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Andy Kwawukume
Kwawukume, Andy C. Y.

The Road To Secession Agitation In The Volta Region!

This write up started as a brief response on WhatsApp to a friend who never heard of the Homeland Study Group Foundation (HSGF) before, unlike myself who can claim a level of intimate knowledge about them. I have therefore decided to add some meat to my response and share to a wider audience to bring some clarity to the unfolding saga. After all, it is an old festering gangrene with deep historical roots even though it took a different turn and emerged as a secessionist movement in the 1950s. This was successively repressed by various governments since then and this current attempt at suppression will not succeed to eliminate it.

During the PNDC period there were actually five different such secessionist movements but the PNDC’s clampdown on them sent them underground and abroad where they operated from. I believe events surrounding the removal of Dr Fiagbe as VR Regional Secretary had something to do with this clampdown. I am tempted to delve into the history of the secessionist movement, in view of undisclosed information I am privy to concerning [the wrong] detention of people, including relations, in the 1960s, from its start in the 1950s to the ‘60s on false allegations of plotting to secede but decided to leave that out. The main topic had been largely covered in other available sources already. I would therefore just make references to some important sources.

What I’d like to point out is that it started as a unification movement during the WWI. Torgbui Sri II, after helping to raise troops to assist the British to defeat the Germans in Togo, asked for the area seized by the English to be added to the Gold Coast. This demand, with some variations, gathered momentum during the inter-wars period, with letters to the League of Nations too. I quoted a portion of a letter sent to the League of Nations by the leaders in Lome in the article How Some Ewes Became a Part of Ghana in which the petitioners asked to be added to the Gold Coast, a request seen as blunder because it aroused French concerns and subsequently toned down in further petitions, according to Amenumey (1989). Instead of meeting the demands, there was horse trading between the British and the French, with Lome and portions of the area seized by the British in the south up to Atakpame incorporating the railway line given to the French and current Upper East seized by the French swapped for it to form what became known as the Trans-Volta Togoland (TVT).

In any case, the demands for unification continued after WWII but soon degenerated into conflicting demands from the various parties from the initial bid to unite the Ewe areas in the south from Anlo to Peki within the Gold Coast, the TVT then under UN trusteeship and present Republic of Togo. For scholarly research and details on this unification struggle and the complexities it assumed, Emeritus Prof. D.E.K. Amenumey’s The Ewe Unification Movement: A Political History, is the best account around and is recommended. The initial movement under the All Ewe Congress was thus not a secessionist movement from the Gold Coast but a union to it. It was the case until the revolt against the CPP in 1952/3 for reneging on election promises concerning the poll tax, cutting diseased cocoa trees, prices paid to cocoa farmers, the disregard by the UN of the legitimate demands of the Ewe people not to be divided by arbitrary borders and the emergence of S. G. Antor (a Guan, by the way) and the Togoland Congress. Frustration at the lack of prospect for unification as envisaged led to the secession movement based on TVT borders as more feasible by the Togoland Congress. It is interesting to note that the same squabble exist within the HSGF too, with one faction advocating for only the TVT area and others led by its leader Mr Charles K. Kumordzi including the southern VR which was part of the British colony too on the basis that it was also part of Togoland.

The TVT area was then a major cocoa producing area where even some Anlos own cocoa farms in the Ahamansu area, for instance. The discontent arising from the perceived discrimination in developing the Ewe areas within the Gold Coast and the TVT, and the prejudices and bigotry which had already made Anlos and other southern Ewes within the Gold Coast disillusioned with being a part of the Gold Coast which Sandra Greene also wrote about and I quoted in my own article referred to above, erupted into the deadly riot (the “Bugabuga War”) and subsequent curfew of 1953 in Anloga which spread to the rest of the country. In the words of Dennis Austin, this turned the sleepy town of Anloga into the “political barometer” of the Gold Coast. Of course, the execution of the six alleged ring leaders for the deaths of three victims in the riot earned the CPP the enmity of some Anlos up to today. It certainly made some susceptible to plots against Nkrumah and the CPP, culminating in the overthrow of the CPP regime.

