Going Back to our Roots. Traditional Installation Mechanisms as a Lasting Solution to the Dagbon Chieftancy Dispute

Bachelor Thesis, 2018

65 Pages

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1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Research Objectives
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Research Design and Method of Study.
1.6 Justification of Scope
1.7 Organization of the Study

2.1 Introduction
2.2 The Institution of Chieftaincy and its Mandate in Ghana
2.3 Chieftaincy Disputes in Ghana
2.4 Causes of Conflicts in Africa
2.5 Effects of Conflicts in Africa
2.6 Conflict Resolution Mechanism

3.1 Introduction
3.2 The land and the people
3.3 The Historical Evolution of the Succession Dispute in Dagbon
3.4 Underpinning Factors Soiling the Dispute in Dagbon
3.4.1 Impact of British Colonial Rule on the Dagbon Chieftaincy
3.4.2 Lack of Proper Justice System
3.4.3 Political Interference from National Politics
3.4.4 Mistrust between the Two Gates
3.4.5 Relegation of the Traditional Methods of Managing the Dagbon Dispute
3.5 The Effects of the Dispute
3.6 Various Committees and Resolution Mechanisms Adopted in Managing the Conflict
3.6.1 Opoku Afari Committee
3.6.2 Justice Siriboe Committee
3.6.3 The Mate Kole committee
3.6.4 The Ollennu Committee
3.6.5 Commission of Inquiry in 2002
3.6.6 The Role of Civil Society Organizations
3.6.7 Committee of Eminent Chiefs
3.7 The Dagbon Traditional Installation Mechanism
3.7.1 Burial and ‘Enskinment’ Process of Ya-Na
3.7.2 Choosing a Successor to Ya-Na Mahama III as the Bases for the Dispute from 1948

4.1 Introduction
4.2 Summary of Findings
4.3 Conclusion



The long essay is dedicated to my beautiful wife, Ibrahim Adisah Kubra who supported my university education to the best of her ability.


I am grateful for the great help I received from many dedicated people. I must start with my debt of gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Ali Yakubu Nyaaba, who did a painful job of taking the time to diligently supervise this thesis. Indeed, his guidance, encouragement, critique and above all, patience shaped my thoughts about the traditional installation mechanisms as an alternative dispute resolution to the Dagbon Chieftaincy dispute. I would like to express my special gratitude to the Librarians at Ghana collection in the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Main Library for providing me with secondary sources My sincere gratitude also goes to my mother, Mrs. Azara Mohammed for supporting me throughout my life as a student. To my sagacious uncle, Mohammed Shiraz and to my unsurpassable childhood friend Shaibu Haruna, I shall remain entirely subservient to you. Admittedly, your support in diverse ways has helped me to endure throughout this academic endeavor. Ultimately, I wish to thank the almighty God for His grace that enabled everybody to contribute his quota to make this work possible and successful.


The Dagbon chieftaincy dispute is an old phenomenon in the historical epoch of chieftaincy and dispute in Ghana. This social and political crisis in the Dagbon kingdom can be traced from the colonial period around the 1948s and events preceding the enskinment of Naa Mahama III. Various research and efforts has been put in place to unite the two feuding Royal Gates but in vain. However, the attention of scholars on the theme never focused much attention on the Dagbon Traditional Installation Mechanism as an alternative dispute resolution. It is based on this outlook that the researcher employed all the necessary tools of social research such as qualitative approach with data from selected key interviews mostly from leaders in the kingdom and previous literature for the exploration of the Dagbon traditional installation mechanisms as an alternative conflict resolution approach. To a very large extent, the protracted nature of the dispute is attributable to the laxity of stakeholders to realize the potency of the Dagbon traditional installation mechanism. Given the dynamics of the Dagbon chieftaincy conflict, the study takes a closer look at the Dagbon traditional installation mechanisms as an alternative means to providing a lasting solution to the chieftaincy dispute in the Dagbon kingdom.


1.1 Background to the Study

Chieftaincy in Ghana is the system of ruling in the traditional Ghanaian society. The common term for a “Ruler” is King. It is the term used for every grade of ruler in the traditional set up. The institution of chieftaincy is one of the oldest and most highly cherished of Ghana’s traditional institutions, which interprets our system of governance as it has evolved through the centuries. The institution existed in many forms in different parts of the country long before Ghana’s first contact with the Europeans in the 15th Century and has survived till date. According to Odotei and Awedoba the chieftaincy institution in Africa is generally acknowledged as a pre-colonial institution of governance with judicial, legislative and executive powers.[1] The legal backing of the Republican constitution really provides for its continual existence in Ghana.[2]

Chieftaincy is closely linked with the family system and the ownership of land. There is a strong bond between chiefs and their people. During the period of colonial rule, the British in their references to the people of this country, as a collective entity, regularly employed the expression; “The chiefs and people of the Gold Coast.”[3] The institution has many variations in different parts of the country, based on ethnic background. But it has common characteristics such as the position of chiefs being acquired through inheritance. The inheritance runs through the Royal Family or lineage whose kingmakers select candidates for the office after family consultations. The elective principle involved is the selection of the person who is finally chosen as the occupant of the royal stool or skin, though the traditional office is not elective in the normally accepted sense. However, the enstoolment is based on democratic principles. Also, candidacy to the office is not open to any individual who chooses to offer himself for the position. The person selected must come from a royal lineage or family depending on lineage system-thus patrilineal or matrilineal. This has been confirmed by Article 270 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992, and Article 57 of the Chieftaincy Act, Act 759 of 2008. It is the normal practice in many parts of the country for the Royal Families to take turn in presenting candidates.

Chiefs are not only intermediary between the living and the ancestor in tradition sense but were and still subservient in mobilizing local people for community action and development. In Ghana, the chieftaincy institution has historical significance, and equally gained legal recognition after independence, making it a formidable foundation and collaborator for development. As the results of the inherent nature of the institution in our society, the 1992 constitution of Ghana acknowledged and defined who a chief is in Article 277; “chief means a person, who, hailing from the appropriate family and lineage, who has been validly nominated, elected or selected and enstooled, enskinned or installed as a chief or queen mother in accordance with the relevant customarily law and usage.”[4] In a similar vein, the new Chieftaincy Act, 2008 (Act 759) has outlined procedures and guidelines for kingmakers on the installation, enskinment, destoolment and deskinment of chiefs.[5] Chiefs are important actors and forefront of local development initiatives; some have created educational scholarship schemes; some have used their personal resources to build health centers, schools, provide water supply systems for their communities.

Likewise, the central government, chieftaincy institutions have become agents for development in contemporary Africa. Also, chiefs played an important role in the struggle against colonial rule. Chiefs have served as traditional conflict resolution experts as well as change agents and leaders of development in their communities, and it is against these and other reasons why in Ghana, the chieftaincy institution has shown so much resilience that long after de-colonization, it exists as a viable parallel mode of modern governance. However, despite its significance, experiences, recent studies have characterized the institution in Ghana as a potential source of conflict and instability.

However, because there are often no laid down rosters to be rigidly adhered to in this exercise, disputes regarding legitimacy and rightful entitlement to the office are common occurrences. Today, chieftaincy disputes are prevalent in most of the traditional areas in Ghana. The sacrosanct nature of the institution has once again been put to test by the violence and other scandals associated with it in recent times, as captured by the media, resulting in the loss of lives and property. One can metioned Awutu- Senya, Effutu, Anlo, Dagbon, Ga and Konkomba disputes, the recurrent Bawku dispute and the Dagbon dispute of which this study centers on. In most cases these disputes occur along two different ethnic groups which can take ethnic outlook rather political interest. However, the Dagbon case is unique due to its dynamism. The dispute is within the same lineage and equally influenced by national politics.[6] This canker causes the Government of Ghana to commit substantial resources to maintain law and order to ensure peaceful co-existence which is yet to be fully obtained.

