite strange that someone who purports to know Ghana’s history and accuses me of writing revisionist history would end up falsifying ineffaceable historical facts in order to garner adulation. Ewe history, like other Ghanaian groups’ histories, is sacrosanct – Akadu Mensema and her ilk cannot erase it with their premeditated distortions. We shall denounce every lie and counter every misinformation that we find on this Web site until the compulsive distortions come to an end!

Akadu Mensema writes: “Of course in what it is [sic] today Eweland in Ghana, for example, the Bremen Mission began to work there in the late 1840s, while the Catholic Mission arrived in the 1860s, but their educational influences did not wholly impact the Gold Coast until 1916 when German Togoland was carved into French and British influences, and more so in 1922 when British Togoland was placed under formal British rule. Finally the referendum of 1956 allowed for the incorporation of British Togoland (Ewes) into the Gold Coast.”

The Catholics did not return to Ghana until 1880, but, more importantly, what Akadu Mensema has done here is precisely what European writers – British, Germans and Americans – did, vigorously propagating false and damaging ideas about Africans during the colonial period. According to these writers, Africans had no history and culture and were incapable of conceiving the idea of God. In addition, they claimed that Africans had made absolutely no contributions to human civilization – contrary to all the available historical records that proved that many elements of science and mathematics were invented by black Africans! (See the works of Cheikh Anta Diop for a better understanding of the role of Blacks in human civilization.) All these false ideas by non-Africans gained currency well into the first half of the twentieth century.

Indeed, as I read Mensema’s quotation above, I came to the conclusion that Akadu Mensema willfully chose to delegitimize Ewes’ critical role in the educational growth of Ghanaians. I ask: When Akadu Mensema sees Ewe history in Ghana as having begun only in 1916 or from the 1956 plebiscite, what does she do with the about 50% of the Ewe population that constituted the Ewe sub-groups of Anlos, Someans, Avenors, Tonus, Awudomeans, Petsris, all of whom occupied the large territory from the coast and stretched all the way to the central Eweland of Peki and beyond and formed part and parcel of the Gold Coast Colony and were, therefore, Gold Coasters before the British formally created it in 1876 – unlike the inhabitants of the Northern Territories and Asante (including the Brongs), who were annexed to the Gold Coast as late as 1896 and 1902 following the Yaa Asantewaa War, respectively?

And remember that the Ewes had been colonized long before the Gold Coast Colony was formally created. Here are the details: When Bremen missionaries arrived at Peki from Christiansborg in November 1847 to commence mission work there, they came under Danish protection. However, Togbe Kodzo Dei III, King of Peki, signed a treaty pledging a further allegiance to the British Crown in 1858. This was after the Danes had sold and transferred all their possessions, including the Christiansborg Castle, to the British in 1850. Owing to the unstable political situation affecting Peki, the missionaries moved to Keta in September 1853, where British influence had been extended. The missionaries therefore came under British protection. In the interim, Britain had declared the entire Anlo country its territory, thus expanding beyond the coastal strip. Thus, by colonizing Anlo, in addition to the Peki region, the British now controlled a large section of Eweland and its people, who formed part of the Gold Coast Colony. As a result, the Ewes were represented on the Gold Coast Legislative Council prior to Ghana’s independence.

The Ewes were also major players in the colonial civil service, the military, the police, the prison service and the judiciary. On this score, Mensema should be informed that the first female lawyer in Ghana was an Ewe, the late Justice Annie Jiagge, who was ultimately elevated to Ghana’s Supreme Court. Her father was the late Reverend Robert D. Baeta of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and her brother the late Rev. Professor Christian G. Baeta, the first African head of the Department of Religions and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana. Similarly, the first and only African soldier in the colonial military who rose to the rank of an officer was another Ewe man, the late Major Anthony, who later served as Ghana’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom after his retirement from the armed forces. In those days, it was almost anathema for a black man to be made an officer in the colonial army, which was considered a “European position.” Major Anthony’s exploits in Burma (now Myanmar) and India during World War II were specifically cited. It was said, for example, that not a single soldier under his command was lost during the war. Anthony was highly regarded by his British superiors. (For more on the British colonization of Eweland, see the 1969 release of C. W. Welman’s book, “The Native States of the Gold Coast: History and Constitution.”)

From the brief picture presented above, one should remember, contrary to what Akadu Mensema and her ilk would have their readers believe, that part of Eweland has always been part of the Gold Coast and, therefore, the Ewes were/are not strangers in Ghana. To recap, the Gold Coast Colony (in Eweland) incorporated a large stretch of land, beginning from the Anlo territory, weaving through Sokode Bagble (about 8 miles from Ho) and heading towards the Ivorian border via Awudome Anyinawase and Awudome Tsito, Juapong, and Accra. Peki and its environs, located north-west of the Awudome towns of Anyinawase and Tsito, were also incorporated into the Gold Coast Colony. If Akadu Mensema really knows Ghana’s history, she would acknowledge that these Ewe people are also true Ghanaians.

