Three polling station executives of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have reportedly been banished from Buru-Navio, a suburb of Paga in the Kassena-Nankana West District of the Upper East region, for taking part in the party’s recent parliamentary primary in the Chiana-Paga constituency.
The chief of the community, Pe Adams Kwarase, whose royal status is strongly being disputed by the Paga Traditional Council, is alleged to have issued strict warnings restraining the electorate in his community from participating in the election. The three executives got themselves involved in the electoral exercise and got slapped with immediate expulsion from the area for flouting the chief’s orders.
The banished men say they have been wandering within Paga, the district capital, to survive since their expulsion came into effect about three weeks ago. Having involuntarily left their families and belongings behind, their mobile phones and the same clothes they were wearing when they were asked to leave the community appear to be the only properties they now have.
“Before the primary, the chief called us and warned, saying he did not want anybody to go out and vote. About two days to the voting day, he called us again saying, ‘I want to remind you people, I don’t want anybody to vote’. The voting day came. We went out and voted. He called us again. He said, ‘I told you not to vote and you refused. Leave my community and don’t take anything along with you’. I have a farm. He told me to leave everything,” Mohammed Akwari, Chairman of the Tigakuri Polling Station, who has eight children with two wives, told Starr News at Paga.
Clement Abazang, the Chairman for the Tazika Polling Station, groaned at Paga: “I was on my farm when I heard that he had banished us from our community. I have two old women, a father, a wife and children. How can I run away with all these people? He said we as executives should have stopped people from voting and that we failed to ensure that his command was followed.”
Conflict between chiefs ‘triggered’ ejection
A longstanding conflict between the chief and the Paga Traditional Council has been cited as a remote cause behind the ejection of the three executives from the community.
The Paga Traditional Council, under whose jurisdiction Buru-Navio falls, does not recognise Pe Adams Kwarase as a traditional authority. The council took that stance against him about half a decade ago after he allegedly undermined the Paramount Chief of Paga, Pe Charles Awiah Awampaga II, openly and consistently so.
Soon after he was installed as chief in 2012, Pe Adams Kwarase reportedly sought to declare his chiefdom as a self-governing area from Paga and would not welcome advice from the paramount chief let alone to have the council control him. He also around that period allegedly pronounced his area as no longer part of the Kassena-Nankana West District but thenceforth a divisional domain under the Navrongo Traditional Area in the next-door Kassena-Nankana Municipality.
The council became even more disturbed over some harsh rules he was said to have put in place in the sub-territory. And when the council could not contain him any longer, it took a step to install another chief for the area. But he interrupted the process through a court injunction. And, whilst a case over the conflict is being heard up to the present moment at the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs, he still contentiously holds himself out as the chief of Buru-Navio.
The banished executives told Starr News they were expelled by the chief basically because he had warned the entire community not to engage in any civic business with the district and the constituency.
“He asked us as executives to spread the message that nobody should vote because we don’t belong to Chiana-Paga. The police met him on the matter and he told them he did not ask anybody not to vote. Later, we saw the Information Service van going round in our community, announcing to the people that nobody can stop another person from exercising his or her democratic rights. The following day, we also went out to cast our votes.
“Then, he called my [elder] brother to his house and [told] him to chase me out of the house and not allow me to go with anything except the clothing I was wearing. Earlier on, I told him that I also had the right to vote per the constitution of Ghana. He was expecting us as executives to chase people not to vote. I don’t have that power. I am not a police officer. There were police officers at the polling station during the primary,” Akedewo Danteri, a polling station organiser believed to be in his late sixties, narrated at Paga.
Going back home to die
The troubled executives say their expulsion has plunged them into the most difficult phase they have ever tasted in their entire lives.
Until the penalty hit them, the men relied on their farmlands in the community to cater for their families. Now, with their families still in the community and reportedly very depressed over the absence of their breadwinners, the banished men are roaming in Paga doing any casual labour they can find to support their homes from afar.