The effects of these disputes on the economy compelled some scholars like Ahiave to argue that the institution in Ghana has been bedeviled with numerous conflicts; hampering progress and for that reason, the institution is of no relevance in contemporary local government; and has become a causative agent for several communal conflicts, particularly those related to succession to traditional political office.7 Examples of such disputes that has drained the finance of Ghana include the: Sukusuku chieftaincy conflict, Sekondi chieftaincy conflict, Dagbon chieftaincy conflict, Cape Coast chieftaincy conflict, Bawku chieftaincy conflict, Ga Mantse succession dispute and the Anlo chieftaincy conflict.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The Dagbon chieftaincy dispute is hydra. It seems never ending since it started in 1948. Various governments have come and gone and have all put in place measures to resolve the dispute but in vain. The chieftaincy dispute started shortly before the 1951 general elections. Before this period, the colonial administration played the political card, divided Dagbon and ruled. Post-independence governments have equally played politics with the issue and when it triggers they try to put pretentious measures in place to arrest the situation. However, since 1948, it was until 2002 when the Dagbon Chieftaincy dispute assumed an alarming proportion and it appears that the various chieftaincy disputes mechanisms put in place have failed to resolve and unite the two feuding gates. As a social and political issue, various researchers like Prah & Yeboah; Kendie & Tuffour; and Awedoba have extensively researched on the causes, effects of chieftaincy conflicts in Ghana and have consciously proposed sophisticated measures to curb down its insurgence. 8 Although various methods especially western models of conflict resolutions have been explored by previous researchers and academics in the field, the traditional installation mechanism is yet to be explored. Ahiavi for instance have particularly researched on the various conflict resolutions adopted in handling the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute, he hardly paid attention to the traditional installation mechanism but glossed over it. Every societal problem need to be tackled in relation to its origin and settings. As such, the Dagbon chieftaincy turmoil is an African problem and need to be tackled with an African solution.

It is based on this framework that, the study seeks to address by focusing on the traditional installation mechanisms as an alternative chieftaincy dispute mechanism to the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute, in order to provide scholarship consistence in the aspect of conflict resolutions in Africa.

1.3 Research Objectives

The overall objective is to historically analyze the traditional installation mechanisms as a method of Chieftaincy dispute resolution in Dagbon.

- Also, the study seeks to analyze the historical evolution of the succession dispute.
- Assess the various conflict resolution mechanisms adopted in managing the conflict.

1.4 Research Questions

The premise of the research is based on the following questions:

- What is the historical evolution of the dispute?
- What efforts have been made to resolve the conflict and how have they been implemented?
- Why does the conflict remain intractable notwithstanding attempts made to resolve it?
- How useful is the traditional installation mechanism in addressing the succession dispute?

1.5 Research Design and Method of Study.

This section of the thesis depicts the various sources used in the work. That is the mechanisms that were employed in the collection, managing and analyzing the data. To be able to materialize the goal of the research, there was the need to use qualitative research approach. Through this approach, the analysis and findings of this research was framed in a narrative form to help advance, unlock and appreciate the tangible reasons trailing behind the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute.

Both primary and secondary sources were used together. Data was collected from Chiefs, opinion leaders, teachers, civil servants, public servants and some elders in Dagbon, precisely Yendi, Tamale, Savelugu, Nanton, Tolon, Gushegu, and some monographs. Interviews were also conducted with some luminary or prominent people with fountain of knowledge about the history of the Dagbon state and the chieftaincy scuffle bedeviling it. The case of the chieftaincy dispute and its net effect on the businesses and the society at large. The interviews were captured on tape via recording devices. Data gathered on the field with previous monograph work done in the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute, there was the need to take a closer look at a variety of scholarly published documents notable among them are books, journals, articles, reports, etc.

1.6 Justification of Scope

The geographical scope of this study is centered on Dagbon and its Jurisdictions, by seeking to find out why the conflict between the Abudu and the Andani of the Yeni-Nam in Dagbon still remain unresolved despite the countless number of measures put in place. In view of the sensitive nature of the issue involved, the study could not shun away from reference to historical facts.

Therefore, the periodization of the study focuses from 1948- 2002. This period is helpful in tracing the history of past rulers of Dagbon and to where the current dispute started. The period would also help expose how strong and resilient the Dagbon state was before modern politics permeated deep into the Dagbon chieftaincy there by creating disunity. The scope of the study looks at the period 1948 because, this was the time the current succession crisis began in Dagbon and 2002 because by 2002 the situation has assumed an alarming proportion.

1.8 Organization of the Study

The work is divided into Four Chapters. The First Chapter looks at the background of study, statement of the problem, research objective and questions, scope of the study as well as outline of the study. Chapter Two look at the literature review, which has to do with related literature of work done in the field.

Chapter Three contains a description of the land and the people, historical evolution of the succession dispute, various conflict resolution mechanisms adopted in managing the conflict, underpinning factors soiling the dispute, the effects of the dispute and the history of the traditional installation mechanism. Chapter Four which is the Final Chapter covers the summary and conclusion of the study.


2.1 Introduction

This chapter reviews relevant literature on the theme. It takes a look at a brief description of Chieftaincy in Ghana, Conflicts and its causes and effects as well as conflict management in Africa. These sub themes are structured in a manner that has direct bearing of the objectives of the study.

2.2 The Institution of Chieftaincy and its Mandate in Ghana

As noted earlier, the institution of chieftaincy existed in Ghana long before the advent of colonialism and has survived through pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial regimes. As a centralized system of administration, the institution has been the embodiment of political power in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial times. In classifying chieftaincy into centralized and acephalous institutions in Ghana, Nukunya listed the Akan, the Ga, the Ewe, the Gonja and the Mole-Dagbani as noted practitioners of centralized system of government,[7] and the Talensis as the typical stateless society. However, Adu Boahen acknowledged the existence of centralized states like the ones mentioned by Nukunya, he demised the notion that there were stateless societies in the Gold Coast. He emphasized that every community in the Gold Coast has its own system of governance through family and clan heads and that the issue of acephalous society was a colonial making.[8] Like Arhin, focus of traditional rule in Ghana are on the Talensi, Dagbon and Akan because there already existed a substantial amount of information about them.[9] However, Nyaaba in his PhD thesis remarked that, classifying all states in northern Ghana except the Gonja and the Mole-Dagbani as acephalous is misleading, “because several other polities in the North had centralized political administration under a chief before colonialism. And notable among these are the Kasena–Nankana of Navrongo.”[10]

To contribute to the discourse on the relevance of chieftaincy institution in Africa, Abotchie summarizes the roles of chiefs in Ghana as military leader, chief priest, agent of development, symbol of identity, and also as custodian of stool lands and property; as performing these multiple roles, he is seen as an embodiment of the beliefs, hopes, fears and aspirations of the people.[11] As a result of modern governance, Ghanaian chiefs have lost significant aspect of their functions to the central government. This notwithstanding, chiefs continue to play important roles in Ghanaian societies. As reinstated by Ahiave that due to the significant component of chieftaincy in ensuring good governance and development, the institution and its mandates and limitations are well enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of Ghana since independence.[12]

2.3 Chieftaincy Disputes in Ghana

The chieftaincy institution has been bedeviled with numerous conflicts. Abotchie convincingly argue that, about 600 land disputes in Ghana are currently dominated by chieftaincy disputes.[13] Some of such recorded disputes in recent times include the Dagbon crises between the Abudu and the Andani gates which is studied and the Tuobodom chieftaincy conflict, Konkomba-Nanumba conflict, the Peki Tsito conflict, the Bawku conflict, and the Nkonya and Alavanyo conflict. Many scholars have agreed that, the most disturbing phenomenon in the political landscape of the Northern Region of Ghana during the last twenty- two years has been the intermittent outbreak of either intra-ethnic conflicts or inter-ethnic conflicts.

Indeed, there have been twenty-two such conflicts since 1980. Mbowura in attempt to emphasize on the frequent outbreak of conflicts in the Northern region, try to list most of the destructive conflicts including the Gonja attacks on a Battor village at Kafaba in 1980 and again destroyed Tuna, a Vagala village in that same year. Gonjas were involved in wars with the Nawuris and Nchumurus in 1991, 1992 and 1994. Nanumbas fought Komkombas in 1980, 1994 and again in 1995; in 1995, Dagbambas fought Komkombas; in 1991 Dagbambas fought among themselves at Voggu and Zabzugu; between 1980 and 2000, Mamprusi and Kussasis fought four times; in 1988 and 1994, the Bimoba went to war with the Komba; the Kombas fought among themselves twice between 1999 and 2001.[14] In March 2002, Dagbambas fought among themselves at Yendi during which Ya-Na Yakubu II, the Over Lord of Dagbon lost his life. And this is the beginning of the ongoing disputes of the two gates in Dagbon.

2.4 Causes of Conflicts in Africa

In many African states, communal violence and civil strife have posed a challenge to peace dating from immediate post independent. It has claimed thousands of human lives and led to “flagrant abuses of fundamental human rights and freedoms, and to crime, violence, apathy and environmental irresponsibility.”[15] War or violent conflict, which is generally viewed as the extreme manifestation of human struggles, has attracted the attention of scholars.

