Sefwi Peace Commission In Search Of Lasting Peace

My interest in Sefwi was first aroused by my good friend and senior professional colleague, Ambassador Kabral Blay-Amihere. Kabral a former envoy to Sierra-Leone and Cote d?ivoire spent his formative years in Sefwi-Bekwai.
He attended primary and middle school at the Sefwi-Bekwai Roman Catholic School, and it was from there that he gained admission to St. Augustine?s College in Cape-Coast. Typical of Kabral he told me lots of interesting stories about growing up in Sefwi. Since then I have been following the progress of Sefwi with keen interest.
Some of these narrations can be gleaned from his books ? ?Between the Lion and the Elephant ? Memoirs of an African Diplomat?; ?Tears of a Continent ? An American Diary? and ?Fighting for Freedom-the Autobiography of an African Journalist?; All of these books are very captivating reads. By dint of hard work Kabral has come a long way from his days in Sefwi and is today the Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC).
Perhaps a little background on Sefwi will help.
In the extreme north of the Western Region of Ghana are three traditional states collectively known as Sefwi. It is made up of three mutually independent paramountcies of Anhwiaso, Bekwai and Wiawso. It is bounded on the northeast by Ashanti (Asante), on the east by Denkyira and Wassa-Amanfi, on the south by Awowin and on the west by the Anyi-Baule of the Ivory Coast. It also shares a common boundary with Brong Ahafo In the north. All the three states share a common dialect Sefwi but almost all the people speak Twi (Akan).
In addition they have a common tutelar deity, Sobore, and a common annual yam festival ? the Allelolle. The above information is sourced from ?A History of Sefwi: A Survey of Oral Evidence?, written by Dr. K.Y. Daaku a former lecturer in the Department of History, Legon.
My first visit to Sefwi was sometime in January, 2010. It was to join my good friend and landlord, Mr. William Assuah to celebrate his investiture to Knighthood at the Anglican Diocese of Sefwi. Subsequently I have made four more visits to Sefwi, the last being about 6 months ago.
Following these visits, I have developed a deep fondness for Sefwi, its people and by extension its developmental agenda. My visits and networking has culminated in strong social, business and professional relationships with distinguished Sefwi citizens such as, the Assuah brothers- William and Francis, Rt. Rev. Abraham K. Ackah, the Anglican Bishop of Wiawso, Father Obiri of the same church, Father Nkuah-Boateng of the Sefwi-Wiawso Catholic parish, Dr. Kwaku Afriyie and Lawyer Kwesi Minta-Benyin amongst others.
During my most recent visit, I had the privilege of meeting some more distinguished sons of the land. The ?gallant five? as I?ve chosen to call them, is made up of: Prof Kwaku Armah, Dr Augustine Tawiah, Messrs John Ampem, Kwaku Boadu and Justice Edward Asante.
These men, with the blessing and support of many residents have set their sights on doing whatever they can to promote and sustain peace in Sefwi. This goal has culminated in the creation of the Sefwi Peace Commission. Prof Armah is the Chairman, Dr Tawiah, Vice Chairman, Messrs Boadu, Secretary, John Ampem, Treasurer and Justice Asante, as its legal advisor.
Hearing them explain their mission and vision, brought a smile to my face and reinforced my conviction that notwithstanding the myriad of challenges facing our motherland, we have the men and women to move this nation forward.
I attended one of their meetings and from the interactions, learnt that Sefwi has a protracted chieftaincy dispute which is seriously impeding development of the area.
Ghana is not a conflict country, however issues regarding the enstoolment, destoolment and elevation to chieftaincy, as well as the use and management of community resources by chiefs have led to a multitude of prolonged community level conflicts nation-wide. According to national security sources, there are estimated to be over two hundred major chieftaincy disputes across the country.
According UNDP studies multiple factors underlie chieftaincy disputes and conflicts, the most prominent being the succession rules, practices and processes; Destoolment; Corruption; Misuse of stool properties and revenues; Disposal of and/or alienation of stool property, particularly stool lands without the consent and agreement of the principal elders of the stool; unwillingness to differentiate between public, stool and private properties; inability of both the National and Regional Houses of Chiefs to mitigate, manage and/or resolve conflicts brought before these Houses, as a result of alleged corruption and the lack of judicial and research capacities to dispense with cases expeditiously and judiciously; and Political interference.
Professor Kwaku Armah, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at the African University College of Communications (AUCC) stresses that the Peace Commission is bent on succeeding at all cost: ?We are determined to get this matter resolved and will therefore keep engaging all the stakeholders in discussions.?