It is interesting to note that the non-Ewe ethnic groups inhabiting the northern part of the TVT – the current Oti Region, through Northern to the Upper East Regions comprising the Guans, Akans, Chokosis, Basaris, Konkombas, Dagbons Nanumbas, Mamprussis, Grunshies and many others – had their people under German rule incorporated into the Gold Coast and therefore had achieved unification. They were therefore reluctant to support what had become overwhelmingly an Ewe secessionist movement in the plebiscite and subsequent agitations since then.

The HSGF emerged from the shadows after return to constitutional rule in 1993 and operates openly, not clandestinely. The old man and his activities are therefore well known in the VR and, to a large extent, the rest of Ghana. When they started, based on an alleged 50-year clause to review the plebiscite of 1956 which fell in 2006, they drew a large body of prominent support in the region from all walks of life. Meetings were held in Ho, attended by prominent Voltarians in particular, which made it difficult for government to take action against them. After failure to produce the alleged UN clause, interest waned from many of such Voltarian elite. Besides, there was wrangling among them, especially on some key historical facts being misrepresented, (for instance, the false claim that TVT covered the Peki to Anlo area too), and policy to adopt. However, they still maintain some grassroots support, successive governments having failed to counter their propaganda.

Perhaps, the low-keyed approach to them left them to appear as inconsequential disaffected malcontents who could be ignored to indulge in their idiosyncratic irredentism, as they were peaceful in their advocacy. George Padmore actually devoted the whole Chapter X in his book, The Ghana Revolution, to their earlier forebears and foresaw the current impasse, as the germane issues that gave rise to what he termed “irredentist nationalism,” were not resolved by the plebiscite of 1956. This is thus an essential reading to appreciate how the arbitrary borders had seriously disrupted the socio-economic lives of the affected people, with even families and farms cut into two, thereby disrupting centuries of mutual trade and socio-economic relations severely and impoverishing the people of the VR over the years. In spite of the artificial border, the Republic Togo remains a major trading destination not only for Voltarians but now other Ghanaians too. But for many Voltarians, it was and still crucial. That is why Lome remained an important market for the vegetable produce of the people of Anlo, for instance, and the closure of the border for about two years by the PNDC had a devastating toll on economic activities in the southern VR, as captured by the auditors of the defunct Volta Premier Bank, for instance. When Anloga tomatoes sellers tried to find new markets in Accra, they were met with fierce resistance by the market queens in Accra. Only those who could pay backdated exorbitant fees were allowed to operate.

This state of affairs is worsened by the negative perception of Ewes and experiences of Voltarians in post-independent Ghana. I had taken up this issue in countless exchanges and in articles, one of which I’d want to present in support of my position.

The open anti-Ewe diatribes, demonization and vilification which even high ranking NPP officials and members indulge in against Ewes have led to many disaffected people. Fact is, some people in the VR are so disgruntled with the bigotry and discrimination against people from the VR, particularly Ewes, and the clear neglect of the region, even during the long years of J.J. Rawlings rule, in terms of development that they are convinced the only solution is to secede from Ghana. A former British High Commissioner famously revealed that there was an understanding among the diplomat corps not to support projects destined for the VR, ostensibly as a reaction to the accusations of tribalism often unjustifiably levelled against the P/NDC. Those of us who respond to the pinheads and yobos like those on Ghanaweb are deemed time wasters and naive. In fact, even mad; with the popular maxim about the mad man who takes ones cloth while one is in the bathroom applied to us. Thus, both the traditional and educated VR elite , especially the Ewes, failed to deal with the vexatious issues most Voltarians are concerned with. No wonder those in the Oti enclave became more determined to secede from the VR but their elite are even more pathetic than the Ewe elite in defending the interests of the VR. I never heard any of them exclaim even once that cocoa is grown in the VR too, specifically in the now Oti Region, in response to insults that we Voltarians are parasites dependent on their aged Akan cocoa farmers. I took this issue up in another article available on the web. It is that deep sitting discontent that the HSGF has tapped into and harnessed by highlighting the negative actions and the constant demonization and vilification of Ewes in particular. In a publication dated March 9 2009, captioned Togolanders Problems As At Now: A Historical background, they listed some of their grievances, of white I quote a part as ff.:

“When Busia assumed the reign of the country, he could not fathom how Ewes (Togolanders) dominated top positions in the civil service, hence the dismissal of 569 Ewes. This was popularly known as the ‘Apollo 569’. Mr. Sallah, then the Managing Director of GNTC (Ghana National Trading Company, headquartered in Ghana House, Accra), took the government to court for wrongful dismissal and won the case. Dr. Busia disrespected the court’s decision with the infamous “No Court, No Court, No Sallah” declaration. A freeze was then placed on the employment of Ewes (Togolanders) into top positions in the Civil and Public Services.