One of the most popular and enduring theories of the sources of conflicts in Africa is the nation building theory. This theory sees conflicts in Africa as an intrinsic phenomenon of the multi-ethnic nature of African states. It emphasizes that the multi ethnic African state is inherently conflictual and that stability necessarily requires that the ingrained “tribalism” be transcended through modernization. The thrust of this theory is that conflict is an inherent phenomenon of the multiethnic nature of African states as it creates competition of cultures and clash of identity. The theory emphasizes that ethnic consciousness emerges at the boundary between groups, rather than being intrinsic to the group itself, and that the multiplicity of ethnic groups in African states created conditions for ethnic consciousness.[16]

The result is that ethnicity or cultural difference becomes a means of mobilizing resources for violent conflict. The proponents further argue that as African states were modernized they adopted a Western form of government. However, they failed to transform the disparate ethnic groups into an integrated and consolidated polity; they failed to divest themselves of all the nuances of ethnicity or ‘tribalism’; and that due to the difficulty of national integration, the need arose for an authoritarian and coercive power to pre-empt conflicts. Unfortunately, African states’ adoption of democracy as a form of government increased ethnic conflicts on the continent. This has denied the state unfettered use of its coercive power to freeze inter-ethnic conflicts as was the case in hegemonic (one-party states) or military regimes. Some of the proponents of nation-building theory are Cohen, Cocodia and Rothchild.[17]

The northern part comprising the three regions of Upper East, Upper West and Northern region have been noted for conflicts even before the advent of Europeans into the country. These conflicts were purposely geared towards expansionism, thus between settlers and indigence. There is no denying fact that the pluralism of ethnic groups in present-day Northern Region serves as a potential source of ethnic conflicts. Most scholars and commentators on the theme have agreed that the northern part of the country has been the main hot bed of conflicts that often pivot around land ownership, chieftaincy, religious intolerance, and ethnocentrism, and hence finding a lasting solution to the conflicts in Northern Ghana has proven largely futile.[18]

Scholars like Tsikata & Seini summarize the key among the causes of these conflicts as succession to stools or skins, control over stool lands and land litigation, political interference and the lack of accountability and transparency by some traditional rulers.[19] In short, Mbowura concluded that, conflicts in Africa are caused by the age-long hatred of ethnic groups for one another; the hatred could be the product of pre-colonial wars of conquest and annexation for the establishment, maintenance and expansion of states and kingdoms or could be a colonial creation born out of colonial policies.[20]

2.5 Effects of Conflicts in Africa

Conflict than any other social problem has affected and worsen the deteriorating state of the African continent. Whereas some of these conflicts have been successfully resolved, others tend to be protracted. Most of these protracted disputes have resulted in violent conflicts. It is consensually noted in the literature that such conflicts have always led to undesirable developments in the affected areas and the nation at large.[21] These devastating effects of conflict include loss of lives, the displacement of people, loss of property and lawlessness. These conditions create an atmosphere of anxiety, insecurity and distrust, thus posing a threat to the peace and stability to the entire nation.[22] To control such conflicts, security personnel are deployed to the affected areas at huge cost to the neglect of important national or local development issues.

As indicated by the UK Ministry of Defense on its consultation document in 2001, conflict has been responsible for more death and displacement in Africa than famine or flood. The scale and nature of warfare have directly affected the lives of many millions of Africans. The consultation document further emphasizes that, the main elements of conflict tragedy in African are the millions of uprooted people who have lost their homes and livelihood, the increasing numbers of direct civilian casualties and increased levels of violence, abuse and mutilation suffered by noncombatants.[23]

In most case in Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa the increasing use of extreme violence, especially over the last ten years have deliberately targeted at civilians rather than armed groups, and at entire groups rather than individuals.[24] For instance, the Liberian, Sierra Leonean, Rwandan, Mozambican, Northern Ugandan, Sudan and Angolan conflict was cramped in violence spheres. Mutilation, torture of women and children, violent rituals and the forcible involvement of relatives, children and spouses in killing and rape are used as a means of waging war primarily by militia groups and by some state proxies.[25]

Reflecting in Africa’s economic development, scholars like Allen attributed underdevelopment in Africa to frequent violent conflict across the continent.[26] In line with this, the UK’s Ministry of Defense consultation document argue that, Africa’s development is threatened by conflict and that armed conflict has become one of the most important causes of poverty in Africa, leading to displacement of people, and the destruction of communities ‘livelihoods.[27] The effects of war cut across all levels of the economy down to the level of the household. Contributing to the effects of conflict on economic development, Issifu emphasizes that, violence conflict has a direct and immediate economic impact through the physical disruption it creates, denying access to land, key resources or markets.[28] Some of the effects of conflict are less tangible. Insecurity is the least conducive climate for domestic savings and internal or external investment. The regional spread of conflict jeopardizes stable and successful countries.[29]

Effects on services. Recent wars have led to the destruction of the basic social infrastructure. Schools and health centers are increasingly the targets of military activity. During the fifteen-year war in Mozambique, over 40% of health centers and schools were destroyed. The situation is similar in most conflict-affected countries. Social provision is also squeezed by increased military expenditure. A long-term consequence is reduced access to education and health care.

2.6 Conflict Resolution Mechanism

In attempt to arrest the situation, various scholars have propounded sophisticated mechanisms that so far have not yielded the desired goal. The post-colonial states of Africa have been proverbially described as weak states with weak institutions, and inadequate human and financial resources to prevent, manage, resolve, and transform the behavioral and structural sources of the conflicts.[30]

Some commentators such as Wertheim and et al and Fisher and Ury believe that the key to resolving conflict is to focus on interests rather than positions, which is the solution one party seeks to impose on another.[31] Burton, has argued that resolution between two parties in conflict can only occur when “relationships have been re-examined and realigned”.[32] Although this form of resolution may be regarded by some as more desirable, it is not always practicable. Resolution in cases of marital separation or divorce can in some cases simply mean the settlement of an outstanding property dispute rather than the "realignment of relationships." The "transformation" of relationships may be an ideal pursued by a third party who is intervening on behalf of the disputants, but it is not necessarily the goal of the disputants who may simply desire a solution to their problem. Laue, has argued that conflict can only be considered resolved if the following conditions are met:

- The solution jointly satisfies the interests and needs of the parties via joint agreement.
- The solution does not compromise the values of either party.
- The parties do not repudiate the solution even if they have the power to do so following the settlement.
- The solution is fair and just and becomes self-supporting and self-enforcing.

Although this form of resolution seems ideal because it aims to achieve an enduring outcome, it is not always practicable in situations where the relationship between two parties is severely strained or when there is no ongoing relationship to be maintained. In such situation parties in conflict will often attempt to maximize their gains at the expense of the other through the negotiation or bargaining process.[33]

While it is not possible to prevent all conflict, there are steps that you can take to try to keep conflict to a minimum. One way to manage conflict is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Preventing conflict is not the same as avoiding conflict. It is based on this grounds that the Life Care in 2011 postulated that “preventing conflict means behaving and communicating in a way that averts needless conflicts.”[34]


3.1 Introduction

This chapter examines the land and the people; the historical evolution of the succession dispute; various conflict resolution mechanisms adopted in managing the conflict; underpinning factors soiling the dispute; the effects of the dispute; and the traditional installation mechanisms from 1948 up to date.

