Togbe Afede spoke the truth

Tue, 28 Apr 2009 Source: Mawunyo, Kobla

In recent days, Togbe Afede, the Agbogbomefia of the Asogli Traditional area has come under a barrage of criticism from leading members of the NPP for saying at a durbar of chiefs organised by the people of the Volta Region for President Atta Mills in Ho during the President’s recent tour of the region that Voltarians “were made to feel like outsiders" by the previous government. Many have interpreted Togbe’s remarks as ethnocentric and divisive. But what Togbe Afede said was the truth and represents the feelings of the vast majority of Ewes.

Under the NPP, Ewes were scapegoated and viewed suspiciously, even NPP members. We were all branded either as supporters of Rawlings or “inward-looking,” as Victor Owusu described. Possessing an Ewe name in Kufuor’s Ghana was a burden. It was like being afflicted with a disease. You had to constantly explain yourself; show that you were not a threat to the peace. All Ewes were seen as culpable in the human rights abuses of the PNDC era. We were all to blame for the sins of Amedeka and Tekpor. You had the Regional Minister, Dzameshie-an Ewe and an acquaintance of the president-insulting Ewes on a regular basis. You had Elizabeth Ohene-also an Ewe (I used to respect her as a journalist) telling Ewes to stop singing what she derisively called poverty songs at functions because ,according to her,it promoted a sense of misery and didn’t lead to the desire to be rich. All these met with deafening silence from President Kufuor.

Under Kufuor, this type of Anti-Ewe sentiment spread like wildfire. Most of the Ewe-hating articles on Ghanaweb are reflective of that sentiment. But it was more widespread. It was evident in all sectors of national life. Scores of people with Ewe sounding names in the high echelons of the civil service and in other national institutions were marginalized and asked to proceed on leave just because they happened to be Ewe. It was so blatant that it made Ewes like me who supported Kufuor in 2000, sad. President Kufuor often spoke movingly about the concept of fellow-feeling but hardly practiced it with Ewes.

I don’t know if the President was aware of all that was happening under his watch, but they happened. Anyone who denies this is not being truthful. President Kufuor is partly to blame for the Ewe/Asante divide. Some people accuse Rawlings of fueling the divide during the PNDC days but Kufuor deepened it.

Togbe Afede did not say that under NPP, there was no development in the Volta Region. That would have been absurd. What he said was that “we were made to feel like outsiders.” I don’t think that’s a tribal statement. If you ignore and dismiss the legitimate concerns of a people for a while-which NPP did-what you end up doing is engendering a sense that they do not belong. That you do not care. This is not the first time Togbe Afede has spoken about this. During the last Yam festival which was attended by Former Vice-President Alhaji Aliu Mahama and the Okyehene, Togbe Afede spoke out publicly about this.

For many years, Ewe chiefs tried unsuccessfully to have audience with President Kufuor to no avail (I’m not sure if he finally met them. he might have). But it became so embarrassing that Togbe Afede had to talk about it openly. But President Kufuor hardly waited a second when Manhyia came calling. Why did Kufuor for instance refuse to institute a Commission of inquiry to investigate the murders in Anlo, after repeated calls from prominent citizens of Anlo? And you want the people to feel that you care? Would what happened to Togbe Afede in China have happened to the Asantehene-assuming Asantehene’s handlers had made the same mistakes that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs release noted that Togbe’s handlers made? How come no other Officer from the Embassy attended Togbe’s function? Is the Ambassador the only Officer at the Embassy? How about the Deputy Ambassador, the Head of Chancery, and other senior Officers? What precluded the Mission in China from sending an Officer to represent it at Togbe’s function? These are legitimate questions. We can’t brush them aside.

Togbe Afede’s statement captures the feelings of many Ewes about Kufuor’s regime, even Ewes who supported the NPP in 2000. NPP made us feel we did not belong in Ghana. The rise of secessionist sentiments-something we hadn’t heard in Ghana for a generation-in the latter part of Kufuor’s tenure in parts of the Volta Region was a testament to this feeling of alienation.

I didn’t really consider this Anti-Ewe thing serious until one day a fellow Ghanaian told my girlfriend who is not Ghanaian that all Ewes were evil and murderers. Of course anyone could have said that. But it hurt when she told me who did and where that person said he hailed from. This is where we are as a nation.

Kobla Mawunyo.

Columnist: Mawunyo, Kobla