Let me further educate Akadu Mensema on part of the history of the Volta Region. Fully adorned in the habiliments of ethnocentrism, Akadu Mensema grossly distorts Ewe history: “Finally the referendum of 1956 allowed for the incorporation of British Togoland (Ewes) into the Gold Coast, and by that date the Gas, Krobos, Akuapems, Akyems, Winnebas, Fantes had already crested on and cusped education as they do today.”

In the first place, to equate British Togolanders with Ewes only is absolutely false. It is flawed history, Akadu Mensema! British Togoland was populated by diverse ethnic groups, including Akans, Buems, Santrokofis, Akpafus, Logbas, Avatimeans, Lolobis, Likpeans; and those in the north, including the Bimobas, Chekosis, Konkombas, Nanumbas, Nawuris, Kusasis, Busangas, Mosis, Dagombas, and Gonjas; and about the other 50% of the Ghanaian-Ewe population. Now let me ask: Akadu Mensema vehemently denies that she hates Ewes, but when she sees only Ewes as the inhabitants of British Togoland and excludes all the other ethnic groups that were also British Togolanders, is that not ethnocentrism directed at Ewes?

What is today’s Volta Region, which was created after Ghana’s independence, is quite different from the former British Togoland. The present-day Volta Region, which was initially named Trans-Volta Togoland (TVT), stretches all the way from the coast slightly up to north of Kete Krachi and incorporates almost all the Ewe subgroups within the former Gold Coast colony – videlicet, the Anlos, the Someans, the Avenors, the Tonus, the Awudomeans and the Petsris and their environs. At the same time, when the region was renamed Volta Region, it abandoned a large territory, that is, the part of the former British Togoland that stretched all the way from Kete Krachi to the Burkina Faso border. This abandoned territory in the north was then incorporated into the Northern Region, and later the Upper East Region. Now, I ask: If this is the historical fact, as indeed it is, what logic does Akadu Mensema apply to conclude that Ewes are foreigners? Of all the numerous ethnic groups listed above who were also British Togolanders, why are the Ewes singled out? Since the Akans, Buems, Santrokofis, Akpafus, Logbas, Avatimeans, Lolobis, Likpeans, Bimobas, Chekosis, Konkombas, Nanumbas, Nawuris, Kusasis, Busangas, Mosis, Dagombas, Gonjas and Krachis were all British Togolanders, just like the Ewes, why has no one ever called them non-Ghanaians?

Akadu Mensema writes: “I show in this final installment that the genealogies of our formative and eventual fruitful histories of education, civil service, etc. have more to recommend Gas, Akuapems, Fantes, Winnebas (Guans), Akyems, Krobos, and Kwahus for their longer sustained meritorious contributions than those of Ewes that are located in our recent traumatic post-colonial history. The contributions of Ewes, originating from 1916 and 1922 colonial re/affiliations with Britain, may be fully traced to the aftermath of the 1956 referendum that made British Togoland (Ewes) a part of the Gold Coast.”

Certainly, Akadu Mensema’s narrative is the epitome of mendacity, and only those who do not know Ghana’s history would be fooled, especially in regards to those aspects dealing with Ewes’ contributions to education, the civil service, the military, the police, the prison service, and the judiciary. In all these institutions, Ewes made major contributions during both the colonial and post-colonial periods. It is a total lie that the Ewes’ contributions originated only from 1916 or 1956, or that a large number of the Ewes found a niche in the civil service only “during the PNDC years of terror” in the late 1970s.

The historical fact is that where recruitment into the civil service, the military, the prison service, and the educational institutions was based strictly on merit – the norm was via a standardized test – Ewes continually dominated. Therefore, at any given time, there were large numbers of Ewes in these institutions. This was the practice – recruitment by merit only – that was put in place by the British, who did not take into account the question of ethnicity when recruiting until during the post-colonial period when the Acheampong-led military leadership abolished the policy and replaced it with a quota system in the early 1970s. In other words, recruitment into the military was, from the early 1970s, based on the numerical strength of each ethnic group, rather than on how well each individual performed on the standardized test. The change was effected by Kutu Acheampong because of the fact that Ewes were always disproportionately represented using the merit system already in place. This phenomenon of superior Ewe achievement applied not only to the military, but also to the educational institutions, the police, the prison service, the civil service, and the judiciary.