3.2 The land and the people

Dagbon is a ‘Kingdom’ found in the Northern Region of the Republic of Ghana. The people are called Dagbamba, an English corrupted word for Dagomba.[35] The Dagbambas speak Dagbani, which belongs to the Mole-Dagbani sub-group of Gur languages. The overlord of the ‘Kingdom’ is called Ya-Na. Yendi, the scene of the current conflict is the seat of the Kingdom. It lies between latitudes 9 and 10 north; and have a land size of about 9,611square miles.[36] It is arguably the largest Kingdom in the Northern Region which have twelve (13) out of the twenty-seven (27) Administrative Assemblies in the Region. These are the Chereponi, Gushiegu, Karaga, Kumbungu, Mion, Saboba, Sagnarigu, Savelugu/Nanton, Tatale/Sangule, Tolon and Zabzugu District Assemblies; Yendi Municipal and Tamale Metropolitan Assembly.[37]

Even though chieftaincy is a male dominated institution among the Dagbon people, females are the recognized chiefs in three towns and when she (chief) dies, customarily, another female is confined to succeed to the skin. The chiefs of Kukulogu, Kpatuya and Gundogu are all females. The Gundo-Na (Chief of Gundogu) is the senior amongst them. All the female chiefs in the three towns happen to be the daughters of the Ya-Na, the overlord of Dagbon.[38]

Apart from the Dagbamba, there are also other ethnic groups like the Kokomba, Anufo, Basari, Bimoba, Zantasi, Kotokoli, Kabre and Gonja found in the Dagbon kingdom.[39]. The 2010 Population and Housing Census estimated the population of Dagbon at 1,254,476 out of the total population of 2,479,461 in the Northern Region; representing 50.59% of total population of the Northern Region.[40]

The Economy of Dagbon is largely subsistence with Agriculture being the main activity. Over 80% of the people depend on Agriculture for their livelihood. They are involved in the cultivation of cereals, tubers and rearing of animals. The major crops cultivated include maize, rice, sorghum, millet, cowpea, groundnuts, soya bean, yam and cassava. Animals reared include cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry birds for domestic and commercial purposes. Other economic activities include weaving, agro-processing (shea butter extraction), meat processing, fish mongering, wholesale and retail of general goods, transport and many others. A good number of the populace are engaged in small to medium scale manufacturing business. They include smock weavers, blacksmiths, bakers, mechanics, shea butter and groundnut oil extractors.

Before the advent of both Western and Eastern Religions, the Dagbambas were mostly atheists. Their culture was deeply enshrined in their customs and beliefs. This is still manifested in the numerous traditional festivals still practiced in the area. The first foreign religion to reach Dagbon was Islam, brought to the region by Arab traders from the North, dating back from the 7th century. As a result, Dagbamba culture is heavily influenced by Islam. It is therefore not surprising that almost 90% of ethnic Dagbambas are Muslims.[41] Christianity, on the other hand, arrived later from the South and is mostly practiced by non Dagbamba ethnic groups. Important festivals include the Damba, Bugum (Fire festival) and the Islamic Eid-ul-Adha and Eid-dul-Fitr Festivals are observed in Dagbon.

Inheritance in Dagbon, like in many parts of Ghana, is patrilineal. It is common, but not restricted, of the Dagbamba people to have large families. This practice until recently was to get more ‘hands’ to help on family farms. It is considered a great pride among the Dagbambas to marry more than one wife. The number of children one had was one of the indicators measuring one’s wealth.[42]

3.3 The Historical Evolution of the Succession Dispute in Dagbon

After the funeral rites of Ya Naa Mahama II were performed who ruled from 1938-1948, Mion

Lana Mahama of Abudu Yili ascended the skins of Yani under the skin name of Ya Naa Mahama

III. Ya Naa Mahama appointed the regent of Ya Naa Mahama II, Andani, to the vacant skins of Mion and confirmed Sunson Naa Adam to the skins of Karaga.[43]

The reign of Ya Naa Mahama III was during the tail end of colonial rule and the rise of the Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP. During this period efforts were made to define and protect chieftaincy.

Legislation was enacted to form State Councils and an instrument published to recognize Head Chiefs (paramountcy) in the Northern Territories. In Dagbon the Ya Naa was recognized as Head Chief and the Dagbon State Council, consisting of divisional chiefs was formed. The Dagbon State Council was responsible for enquiring and determining any matters of constitutional nature arising within the kingdom of Dagbon. The reign of Ya Naa Mahama III was reasonably calm, compared to the situation in Dagbon after his death. Ya Naa Mahama III died in 1953 after about 5-year reign.

The Dagbon Conference of 1930 opened on 24th November 1930.[44]. Though the primary reason for the conference, from the point of view of the colonial government, was the institution of indirect rule, the conference holds a very significant place in the history of Dagbon.

The conference issued a detailed statement of the history and boundaries of Dagbon. The document listed the various classes of chieftaincy and the order of precedence within each class. The conference also specified the elders of Yendi and the constitution of the Dagbon State Council. The procedures and qualifications relating to succession to Yani were outlined. The conference reaffirmed that only chiefs occupying the gate skins of Mion, Karaga, and Savelugu were eligible for Yani. Also, grandsons were categorically excluded from ascending the skins of Yani.

Regarding the selection of the Ya Naa the conference agreed that the Kuga Na, Tugri Nam, Gushie Naa and Gomli constituted the Ya Naa selection committee. The conference confirmed that all appointments to chieftaincy in Dagbon were to be made by the Ya Naa, and that the Ya Naa cannot be deprived of the Nam except by death. Gbon Lana Alhassan on the other hand was not occupying a gate skin. The Ya Naa selection committee, on September 23, 1938, announced that Mion Lana Mahama was selected Ya Naa under the skin name Ya Naa Mahama II. Ya Naa Mahama II enskinned Gbon Lana Alhassan to the vacant skin of Mion.

In 1947 Karaga Naa Ziblim died. Ya Naa Mahama II appointed his son, then Sagnarigu Naa Andani, to the vacant skin of Karaga amidst protest from the elders of Yendi and citizens of Karaga. In the turbulence of the moment Sunson Naa Adam, younger brother of Karaga Naa Ziblim, defied the Ya Naa and moved to Karaga to occupy the vacant skin before Naa Andani could get to Karaga. Banvim Lana Abdulai, who had been elevated to Sagnarigu had also moved to occupy the Sagnarigu skin, thus leaving Naa Andani without a skin. On February 06, 1948 Ya Naa Mahama II died. At the time of his death Ya Naa Mahama was about 80 years old. After the death of Ya Naa Mahama II, at a Dagbon State Council meeting on May 12, 1948, chaired by Gbon Lana of Ya Naa Mahama II, a unanimous decision was reached to change the Ya Naa selection committee.

The amendment to the traditional selection committee added that when a unanimous decision could not be reached in the selection of a Ya Naa a secret ballot will be cast and the winner will be the candidate with majority vote.

After the funeral rites of Ya Naa Mahama II were performed four chiefs submitted their candidacy for Yani. They were Yo Naa Mahamuru and Ya Naa Mahama II Gbon Lana Andani of Andani Yili and Sunson Naa Adam and Mion Lana Mahama of Abudu Yili. Ya Naa Mahama II’s regent, Gbon Lana Andani, at this time was between the skins of Sagnarigu and Karaga. Sunson Naa Adam also had usurped the skin of Karaga and was in fact a great grandson. These two candidates had in fact not officially occupied the gate skin of Karaga. Mion Lana Mahama was younger brother of Ya Naa Abdulai II and was enskinned Mion Lana after the death of Ya Naa Abdulai son, Mion Lana Alhassan.

Mion Lana Mahama was selected over the other candidates and he ascended the skins of Yani under the skin name Ya Naa Mahama III. In fact, the selection of Ya Naa Mahama III was carried out by the traditional selection committee and not the newly constituted selection committee.

3.4 Underpinning Factors Soiling the Dispute in Dagbon

The causes of the prolonged Dagbon chieftaincy dispute has diverse sources. For the purpose of this study, the impact of colonization on widening the factions is analyzed. Also, national politics, mistrust on the side of the warring factions, improper justice rendered by government and stakeholders and the relegation of traditional method of conflict resolution have been extensively examined as main factors hindering all efforts made to resolve the dispute.

3.3.1 Impact of British Colonial Rule on the Dagbon Chieftaincy

According to writers like Yakubu, Ibrahim, Awedoba, Ahorsu and Gebe and others, government interference in the Dagbon conflict started right from the first year of colonization to date. In 1930, the British colonial government convened a conference in a bid to document Dagbon history and customary rules, particularly with respect to succession to the throne in Dagbon, and to stem the recurrent Ya-Na succession conflict.[45] In Dagbon custom and tradition, the selection of a new YaNa was the responsibility of a committee of kingmakers made up of Zohe-Naa, Kuga Naa, Tugri Nam, and Gagbindana. The kingmakers consulted oracles and soothsayers to determine which of the eligible candidates’ (occupants of Yani gate skins) reign as Ya-Na would bring peace and prosperity to Dagbon.[46]

However, in 1948, a Select Committee of eleven chiefs was established, replacement for the previous tradition of four kingmakers, with the influence of the colonial authorities, after they had tried various ways of getting literate princes to succeed deceased chief without success. The Selection Committee was made up of seven divisional chiefs in addition to the four kingmakers. These were Gushie Naa, Yelzoli Lana, Nanton Naa, Gulkpe Naa, Sunson Naa, Tolon Naa, and Kumbun Naa. In spite of the changes, the two royal families alternated the succession until 1954 when the Gbonlana (regent) Abudulai, a member of Abudu family, was selected by the committee to succeed his father Ya-Na Mahama III. Under the Selection Committee the old system that limited candidates to the occupants of the three-gate skins of Kraga, Savelagu and Mion was abolished.[47]

3.3.2 Lack of Proper Justice System

A senior police officer said, “The main issue in the perspectives of the two gates is justice seeking,”[48] Both the Abudu and the Andani gates feel justice has not been served over ascension to the throne. The Abudus are of the view that, they have been denied justice to perform the funeral rites of the late Mahamadu Abudulai IV and also their position is that since the late Ya Na Yakubu Andani II from the Andani gate was dead, it was their turn to hold the throne. The position of the Andani party is for them to maintain the throne because; the late Ya Na Yakubu Andani II did not die a natural death, and they feel that justice is denied them since over a decade later, the government has not located the killers.