“The only luck on our side is that he asked us to leave Navio in the raining season. People are farming in Paga. So, we go round to see if people can engage us on their farms. At times, we help those who are building houses to lift blocks, fetch water or mix mortar. The little we get we send it to our families through anybody going to Navio from Paga,” Mr. Akwari said.
Living conditions have become unbearable for the affected families in the community, and the banished executives know about that because they are able to communicate with their respective families through mobile phones. And in what is a unanimous decision, the displaced executives say they are prepared to take the risk to go back home, even if their return would result in death.
“I have children. If I run away and anything happens to my family, it won’t be fair. I’m prepared to go back to my community. Let him (the chief) kill me with my family. Whatever will happen should happen. We know the chief. If he says he’s going to do this, he will do it. That is why we are reporting this to the media,” Mr. Danteri (the elderly polling station organiser) said as he came close to tears.
Chief denies allegations
When contacted, the chief countered the allegations, linking them to the conflict between him and the Paga Traditional Council.
“If you know the conflict between Navio and Paga, you should also know that people are underground doing their own work, claiming I have done what I didn’t do. It’s not true that I banished them. I did not banish anybody. As a leader in the community, I have [the] mandate to share ideas with them.
“In the first place, no candidate came to me that he [wanted] any vote. And if something is not going correct in my community, I have the right to sit down with my community as a leader and talk to them because they are voting for a purpose,” he retorted.
Meanwhile, police say they have received complaints from two people from the community claiming the chief has thrown them out of the area.
The Kassena-Nankana West District Police Commander, DSP Isaac Kojo Forson, told Starr News: “Actually, that’s the allegation they are making, and we are also investigating. At the end of the day we would know whether it’s true or not.”
But the police also have come under criticisms from residents of Paga for allegedly taking sides with the chief by not inviting him to the police station but rather going to his palace over the alleged banishment.
“We are doing our investigations. We are police. It doesn’t matter where we meet the chief and talk to him. Whether we invite him or meet him, it doesn’t matter. The fact is at the end of the day we have met the chief,” the commander stated.
Human rights lawyers condemn alleged banishment
It would be recalled that some three people, including an elderly man who identified himself as the regent who was in charge of the community before the chief took over in 2012, reportedly were banished in 2014 from the community by the chief.
The three men- Thomas Kwabena Tia (a pastor), Balagebakwa Aluah (a farmer) and Amangeyoro (the regent)- are facing lifetime eviction for associating themselves with Paga. Whilst Mr. Tia, a widower, is putting up with his children in an abandoned building at Paga, the grey-haired regent, together with his family, is taking shelter at his in-laws’ residence in the district capital.
“When we went to Chiana for a constituency election two years ago, this chief organised the youth to attack me in the night. I hid myself inside a millet farm to identify them. They spoilt my vehicle. They destroyed the house. I have one acre of rice and several animals. I ran and left everything. For two years now, I can’t go to Navio. This chief is just doing whatever he wants to do and nobody will cough. He’s even more than the government,” said Mr. Tia when Starr News met the first batch of the people allegedly ejected from the community two years ago.
Human rights lawyers have strongly condemned the alleged banishment and have asked the alleged victims to seek legal redress.
“Once I’m aware, I will tell the Navrongo Municipal Director of CHRAJ (Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice) to call the complainants and start investigating the matter immediately. The chief has no right to banish anybody. It’s a wrong practice. Sometimes, people play on others’ ignorance. If these people had known that it is wrong for them to be banished, the first batch wouldn’t have even run out of the village,” the Upper East Regional Director of CHRAJ, Abdulai Jaladeen, told Starr News.
So far, six men are said to have been expelled from the community, with some of them having moved to Paga with their families. And whilst it remains unclear as to whether there are more than just three men in the latest batch of those banished so far, some constituents have concluded that the chief’s alleged stance against the NDC’s recent primary in his area affected turnout and contributed to the defeat Abuga Pele, the Member of Parliament for Chiana-Paga, suffered for the first time since 1996 at the party’s primary.
Source: Ghana/starrfmonline.com/103.5FM/Edward Adeti