As if that was not enough, he declared the Aliens’ Compliance Order. Thousands of hard-working non-Ghanaians including Togolanders were expelled and their properties plundered and taken over. All Togolanders in most Akan lands were sent packing. On 13th January 1972 Dr. Busia’s Progress Party government was overthrown thus ending briefly the tribal sentiments set in motion by the PP Government. A few years later, Ghanaians suffered the nemesis of Busia’s actions when in 1982/83 the Nigerian Government sent almost three million Ghanaians back home.

The show of disdain and disrespect for Togolanders, Ewes continued in another infamous statement made by Mr. Victor Owusu, a veteran politician that “Togolanders are inward looking”. To fuel the anti-Ewe campaign further there was media hype to whip up hatred for Togolanders, Ewes. People who have hatred for Ewes for no apparent reasons enjoy wide coverage of their hate articles in the print media. News captions such as:-

“Ewes are not Ghanaians” – The Believer Vol. 23 March 1993

“The Ewe Hegemony” – Statesman, May 1993, February 1994

“Ewes should leave Ghana in peace” Free Press Vol. 15 May 1994.

“Quashiegah to lead NPP – Same Ewe Factor” – Statesman Vol. 18 July 1994

“Dzelukope Mafia” – Chronicle, June 1995

“Give this Ewes their own country” – Chronicle July 1995.

Such newspaper stories are used to renew and deepen hatred for Ewes, strengthening hate broadcast on the air-waves.”

And it went on to list more cases of perceived discrimination against Ewes which may resonate with many Ewes.

I know it is a daunting task to change the minds, prejudices and make the ignorant aware and thus change behavioural patterns. I have a test case right now dealing with a regular Akan acquintance, an ardent and active NPP supporter. Trying to convince him that the lower VR from Peki to the Anlo coastal areas were a part of the Gold Coast, effectively from 1876, and that the Anlos actually fought on the side of the Asantes during the Sagrenti War, with the picture of the signing of the peace treaty at Dzelukope from The Graphic of London, books and maps to support me, was just a fruitless exercise. He is convinced all those sources were faked or wrong, including what we googled for! He thus represents the stereotypical Akan the secessionists say one cannot reason with to build a harmonious Ghana for us all to live in.

He has ordered a book on the Sagrenti War through the British Library, hoping it’d support his wrong beliefs ingrained in him from childhood which the porous school system did not dislodge. I have the Ivor Wilks’ voluminous book The Asantes and Spieth’s The Ewes but did not consider it worthwhile wasting my time bringing them to disprove him, as he is simply close-minded and obdurant. He is just as convinced like perhaps many members of the Akan ethnic group that Ewes climb the organisational ladder in the public service hierarchy by using juju to eliminate their ostensibly Akan bosses and said same to my Ibo staff plus all the rant about Ewes coming from Togo to dominate them. Like most of his tribesmen, he is completely oblivious to the historical facts that Ewes had settled within the present VR and even across the Volta River to the west, as was the case for the Ada areas, before the first Akans came into the VR. And, of the Adangmes, before they came from Lorlorvor via the Okorhuem forest, as even the biased C.O.C. Amate narrated in his book, the Making of Ada. I have blamed our porous educational system for this level of abject ignorance about our human geography and shared history, which history, I understand, is not even taught in the usual skewed manner with all the polished untruths at the basic level anymore. This state of affairs must be reversed.