3.3.3 Political Interference from National Politics

Political maneuvering and implicit actions by influential individuals linked to the two gates and supported by ruling political elites who have held sensitive positions in the immediate past might have also contributed to the death of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II.[49] During a one on one interview with a teacher in Tamale, he said, “Manipulations of historical memories to evoke emotions such as fear, resentment and hatred by some politicians and conflict entrepreneurs into the minds of the younger generation have contributed to the intractable nature of the chieftaincy conflict in Dagbon”[50]

Some politicians and conflict entrepreneurs from the two leading political parties in Ghana; the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress have aligned themselves to the Abudu and Andani gates respectively for political gains which in turn prolong the conflict. Thus, the murder of the late Ya Na Yakubu Andani II on March 27, 2002, took place during a time when the New Patriotic Party government was in power for the first time.[51] Hence, the Andani royal family and their sympathizers believe that they had a hand in the death of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II.[52] It is also captured in the Wuako Commission’s report that, “Deeply intertwined with the local (Abudu–Andani) rivalry was the intrusion of national politics into chieftaincy matters in Dagbon. The Abudu royal gate, believed to be historically sympathetic to the Busia-Danquah political tradition from which the reigning (New Patriotic Party) emerged, considered their victory in the 2000 elections as an opportunity to boost political stature at the local front and re-launched grievance previously held in abeyance. This is why the Abudus had high expectations from the New Patriotic Party victory.[53] Thus, they started contesting the Ya Na’s monopolistic control over certain events and ceremonies including the traditional Bugum/fire and Eid-ul-Adha festivals, although, the Ya Na’s sole control over these festivals had never been called to question” WuakuCommission Report, 2002.[54] And thus, the National Democratic Congress used the death of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II as a key campaign message in the 2004 and 2008 general elections. Indeed, the party promised in its 2008 election manifesto to set up a new and truly non-partisan and independent presidential commission to look critically into the murder of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II and his elders in March 2002 and bring culprits into justice.[55]

3.3.4 Mistrust between the Two Gates

In his study in 2013, Ahiave found that the Abudus had refused to approach the Kuga-Na to admit their guilt and apologize through him to the Andani gate in the form of peace making. One informant said, “Abudus have refused to approach the Kuga-Na because they (Abudus) are suspected to be embittered by the then Kuga-Na’s refusal to allow them to bury Mahamadu Abudulai IV in the Gbewaa palace.” Another informant argued that, “Abudus have also accused the Kuga-Na of wanting to ignore and obliterate the legacy and memory of Mahamadu Abudulai IV by endorsing the decision of the Andani gate to install the regent of Naa Yakubu Andani II.” The two gates remain suspicious of each other and do not attend each other’s social functions.

There have also been allegations that both have been arming themselves for a possible showdown.[56] Also, as part of the observation techniques employed in this study, it was revealed that the two gates do not trust each other as evident in a number of social gatherings. During an interview with students at the University of Cape Coast who are also natives of Dagbon, an Abudu student said, “I feel insecure as an Abudu in the company of Andanis” and an Andani student said. “I do not attend Abudu’s gathering although we are all natives of Dagbon, because I cannot trust them”. This is a clear manifestation of how mistrust has been transferred from parents to their children, making the conflict more protracted.

3.3.5 Relegation of the Traditional Methods of Managing the Dagbon Dispute

In the case of disputes arising from chieftaincy, especially over the Ya Na’s throne, Kuga-Na customarily mediates between the two gates, the decision or plea to the Ya Na or his regent cannot be ignored.[57] And in extreme cases, the issue was referred to Nayiri who mediate and resolve the disputes. Although candidates for the Ya Na throne were selected by the traditional selection committee through soothsaying and divination.[58]. This practice helped to avoid disputes which might lead to violent conflict and bloodshed. Yet, these potential traditional conflict resolution systems used in Dagbon in the past with the involvement of the Kuga-Na to maintain peace has been relegated to the background and off course, one of the main reason why the Dagbon conflict has remained protracted. Thus, for sustainable peace to be seen in Dagbon, traditional approaches to conflict management and peace-building must be relooked.

3.4 The Effects of the Dispute

The prolonged chieftaincy dispute in Dagbon had affected both lives and property. In 2002 alone, several people were murdered in the Dagbon chieftaincy conflict including the Na Ya as well as the destruction of 36 houses.[59] The atrocity generated a series of conflicts all over the region including Tamale, Yendi and Bimbila. Properties valued at billions of Ghanaian cedis were destroyed. Hence, the government of Ghana had by the end of October spent more than six billion cedis on the Dagbon crisis which erupted in March 2002 and spent about 6.5 million cedis on the Dagbon crisis when Ya Na Yakubu Andani II was murdered.[60] The cost is just the tip of the iceberg, because there are many other expenses which cannot be quantified. In 1994, the government claimed to have spent six billion cedis in maintaining peace in northern Ghana alone.[61]

According to Dr. Addo Kuffour, former minister for Defence, the government of Ghana spent over seven billion cedis (US $9 million) in 2002 to maintain the fragile peace in Dagbon.[62] The money was used to feed security forces deployed in the area as well as for the provision of logistics and equipment to the security troops to help maintain peace in the area. If it were not for the conflict, these monies could have been used for humanitarian and progressive services in the provision of social development like building of schools, clinics, market centers, libraries, job creation etc., and not for the constant peacekeeping efforts in the area.

More so, the Dagbon chieftaincy violence adversely affected production, marketing and investment in agriculture, the most dominant economic activity in the Tamale Metropolis. During the outbreak of the violence, farmers engaged in the cultivation of perishable foodstuffs such as watermelons, tomato, pepper, onions etc. suffered heavy losses. Farmers abandoned their crops because they feared being attacked on their farms. Also, transportation networks were disrupted during the violent clashes as farmers were unable to transport their foodstuffs to the market centers.

This resulted in the foodstuffs rotting on the farms, leading to a shortage of agricultural products.

Furthermore, the severe violence and insecurity in the metropolis resulted in most financial institutions being unwilling to grant loans to farmers to invest in agricultural production. One of the interviewees said, “the violence and insecurity increased the risk of been denied access to loans.” Another interviewee, a livestock farmer dealing in cattle, sheep, goat and guinea fowl also said, “I made losses while most of my colleague’s livestock were looted by some conflict entrepreneurs”. According to Mr. Theophilus Ibrahima Dokurugu, a Board Member of the West Africa Network for Peace Building argue that the Dagbon conflict has now become a business to certain people in both the Abudu and Andani royal gates rather than a chieftaincy problem and many of them will not be able to feed themselves and their families when the two feuding families finally decide to reconcile.[63]

It is also acknowledged that basic human rights were abused during times of violent conflicts which the Dagbon crisis is no exception. For instance, some of the soldiers who were called upon to restore calm and peace during the 2002 Dagbon chieftaincy conflict allegedly ended up abusing young girls and brutalizing people unlawfully.[64] The police at some point in time refused to protect citizens. The police surprisingly turned away several fugitives seeking refuge at the police station during the conflict.66 And the extent of the conflict was also revealed during an interview when a university student said, “I had returned from campus because of malaria attack, yet, a military officer punched me in the face for suspecting I was one of the youths causing mayhem in the area” This depicts how human rights were violated during periods of the violent conflicts.