According to media reports, the Chieftaincy dispute in Sefwi Wiawso is primarily due to the misunderstanding between the Queen mother of Sefwi Traditional Area, Nana Adua Panyin II and some King-makers of the area.
This is where the Sefwi Peace Council, a group of respected, neutral and open minded citizens of Sefwi comes in.
Media reports further indicate that Nana Yao Ntaadu III, Krontihene of the Sefwi Wiawso traditional area believes that there is some level of political interference and this is the cause of the unsolved chieftaincy dispute in the area. The police is also accused of having turned themselves into king-makers in the traditional area. It further added that the government had put an embargo on the Sefwi Wiawso Traditional Council Royalties without any reason.
According to a GNA report, Mr Baidoo Appiah-Kubi, the District Chief Executive of Sefwi-Wiawso is said to have disclosed that the government had since last year, spent heavily on security at the Sefwi-Wiawso Traditional Area as a result of the chieftaincy dispute.
The persistent nature of the conflict had stalled socio-economic development of the assembly.”Much of our resources from the common fund are being used to tighten security at the expense of carrying out development projects?, he said.
Some other media reports accuse the District Security Committee (DISEC) and the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) as having taken sides in the chieftaincy dispute.
The West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP) noted in its 2011 Annual National Human Security Warning Alert that overtime, the dynamics in chieftaincy are changing along new political administrations and the increase of political activities.
The report notes that the last quarter of 2011 witnessed an increase in violent tendencies among chieftaincy factions which were plagued with accusations and counter accusations of stockpiling of arms and installations of sub-chiefs.
WANEP notes that the chieftaincy institution is also plagued with debates over who has the mandate to declare the celebrations of cultural festivals and threats associated with the celebration among other activities.
WANEP said ?Chieftaincy related disputes remain the most serious threat to political stability, peaceful co-existence and human development in Ghana.? In view of the various threats to peace, WANEP has recommended that the National and Regional Houses of Chiefs, Parliament and State departments and agencies should discuss these matters and come out with win-win outcomes to address the numerous chieftaincy disputes
Mr. Boadu notes that Sefwi?s contribution to the national economy is vast and has the potential of growing even bigger. Its growth is however being hampered by the protracted chieftaincy dispute. As a result of this a huge chunk of the district income has been used to fund security operations, instead of being used for development projects.
For the past eight years, there have been serious chieftaincy disputes leading to tension and non-cooperation among some of the chiefs. This situation has slowed down development in Sefwi.
A faction rose up against the Omanhene of the area and he referred the matter to the Western Regional House of Chiefs and to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II.
?For the past eight years there has been no peace in the area. So we in Accra came together to mediate and reconcile the factions and bring about peace and development. So that has been our primary objective. That is what led to the formation of the Peace Commission.?
?The five of us all come from Sefwi so as citizens of the district we believe it is a good idea to get involved in resolving the dispute. We started our work by meeting all the various factions individually and in groups,? said Mr Ampem.
Dr Tawiah of the GIMPA School of Governance and Leadership notes that there will be no progress in Sefwi until there is a functioning traditional council in place. Sefwi?s are part of the Akan ethnic group, and by the Akan tradition seven groups are collectively responsible for enstooling and destooling chiefs. The chair of this group is called the Wirempimhene. The Omanhene is the President of the Traditional Council, and it stands to reason that in the absence of an Omanhene there is no functioning traditional council.
When the decision to destool the Omanhene was mooted, all except one member of the Wirempim group supported this move. The group went ahead to perform the traditional rights and to destool the Omanhene.
The Omanhene went to the Regional House of Chiefs and appealed that due process was not followed in his destoolment. His appeal was upheld by the House and therefore attempts to replace him were nullified. The Wirempim group then proceeded to the High Court to seek a decision. It was at this point that the Asantehene, Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II requested for the case to be brought back to Manhyia. Both sides were given a hearing some six years ago and are anxiously awaiting a verdict.
Mr. Ampem notes that following this stalemate, some of the stakeholders teamed up with the Omanhene, whiles others joined the Kingmakers.
The dynamics of the conflict are broader than first imagined. It goes beyond the two main factions ? Omanhene and the Kingmakers. There are interested parties not affiliated with either side but who for all intents and purposes are critical to resolving the dispute. There is a possible convergence of interests.
Beyond resolving the dispute, the Peace Commission will work at building the capacity of the chiefs for modern leadership as a way forward from the protracted absence of peace in Sefwi.
Peter S.M. Agbeko
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