Today, Akadu Mensema conveniently ridicules Ewes’ superior attainments and then mendaciously claims that the Ewes were incorporated into Ghana only after the 1956 plebiscite. However, others also have documented Ewes’ superior performance on standardized tests. For example, the Rev. Dr. Eugene Grau of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (now United Church of Christ) in the U.S.A., who once served as a missionary in Ghana for 28 years, testified about one such Ewe performance at Akropong: “The three highest of all the applicants taking the entrance examination for the Akropong [Teacher Training College] were Ewes, and 15 out of 16 Ewes had been accepted for study in 1926. In addition, all the German-trained teachers of the Ewe Church who took the Government exams for qualification passed. (See “The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Ghana and Togo) 1914-1946: A Study in European Mission Relations Affecting the Beginning of an Indigenous Church, Ph.D. Thesis, Hartford Seminary Foundation, Hartford, Connecticut, 1964.”) Similar statements are often made about Ewes by both non-Ewe-Ghanaians and expatriates who served in Ghana. Akadu Mensema may resent it, but that is the historical fact. At best, she can distort the truth; at worst, she can outrightly lie about it.

Mensema writes: “Thus, I would not be afraid to ask on Ghanaweb why the Mills regime is made up of more Ewes than any other group. Now if you call this purveying anti-Ewerism on Ghanaweb then so be it. I am a realist, a pragmatic nationalist, and a bold Denkyiran who was taught to speak truth to power. I can live with that falsified tag of anti-Ewerism, however, manufactured.”

Mensema’s attitude here is appalling – simply appalling! She seems to be driven by pure emotion, which is firmly rooted in ethnocentrism. The result is that she is acting like a semi-literate person, not as a member of the literati. A good college professor would provide statistical evidence to back her claim that, indeed, there are more Ewes in the Mills administration than any other ethnic group. Is Mensema aware of the fact that during the Kufuor administration it became common knowledge that Ewes and those bearing Ewe-sounding names were rarely listed and invited for interviews for senior civil-service positions, and that this fact was posted on Ghanaweb.com? And is Mensema also aware of the fact that Mr. Kufuor’s response, when he was asked to justify the reason, was that Asantes overwhelmingly voted for him and that was why they dominated his administration?

Mensema writes: “Thus, in Asante, Brong Ahafo, Volta, and the ‘North’, it was Akuapem, Krobo, and Ga teachers who ferried education, first to Akyem and Kwahu, and later joined by the trained Akyem and Kwahu teachers, carried the seeds of education to the further reaches of what is today Ghana. Here again, we are not dismissing Ewes as agents of education, but the sum total of the historical credit should go to Gas, Akuapems, Akyems, Kwahus, Krobos, Winnebas (Guans), and Fantes who were in the Gold Coast before the incorporation of Ewes along the timelines of 1916, 1922, and 1956 stressed below.”

Once again, Mensema is lying about the Ewes’ educational enterprise in the Gold Coast and Ghana. One would suppose that when Mensema accused me of writing revisionist history, she would undertake serious research and write accurately – but what she has written here is fraught with factual errors. Because of her aforementioned claim, I challenge Mensema to identify by name at least one Akuapem, one Krobo, and one Ga teacher who took education to Eweland in the Volta Region! Mensema should also identify some of the names of the villages and towns in the Volta Region where the Akuapem, Krobo, and Ga teachers practiced their trade. I can assure her that with the exception of the Akan-speaking areas of the northern Volta Region, that is, Worawora, Kadjebi, Akposokubi, et cetera, where the Basel Mission (later Presbyterian Church of Ghana) operated but transferred its station to the Bremen Mission (later Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana) in the early 1900s, no non-Ewe teachers ever operated in Eweland, except the few who did their national service there following the completion of their university studies.

Since Mensema has made reference to the 1956 British Togoland plebiscite, let me educate her on an important historical fact. Because the leadership of the British Togoland Ewes had agitated for Ewe unification, meaning that they wanted to unite with the Gold Coast Ewes (and ultimately with Togolese Ewes) to found a new country, Kwame Nkrumah and his Convention People’s Party (CPP) would vigorously campaign against this unification plan, calling for a “Yes” vote, in the process. In other words, Nkrumah and his party wanted both the Gold Coast Ewes and the British Togoland Ewes to remain and unite with the Gold Coast. The truth is that Nkrumah had been a class- and school-mate of some of those Ewes and recognized their capabilities. Indeed, some of them, like Messrs. Komla Gbedema, served as ministers or deputy-ministers in the Nkrumah administration, while others served in the civil service. Because Nkrumah did not want the Ewes to break away from the Gold Coast with their collective talent, he did everything in his power to ensure that the “No” proposition of the plebiscite that called for Ewe unification was, through dubious means, defeated.

Some may whimper today that it was Nkrumah’s fault that Ewes did not secede in 1956, but could they possibly imagine what, perhaps, our nation-state would have become had all that talent gone elsewhere? The past, like a trail of vapor, cannot be brought back – yet it gives us the assurance that we can move forward without any regrets. I pause to sternutate, folks, even as I clear my nasal passage of the enemies of Ewes!

My gratitude goes to Dr. Kofi Asimpi, a professor of African religion and history, for his guidance and assistance.

© The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is pursuing a doctoral degree in Criminology, Law & Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the same university. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He teaches his first university class at George Mason University this summer. He can be followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. He invites the reader to join the pressure group “Good Governance in Ghana” on Facebook.com, which he superintends.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.