Another effect of the Dagbon conflict is that it forced many youth, vulnerable women and children to migrate and settle in the cities of Accra and Kumasi. Their presence in the cities added up to the already existing social and environmental challenges in the areas. Between the periods of 2002 and 2003, the number of head porters popularly known as ‘Kayaye’ increased when the conflict was at its peak and curfews were been placed on the Dagbon. As argued by Ahorsu & Gebe, the conflict caused a relentless internal migration to the peri-urban periphery of southern Ghana including Accra.[65]

Additionally, the conflict affected social cohesion and community mobilization. The two gates and the alliance remain suspicious and do not trust each other and do not attend each other’s social functions. The violence in Dagbon has also affected health care delivery and education adversely, the health cost of the violent clashes included deaths, injuries, ill health and psychological disorders among the residents. The situation placed a lot of stress on the limited health infrastructure and personnel in the area. The frequent curfews imposed also affected academic standards because students could not go out to access the libraries; teachers who held evening classes for students were also affected since their movement was restricted. Above all, a cursory look at facilities such as roads, clinics and schools in the metropolis as part of the observation technique applied in this study showed that most of these facilities though are already in bad shape, the conflict pave way for their total destruction.[66]

The destruction of infrastructure like schools, water and health facilities during the violent conflict also negatively affected social development in Dagbon.[67] In sum, the Dagbon conflict have been characterized by the wanton destruction of life and property, development reversals, serious abuse of human rights, and suffering, especially among the vulnerable.[68]

3.5 Various Committees and Resolution Mechanisms Adopted in Managing the Conflict

Ever since the dispute started in 1948, various mechanisms have been put in place in resolving it through Committee’s recommendations, notable among them are;

3.5.1 Opoku Afari Committee

The government of the C.P.P. appointed a committee of enquiry under S.D. Opoku Afari, a barrister of law. The committee of inquiry listening to the case and witnesses from both Andani Yili and Abudu Yili made his recommendations to the Minister of Local Government of the CPP Government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, A.E.A Ofori Atta, who in turn took the report to cabinet. The legislative instrument 59 was a victory of sort for Andani Yili. It displeased Abudu Yili in that it recognized the fact that Mion Lana Andani was the legitimate successor to Ya Naa Mahama III.

When the government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (Convention Peoples Party) was ousted in a military coup d’état on February 24, 1966, Abudu Yili saw an opportunity to have L. I. 59 revoked. Abudu Yili put their political gurus to work. They lobbied the government of the National Libration Council (NLC) for the revocation of L. I. 59. On May 25, 1967, the Dagbon State Council presented a petition for the revocation of L.I.

59 to the NLC. The petition among other things argued that L.I. 59 violated the norm

of Dagbon custom that no successor to any Naa should be known or determined during the reign of the incumbent, that there was no customary rotation between the two gates in Dagbon custom and constitution and that the Gbon Lana of a Ya Naa has an equal right to ascend the skins of Yani as the occupants of the three gate skins.[69]

3.5.2 Justice Siriboe Committee

The National Liberation council established the Justice Siriboe committee to look at the findings of L.I 59. The Siriboe committee recommended the revocation of L.I 59 on October, 1968 and thus, introduced L.I, 596.

3.5.3 The Mate Kole committee

The NLC government again appointed a three-member committee (Mate Kole Committee) on December 14, 1968 to hear the petition. The committee was chaired by Nene Azzu Mate Kole and had Nana Obiri Yeboah and Jatoe Kaleo as members. The Mate Kole Committeecommenced sitting on December 17, 1968 in Tamale. While the Mate Kole committee was still sitting, Ya Naa Andani III died on March 14, 1969 at age 70. He had been Ya Naa for a little less than four months. The Mate Kole committee continued its investigation after the death of Ya Naa Andani III and concluded its report in August 1969. In the interim, General J.A. Ankrah resigned as chairman of N.L.C. Brigadier A.A. Afrifa, the new chairman of N.L.C., announced plans to return the country to civilian rule and lifted the ban on party politics. In Dagbon, party politics and membership to the parties were strongly chieftaincy aligned. Abudu Yili voted massively for the Progress Party (P.P.) of Dr. K.A. Busia while Andani Yili voted for the National Alliance of Liberals (N.A.L.) of K.A. Gbedemah.

3.5.4 The Ollennu Committee

On February 13, 1972 the Progress Party Government of Dr. Busia was overthrown in a coup d’état led by General I. K. Acheampong’s National Redemption Council. On February 26, 1972 Andani Yili sent a petition to the new military government to appoint a committee of inquiry into the Yendi Chieftaincy Dispute. This petition gave birth to the Ollenu Committee of Inquiry. The Ollenu committee of inquiry was headed by Justice Nii Amaa Ollennu with Sir Tsibu Darki IX, Nana Atakora Amaniampong II and Togbe Adja Tekpor VI as members.

The Ollennu committee of inquiry, among other things, was to; Ascertain the customary law (procedure) for nomination, selection, and enskinment of the Ya Naa. Inquire about the circumstances leading to the abrogation of Legislative Instrument 59 (L.I. 59)

Inquire into the deskinment of Ya Naa Andani III. Inquire whether the nomination, selection, and enskinment of Ya Naa Mahama IV (Mahamadu) was according to Dagbon custom and constitution.

On April 23, 1974 the government of the NRC published the Ollennu Committee report together with a white paper. The Ollennu committee reversed the findings of the Mate Korle Committee. Specifically, the Ollennu Committee found that the nomination, selection, and enskinment of Ya Naa Andani III was in accordance with the custom and constitution of Dagbon and therefore his deskinment was unjustified. On the nomination, selection and enskinment of Ya Naa Mahama IV (Mahamadu) the committee was of the view that he was not customarily nominated, selected and enskinned. As a result, the enskinment of Ya Naa Mahama IV was declared null-andvoid.

The Ollennu committee also ruled that since no eligible member of Andani Yili occupied any of the gate skins of Yani, Ya Naa Andani III’s Gbon Lana Yakubu Andani be enskinned Ya Naa. On May 31, 1974, Gbon Lana Yakubu Andani (Kampakuya Naa) ascended the skins of Yani as Ya Naa Yakubu II. Ya Naa Yakubu II ruled Dagbon until March 27, 2002, when in clashes between Abudu Yili and Andani Yili he was murdered together with over thirty people in the Gbewaa Palace in Yendi.

3.5.5 Commission of Inquiry in 2002

After the events of 25th to 27th March 2002 both the Abudus and Andanis as well as other individuals, institutions and groups, including opposition political parties, called on the government to institute an impartial and independent commission to investigate the conflict. Hence, the Wuaku Commission of Inquiry was set up by Constitutional Instrument, 2002 (C.I.36), and thus, the then President, John Agyekum Kufuor, on 25th April, 2002, appointed a three-member commission of inquiry, chaired by Justice I.N.K. Wuaku, to investigate the Yendi disturbances Wuaku-Commission Report, 2002.[70] Among the findings of the commission include

“The late Ya Na and all those killed within the Palace and its environs were killed by Abudu fighters…” Wuaku-Commission Report, 2002.[71] The Commission also recommended the arrest and prosecution of several individuals for their alleged involvement in offences such as conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, causing unlawful damage, assault, illegal possession of weapons, and unlawful military training. However, there has not been a complete peace in the face of this Commission.

3.5.6 The Role of Civil Society Organizations

Civil Society Organizations including Faith-Based Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations and specialized United Nations agencies on their own initiatives and in collaboration with the state have played diverse and important roles in mitigating against the adverse effects of the Dagbon conflict.[72] Apart from the provision of relief services to the displaced during the crisis, they helped organize sensitization programs aimed at educating people on the need for peaceful co-existence in Dagbon.[73] And although their roles have been significant, there is still no sustainable peace in Dagbon.

3.5.7 Committee of Eminent Chiefs

In 2003, the then president of Ghana; John Agyekum Kufour constituted a Committee of four Eminent Chiefs led by Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asante King. Their responsibility was to find a durable solution to the chieftaincy dispute in Dagbon. After a long period of deliberations and a series of negotiations, representatives of the two feuding gates in Dagbon signed a “Roadmap to Peace” on 30 March in 2006.

