Oil + Tribal Bigotry + Hegemonism-a recipe for civil war in Ghana
Written by Baffour Ennin, Washington DC Friday, 22 January 2010 12:26
There is a cancer eating into our national fabric. It is the cancer of tribalism. There are elements in Ghana especially the so-called opinion leaders whose incorrigible mindset of tribal bigotry would derail any inter-tribal harmony and pacification efforts in Ghana. It seems our national leaders have no desire to resolve the issue of tribalism. Tribalism spans the political divide. For most of our post independence history, Ghanaians have lived relatively peaceful lives without regards to tribal or ethnic origins. Today the simmering flame of tribal bigotry has reached epic proportions and unless our national leaders take bold actions to confront it now; Ghana might one day be engulfed in a civil war.
Diversity and Harmony in Obuasi.
I was born and raised in Obuasi so I know about diversity and harmony. Ever since commercial goal prospecting started in my hometown in the 19th century, gold from the mines has funded many of Ghana’s pre and post-independence development projects. In spite of the pollution, deprivation and outright rape and plunder of the resources, Asantes did not take up arms nor did they say that Obuasi belongs to only Asantes. When I was growing up in Obuasi, people from all parts of Ghana and the West African sub-region worked and lived peacefully in the town. In fact, I was born in an Ewe enclave of Kriki at Wawasi. Of our two next door neighbors, one was an Ewe and the other was a Yoruba. I grew up on their okra soups so much so that today, okra is still my favorite vegetable. As a young child, I spoke both Yoruba and Ewe. My younger sister now living in Washington, DC was a member of Wawasi Borborbor dance troupe until she left for the US in 1976. When my father died in 1991, the Borborbor dance troupe which is still in existence, came to Akrokerri to provide music at the funeral for free without any prompting. So Asantes and Ewes know about tribal co-existence. I lived through it growing up. So what happened to create this unmitigated animosity between Ewes and Asantes? I blame politicians and our so-called opinion leaders. Of late, Asantes have become the punching bag of tribal bigotry in Ghana. Most of these tribal bigots use nonsensical and vituperative rhetoric, incessant demagoguery, tribal incitements and other cheap stratagems to blame Asantes for whatever ails Ghana. Immediately after the second Anti-ROPAB demonstration in Accra, the former NDC Deputy Defense Minister Tony Aidoo, in an interview with Paul Adom-Otchere made this statement “Ghanaians are not living in the archaic period when the people of Ashanti thought that the cocoa, timber, and gold were in their area, so they owned the cocoa in the Western Region too.” Tony Aidoo walks and speaks with disdain for Asantes and never misses a chance to belittle hardworking Asantes in his sesquipedalian put-downs. Tony Aidoo’s convoluted logic equated ROPAB with Asante quest for hegemony in Ghana when there was no such quest. As a Diaspora Ghanaian and an Asante, I never even cared for ROPAB.
1997 Sogakope Forum
For some time now, the so called opinion leaders of some tribes have been stoking the fires of a tribal Armageddon. In 1997, a special forum of Volta region opinion leaders was convened in Sogakope under the chairmanship of Kofi Awonoor an avowed Ewe tribalist. The astonishing conclusions of the 1997 Sogakope forum are the driving force behind what many Ghanaians perceive as the quest for Volta hegemony in Ghana. The forum “identified major external factors that are responsible for the downward trend of development in the region as conspiracy of certain unknown forces to deny the Volta Region its fair share of the national cake. We are moving mountains and leaving no stones unturned to nip in the bud the conspirators” These were serious charges to be leveled against fellow Ghanaians when these opinion leaders knew that their accusations were baseless and without an iota of truth. Since that day, these so called Volta opinion leaders have seen every issue through the prism of their conspiratorial illogicality. Tribal bigotry either from the left or right of Ghana’s political spectrum should be disavowed by all Ghanaians. Ghanaians should not allow these peddlers in perversity and outrageousness, to incite bigotry and hatred among peace loving citizens of the homeland.
The warning signs are on the wall. The tribal and other internecine battles in the North, the Asante/Ewe animosity, the Ewe/Fante rivalry, Asante/GA distrust, Akyem/Asante rivalry and above all the North/South dichotomy all provide glaring cases of underlying tribal animosities in our beloved motherland. The most dangerous of these tribal animosities is the Asante/Ewe rivalry. The Asante/Ewe divide is assuming a character of its own that if it’s not checked it would engulf the whole nation in a tribal inferno. All you need to do is to visit Ghanaweb which has become the battleground of this animosity. The problem has become even more pronounced with the discovery of oil in Ghana.
Oil, Asante/Ewe Rivalry
The Asante/Ewe animosity reached a critical mass when Kosmos Group decided to sell its share of the oil find in the Jubilee field to Exxon Mobil. Tsatsu Tsikata an Ewe belatedly realized that two Asantes stand to gain from their partnership with Kosmos. That’s when all hell broke loose. Tstatu’s affability and quick wit have tended to mask his extremist views. As an NDC apparatchik, he has displayed contempt for non-Ewe speaking Ghanaians. Using his own company Statoil, and a bureaucracy dominated by his protégés, Tsatsu is single-handedly trying to derail the sale of Kosmos’ interest to Exxon Mobil. The jealousy, vindictiveness, viciousness and crass tribalism are all in play to hand over on a silver platter Kosmos’ holdings to Statoil. Tsatsu is trying to reap where he has not sown. It is the “anybody but an Asante” mindset that Tsatsu has harbored for far too long. If the government of Mr. Mills sits by and allows this ex-convict to usurp the rights of non Ewe-speaking Ghanaian businessmen, the consequences won’t be pretty. The Mills Administration is using the media in a politically motivated witch-hunt to discredit the EO group and its directors so that EO’s share of the Kosmos’ holdings can be sold to China using Tsatsu Tsikata’s Statoil as a dishonest broker.