It is the same stereotyping of Ewes that Dag Heward Mills foolishly and ignorantly repeated in a recently circulating video in which he said to his congregation that in the VR, there is “xorse vi de, bo vi de,” that is, a little Christianity, a little juju; a jaundiced perception of many non-Ewe Ghanaians about Ewes I had made mention of in my article above years ago. That educated Ewe scholars and commoners alike had recognised that the kind of syncretism that he also, just like all those so-called pentacostal/charismatic churches, preach incorporates African belief systems, a recognition which Rev. Prof. Emeritus C.K. Baeta coined the phrase “christo-paganist” churches for, is lost on him. It is beyond his intellectual capacity; a medical doctor whose cosmology has not evolved beyond its Weberian primitive substantive rationalisation level. This issue deserves a fuller examination though, as the missionary intrusion into Africa produced a serious clash of cultures and way of life still unfolding in which even dancing traditional dances, visiting the local herbalists, (in the absence of Western medication), marrying more than one wife, dressing codes, etc., were considered unchristian then. This missionary imposition of European cultures was severely criticised by their enlightened country men and women of whom the name of Mary Henrietta Kingsley deserves illustrious mention. The African response from the 1930s with the rise of break away African sects, the so-called Ethiopian churches and the recent explosion of such cults into mega churches deserves scholarly examination.

The dissenters have a large number of sympathisers who identify with their grievances as genuine but most Voltarians, even though they agree with their grievances, are resigned to the fact that they are stuck within Ghana and so do not support the secession as a solution agenda, and actually do not take the adherents seriously. They are seen as fringe elements of a simmering discontent. The government should therefore be careful not to make martyrs of them in order to give their cause new grounds for discontent and violent reactions. The Police have not as yet gone for the expensive vehicle they ran away from at Alavanyo. The days when such aggrieved persons are rounded up, beaten and locked up must be a thing of the past. Many conflicts in Africa, just as in the past, start with small quarrels or disagreements and soon escalate into full blown destructive wars, with reprisals from both sides spiralling out of control. Soon, no one even knows what really started it and we hear silly excuses like it was caused by a fight over a guinea fowl. That must not be allowed to happen with any government overreaction to what is essentially an overblown protest movement by some aggrieved Ghanaians. And that is what it is; a protest movement indulging in Most Distracting Gimmicks (MDGs), which all political entities indulge in. In this case, it has taken the form of brinkmanship, a kind of hyping up or rising the ante in reaction to the apparent indifference of government to their concerns and worsening the situation with the ethnocentric division of the VR to form the Oti Region, an area Ewes of Krepi (Peki, Ho, Kpando to Hohoe) also fought alongside the Guans and Buems to finally liberate from the slave raiding and plundering yoke of the predatory tripartite Akwamu-Asante-Anlo allies and their hangers on in 1874. And then, the Anlos to the Pekis also provided the troops to seize from the Germans in 1914 and so all Ewes see as their sphere of influence and extension of their homeland in view of not only their overwhelming number but the centuries of living together and intermarrying. That is why many Ewes, including Anlos, were shocked and upset when the Awoamefia impostor Patrick Agboba, injudiciously accepted the invitation to attend the Akwasidae, considering the role the current Asantehene had played in fomenting further the Oti movement by breaching the term of the Dzelukope Peace Treaty which forbade Asante from ever claiming suzerainty over any polity east of the Volta again. This matter is intended to be revisited in fuller detail.

I urge government to release on bail those arrested with immediate effect and start a national dialogue on the germane issues which have sustained the secession desire. Note that I did not say start a dialogue with the HSGF, as they are only one of the aggrieved parties to the issues. Having far exceeded the brevity threshold I set, I would not like to go into the details of the agenda for this national dialogue but it must certainly result into a new curriculum to ensure the proper understanding and teaching of our history and human geography facts, inculcation of mutual respect for each other, and the elimination of tribalistic discrimination and prejudices with an Anti-vilification law in place. There is no way any right-thinking person can accept the status quo to remain as it is.

Andy C.Y. Kwawukume

D.E.K. Amenumey The Ewe Unification Movement: A Political History.

Legon: Ghana Universities Press. 1989.

C.O.C. Amate The Making of Ada. Accra: Woeli Publishng Services. 1999..

George Padmore The Gold Coast Revolution

Sandra E. Greene Gender, Ethnicity, and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast: A

History of the Anlo-Ewe. Portsmouth: Heinemann & Kames Currey.1995.


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