The “Roadmap to Peace” enumerated five major benchmarks in the peacebuilding process to include the burial of the late Ya Na Yakubu Andani II; the installation of the regent of the late king; the performance of the funeral of the deposed Mahamadu Abdulai IV; the performance of the funeral of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II; and finally, the selection and enskinment of a new Ya Na for Dagbon. Eight years after the signing of the roadmap only the first two proposals have been implemented with the remaining being shelved due to continuing disagreement between the two factions.[74]

The Committee’s effort has not been totally successful because it is only the local people that can solve the conflict using their own indigenous conflict resolution methods and not for a third-party mediator. This is why Emmanuel Bombande, former head of the West Africa Network for Peace Building has stated that, Otumfuo’s Committee will only serve as a mediator and platform for peace and not offer a solution to the dispute.[75]

3.6 The Dagbon Traditional Installation Mechanism

Since the foundation of Dagbon, there have been over thirty paramounts’. We shall use here the most recent sequence, established by Phyllis Ferguson, which varies only in minor details from earlier lists provided by Tamakloe and Tait. According to Fage's calculations, the average length of reign is roughly fourteen and a half years. Between 1900 and 1967 there were five kings: the longest reign was seventeen years, the shortest five, and the average was 12 and half years (allowing for interregna - one of which lasted for three years).[76]

All Ya-Nas have been descendants in the male line from Sitobu and Nyagse: all have been sons of Ya-Nas. But this does not mean that every Ya-Na has been succeeded by his eldest son. Since the death of Na Zirile, who was a former Ya-Na there have been only nine cases in which a YaNa has been followed directly by his eldest son and twelve in which younger brothers have succeeded. In the remaining cases, the skin has passed to collaterals (nine cousins of different degrees, five nephews, and one uncle). When there has been conflict over succession, it has generally been between, on the one hand, the deceased's younger brothers and, on the other, sons of the deceased or of previously deceased elder brothers - in other words, the Shakespearian pattern of uncle versus nephew or cousin, but rarely brother versus brother.[77]

In confronting the universal problem of succession, the Dagbamba have adopted formulae which, while limiting competition (and therefore vulnerability to conflict and instability), still leave an element of uncertainty and a capacity for choice. Like any other system, the Dagbamba system manifests characteristic crises and patterns of conflict. In order to minimize the disturbance caused by conflicts within the dynasty, the Dagbamba had to develop rules which both imposed stricter limits on eligibility and allotted to non-royals the responsibility for making the selection. Such rules became necessary quite soon, for after a few generations in power the consequences of polygyny made themselves felt, in the form of large numbers of eligible sons. As Goody points out, this problem is common to many dynasties:

In agnatic systems ... the effects of polygynous marriage can mean a rapid growth of the dynasty over a very few generations ... Such growth complicates the process of selection, because the larger the number of eligible the more difficult they are to handle. Where the support of such a large dynasty is not required, one solution is to lop off the unwanted branches ... Homicide apart, the dynasty can only be cut down in size by shedding whole segments (i.e. lineages) whose claim to the throne has now become distant.[78]

The rule that sons only could succeed served to some extent the function of 'dynastic shedding': whole lines were cut out by the failure of their heads to secure the Yendi skin. But the problem of succession nevertheless quickly became acute and it was therefore necessary further to distinguish between royals who might be eligible for Yendi and others who would be eligible for lesser chieftaincies (i.e. to create a nobility). For even the category of royal sons was becoming uncomfortably large. For example, all five of Na Zoligu's sons succeeded to Yendi and they had all together twenty sons: again, five became king and they produced thirty-one sons[79]. Not surprisingly, after another generation there was a crisis. On the death of Na Gungobili, there were nine contestants (eight of them sons of Na Tutugri and one, Andani Sigili, a son of Na Zagale). As Duncan-Johnstone and Blair write: 'All the Na-bihe [royal sons] ... wished to succeed and no decision could be arrived at. It seems that the elders preferred Zangina, but he was the youngest of the candidates and had no title, whereas at least two of his elder brothers were divisional chiefs. Fearing civil war if they appointed Zangina, the elders referred the selection to the Na-yiri, paramount of the Mamprussi: 'The elders having secretly sent messengers to the King of the Mamprussis in Nalerigu to inform him of their opinion, begged him to act in their favor, and advised the contending claimants to defer their claims to the King of Mamprussi. According to the 'drum history', the Na-yiri staged a competition between the claimants, each being required to prove his wisdom by the choice of a proverb. Tamakloe says that considerable bribes were given by the candidates (including Zangina who, according to Phyllis Ferguson, had in his previous career as a trader 'accumulated sufficient capital virtually to buy his way into the nam against all opposition'). In any case, the Na-yiri chose Zangina, the youngest contestant. More important than his actual choice of candidate was the Na-yiri's alleged edict concerning selection for the Yendi skin.[80]

This edict limited the range of eligiblity to those already occupying three 'gate' skins. To be a candidate for Yendi, a royal had first to be Karaga-Na, Yo-Na (divisional chief of Savelugu), or Mion-lana: only occupants of these skins could be considered. All authorities agree that these were the skins selected as 'gates' and on the whole the rule has been followed. Thus, of the last ten paramounts’, eight were occupants of one of the three gate skins immediately before their accession. The other two were regents, who succeeded in circumstances to be considered later in the book. There does not seem to have been any dispute about the identity of the gate skins, although it has recently been asserted that the regency itself constitutes a fourth gate.

One problem, however, has been that of whether there is an order of precedence of the royal 'dukes', one having a superior right to succeed to Yendi. Some writers and participants hold that the Mion-lana is the senior of the three. Manoukian, citing David Tait as her authority, argues that 'the choice commonly falls on the Mionglana, who is, in fact, the heir presumptive'.[81] Certainly, five of the last ten paramounts have come directly from Mion; two came from Savelugu, and one from Karaga. But these figures do not necessarily reveal the operation of a rule of precedence: there could be other ways of explaining the frequency of transition from Mion to Yendi. Those supporting the right of the Mion chief claim, however, that he has a specific prerogative which invariably gives him the right to Yendi.

The prerogative in question is that of supervising the funerals of Ya-Nas. According to a Dagbamba sociologist, Dassana Iddi, 'that one chief occupying a gate skin who is responsible [for carrying out the funeral] is the Mion-Lana[82]. Customarily the chief who performs the Ya-Na's funeral becomes the next man on the skin. Iddi further states that usually the Mion skin was occupied by the eldest son: the right of the Mion-lana and that of the eldest son thus generally coincided. But there have been occasions when the eldest son was not Mion-lana at the time of his father's death.

In these circumstances, the normal practice has been for the Mion-lana to succeed and for the eldest son to move on to the vacant Mion skin, in anticipation of succeeding next time. Finally, Iddi argues, the Mion-lana's seniority is demonstrated by the fact that he, alone of the gate chiefs, comes to Yendi to act as protector of the kingdom during an interregnum[83]. There has been no persistent claim for seniority on behalf of the KaragaNa and Yo-Na - although the present KaragaNa, Adam, told Iddi that he had precedence over the others and that the Mion-lana was 'the youngest of us'. The Yo-Na, equally, does not admit that the Mion-lana has any special rights.

Perhaps all one can say is that, on the whole, the Mion-lana is more likely than his peers to become Ya-Na; one cannot say with any certainty that there is an active rule which prescribes that he should.

3.6.1 Burial and ‘Enskinment’ Process of Ya-Na

The actual procedure for selecting and enskinning a Ya-Na, though Complex, does not seem to have been in dispute until recently. There were, of course, disputes about the rights of candidates to be enskinned, and pressures of various kinds were undoubtedly applied to the selectors. But in present circumstances it is virtually impossible to talk about a 'proper' procedure, since there are conflicts over several crucial elements of selection. Because of these difficulties, I have cast the account which follows in the past tense, although the ceremonies concerned still take place. I have also described the ceremonies in some detail, not only because of their symbolic interest, but also because of the significance they have assumed in the recent dispute.

Generally, as much as a year could elapse between the death of a Ya-Na and the installation of his successor. The death of a paramount was not regarded by the Dagbamba as a natural result of ageing; there was a strong tendency to suspect poisoning or witchcraft, inspired by rivals or enemies. For a considerable period after a death, the kingdom was held to be in a Dagbon state of fallen grace and the processes of nature upset: the land was 'hollow' and the water 'spoilt'. Such disarray continued until a new king was chosen. During an interregnum Dagbamba was initially in the charge of the KugaNa, an elder of Yendi, and the Mion-lana. The Kuga-Na made the first proclamation of the death of the king, at the house of a colleague, the Gullana. A more general announcement was made later, also by the elders, once the senior chiefs had been informed and the eldest surviving son had arrived in Yendi.

The announcement was phrased euphemistically, since it was taboo to say the king was dead; instead, he was said to have ‘gone to the farm’. At this point, usually about a month after the king's death, the regent took over, with the title of gbonlana.[84] Within a few days of the death of the king, divination began, in order to establish the identity of the successor. But divination might continue for some months, and the funeral would be postponed until agreement had been reached on the succession. The choice of a new Ya-Na was entrusted to a group consisting of three elders of Yendi (Kuga-Na, Tuguri-nam, and Gomli), plus the Gushie-Na (the chief of Gushiegu and a senior commoner divisional chief).