NDC Propaganda Machinery’s War on the EO Group
The incessant hectoring by the NDC propaganda machinery’s “holier than thou” campaign directed at the EO group reached its apogee when government operatives started leaking snippets of the so-called investigation to the foreign media. It’s a very sad day in Ghana when the government uses innuendo to make claims that ranges from far-fetched to scurrilous to slanderous to score cheap political points and even sadder day when two private businessmen are subjected to trial in the media for no justifiable cause. I’m all for accountability and probity in public office. For Heaven’s sake let the rule of law prevail. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty should be a cardinal feature of Ghanaian jurisprudence. The left wing elements within the NDC are at their game again using the same insidious and anti-democracy canard they employed during the heydays of the PNDC dictatorship, to discredit the EO group. I’ve spent my years in the US in the defense and intelligence industry in Washington DC’s Northern Virginia corridor and also in corporate America. I see disinformation when I see it. Accusing a predecessor government of corruption and other economic malfeasance is fast becoming a universal and perennial facet of the Ghanaian body politic. It’s time to end this practice. If anything untoward was done by any ex-government official in the Kosmos deal, please conduct the investigations in camera without any fanfare or leaks and if indictable evidence is uncovered, prosecute the culprits regardless of whose ox is gored. The NDC propaganda machinery should cease its current vendetta to prosecute the EO group in the court of public opinion. If the government has indictable evidence, for heaven’s sake let the alleged culprits have their day in court. The current judge and jury circus by the NDC must end.
Duke Amaniampong’s Witch Hunt
The Ghanaian attorney general is using a patent lawyer (Duke Amaniampong) with no prosecutorial experience to embark on a witch hunt at the Ministry of Justice? Duke Amaniampong should cease his disingenuous press leaks. He should know better. As CEO, his company Candescent Technologies Corporation squandered its investors’ money and used US and Bermuda laws to file for bankruptcy. At the time of filing for bankruptcy, Candescent owed its bondholders a whopping $358 million while its assets were valued at $10.75 million. If the EO group had done the same thing in Ghana, Duke Amaniampong and his NDC cohorts would have called for the death penalty for the EO principals.
Sweet Heart Deals
I’ve been involved in many corporate due diligences pursuant to mergers and acquisitions in the USA. Sweet heart or special deals are nothing new in business. During the 1980s, I supported a Kwajalein (Republic of Marshall Islands) program from my base in Northern Virginia for my employer. This was during the height of the cold war. At the instigation of the client, my employer acquired a small company that had developed a breakthrough mission critical technology. As part of the deal, the founder of the small company asked for and received life time health insurance coverage for himself, spouse and three children. The policy would have no premium, no deductible, no co-pay and no coinsurance. In addition, he also got $2 million life insurance policy for himself and his spouse. The cost of all these policies was borne by my employer. This was in addition to this guy’s golden parachute severance package. Was it legal? Of course, it was! Was it fair to the other employees of his company? Of course not! Was it unusual? Yes it was! But did it make it illegal? Hell no! The fact that the EO group was able to extract unusual concessions from Kosmos does not make the concessions themselves illegal.
Once upon a time, when investigations revealed that high ranking officials in the course of their duties had committed acts that were tainted or vitiated with corruption and other illegality, indictments were returned. The alleged culprits had their day in court and they faced a jury of their peers. Why can’t the Mills Administration do the same? Let me make it clear to the NDC that the days of trial in the media without due process are gone and it’s too late in the day to reinvent them. The EO investigation is tribally motivated pure and simple and it it’s part of the bigger Asante/Ewe rivalry and it should cease.
Not to be outdone, one tribal faction within the NDC is also vying to get its share of the sale of Kosmos’ holdings. Some published reports have it that the faction has so far banked $40 million even before the conclusion of the sale. Things are indeed getting messy. I know the people of the Western Region are watching this and saying what’s in for us? This is why President Mills should not be sitting idly and allow these tribal bigots to plunge the nation into civil war. Most civil wars in the West African sub-region ignited over the perceived inequities in the distribution of resources. Before the civil war in Sierra Leone and Liberia, we all thought that the people of these two countries were the most peace-loving in the West African sub-region. We all saw the mayhem that was wrought on the two countries by the mindless civil wars.
Non-Partisan & Independent Commission
The EO/Kosmos partnership is purely a business deal. The government might find the concessions EO extracted from Kosmos unusual but they are not illegal. The Mills administration should not use questionable legality to mask the driving force behind its investigations-which is anti Asante bigotry. It should therefore stop these investigations immediately.
Rather, the government should set up a non-partisan and independent commission to address the issue of tribalism in Ghana as a matter of great national urgency before we reach a point of no return. Simply put, we might not survive a civil war in Ghana and Ghana as we know it may cease to exist if such war was to break out. We all have a hand in preventing this from happening. Let’s play our part and save Ghana.