Only the elders took part in the divination, which involved sacrifice to the spirits of former kings. In principle, it was the latter who chose the new king, although in practice many diviners might be consulted, the elders sometimes shopping around until they could be sure of obtaining an oracular declaration favorable to the candidate they actually preferred. Certainly, they were seen as responsible for finding a chief with appropriate qualities. Thus, one elder told Iddi that the spirits tended on the whole to favor the candidate 'whose reign will bring sufficient material gains, one who will feel himself bound by the advice of the elders[85] '.

The elders had to discover any physical defect (such as blindness or malformation) which would make a candidate ineligible. The process of selection was bound up with the cycle of ritual leading to the funeral of the deceased Ya-Na. Any gate chief wishing to 'apply' for the Yendi skin was expected to present (to the king's relatives) a set of objects for burial with the corpse. Presentation of this 'burial kit[86]. It was regarded as a tacit declaration of the donor's wish to be considered as a successor; and rejection of it was regarded as rejection of his claim.

The prerogative of accepting or rejecting these gifts lay with the king's relatives, who also had, at least formally, the right to decide who should perform the funeral. In reality, these powers seem to have provided another way for the elders to influence or even determine the selection of a new paramount. When divination had been completed, the funeral could be carried out. The ceremony involved the removal of the corpse, upright and dressed, through a hole in the wall of the royal compound to a grave in the royal burial chamber. On the way, the king was 'walked' over the body of a live cow. The actual burial was accompanied by further sacrificial slaughter and by the ritual cleaning of the king's wives, who were subsequently released from the household, to remarry if they wished.

The corpse was washed and dressed; it was then buried along with the leopard's and lion's skins. Food was left in the burial chamber for the dead king and the other royal spirits. Meanwhile, the elders responsible for selection would meet the Gushie-Na at Sakpiegu, north of Yendi, and confer with him about the succession. The decision they reached would be communicated to the principal divisional chiefs not in line for Yendi and the approval of these chiefs was sought-indeed, it was essential if the new king was not to become involved in civil war.

The Gushie-Na then proceeded to Yendi where he rode ceremonially three times around the burial chamber and then entered it, to emerge demonstrating grief. His action was regarded as the final declaration that the previous reign was over and that the regency was also at an end. From the burial chamber, the Gushie-Na went to the royal court (yili bid).

Here, after a symbolic display of resistance by the royal bodyguard, the Gushie-Na seized three pieces of straw from the palace roof and handed one to the successful candidate. Then the GushieNa left Yendi, custom forbidding him to spend the night in the town after indicating the identity of the new king. The Ya-Na designate was taken to a hut (the katini duu) where he was adorned with the insignia of paramountcy - a gown and hat both said to have belonged to Tohajie the (Red Hunter), beads, a calabash, a gourd, a club, and a set of spears. Each piece of regalia was guarded by a particular chief or elder as was the royal stool (gbolon) on which the king was required to sit three times while in the katini duu.[87]

Only the elders and chiefs who had already reached their 'termini[88] ' were allowed to be present in the hut when the installation was taking place. Subsequently, the new Ya-Na was led to the house of an elder, Zohe-Na, where he was formally kept as a 'prisoner' for a week, during which period

Kuga-Na ruled the state. After another few day’s staying with Mbadugu[89]. The Ya-Na was taken to the court where Muslim prayers were said and homage was paid by other chiefs and by commoners, the king sitting on the lion skin of a Ya-Na. Such seems to have been the usual procedure for the burial of a Ya-Na and the selection and enskinment of his successor.

Soothsaying has been a versatile tool in the traditional matters of Dagbon including the choice of a Ya- Na and indeed all chiefs in Dagbon. Even in the selection of Na Zanginbilla soothsaying was applied. The resort to Nayire to arbitrate in the process was largely due to the fact that some of the elders of Dagbon, especially the Gushie Na were so influenced that they were prepared to perverse the process to attain their wish.[90]

It may be true that soothsaying as an effective tool for choosing a Ya Na was discredited when Na Gungobly but not his wealthy senior brother, Galwei Na Kundoni (chief of Galwei) was selected Ya Na. It was not abandoned however. The choice of the impoverished Gungobly but not his more affluent senior brother was a vindication of the tool of soothsaying. Ordinarily, Galwei Na Kundoni could have bulldozed his way to Yani if his age and opulence as against the abject poverty of Gungobly had been counted. The incorruptible spirits of our ancestors directed the soothsayers in the choice of Na Gungobly against Galwei Na.[91]

The employment of soothsaying is supported by the use of sacrifices to land gods and the good spirits of our ancestors. The method has been propitious enough for the right choice to always emerge. Of course, that there were and have been violations of the process principally due to greed and other inordinate human desires. This is why some candidates in the past resorted to murder to circumvent the wishes of the gods and the good spirits of our ancestors. To make the best choice of a leader (Ya Na) it may take centuries for Dagbambas to jettison soothsaying as a tool or discover secrets. Only a very insignificant proportion of our population as an ethnic group would reject this view and this might purely for religious reasons.[92]

Chieftaincy in Dagbon is purely traditional and cannot be separated from the traditional belief, which recognizes the influence of our departed ancestors on our lives on earth. The kingmakers therefore engage in propitiation or ancestral spirits who direct them for the good of the people and the chieftaincy institution for that matter. This is why their directions have been in keeping with the system of rotation between the current two ruling houses (gates). Up to the time of Na Yakubu Nantoo I there was absolutely no need for any rotation. The period after Na Yakubu Nantoo I marked a turning point in the process of ascending to Yani. The emergence of his two most senior sons, Abudulai and Andani who succeeded him one after the other created sufficient conditions for the existence of two ruling houses out of one.[93] Na Yakubu Nantoo I ruled for forty (40) years His immediate successor was Na Abdulai I, his most senior son. Na Abudulai I, ruled for nineteen (19) years. Na Abudulai I, was succeeded by Na Andani II, who also ruled for thirty-eight (38) years. Thus, from Na Yakubu Nantoo I, to Na Andani II, there were ninety-seven (97) years. The influence of Na Abdulai I and Na Andani II in the Namship of Yendi eclipsed the chances of any other royal of their era and this gained the favor or blessing of the ancestral spirits. It is not surprising therefore that the kingmaker’s choices for Yani from this time rotated between the descendants of the two brothers. During these periods Dagbon witnessed an era of unity, peace, stability and progress.

Both the Abudu and Andani gates recognize the rotation system. Recent publications from the two gates attest to this. When Na Mahama Kpema II (grandfather of the murdered King Na Yakubu II) appointed Nyolgu Na Mahamudu as Savelugu (Yo) Na, fourteen (14) chiefs (thirteen from Abuduyili) petitioned the District Commissioner of Yendi against that appointment. Korli Na Bukari was spokesman for the petitioners.[94]

The grounds for the petitioners were several. One was that the Nyolugu Na belonged to the Andani side, the present appointment should be made from the Abudulai side in order that, that side of the family should have a candidate for the next Ya Naship. The incumbent Ya Na (Mahama Kpema) coming from Andaniyili was the cardinal point which formed the basis of the protest. The simple fact is that somehow, two ruling houses have come to exist. To ensure harmony, peace, fairness and tranquility the good spirits of our ancestors, in the best interest of Dagbon, direct the kingmakers through soothsaying to select Ya Nas by rotation between the two royal gates.

The 1948 Selection Committee during the reign of Na Abudulai (Abudu) II in 1930 the Colonial Administration organized a conference of Dagbon chiefs to enquire in to the constitution and organization of Dagbon Kingdom. Matters as to the existence and administration were discussed and recorded. As to who are responsible for selecting a Ya Na, the chiefs stated unequivocally that there is a four-member traditional king making body. The members of this body were given as: Gushie Na; Kuga Na; Tugri Nam and Gomli. Na Abudulai (Abudu) II passed away in February 1938. His successor Na Mahama Kpema II (from Andaniyili) was selected by the four-member traditional king making body. Na Mahama Kpema progressed from Mion. Na Mahama Kpema was the son of Na Andani II. Na Mahama Kpema died on February 6th 1948. The occupants of the three gate skins at the time of Na Mahama Kpema’s death were, Mion Lana Mahama billa (from Abuduyili), Savelugu (Yo) Na Mahamudu (from Andaniyili) and Sunson Adam who usurped the Karaga skin. All the above three contestants presented themselves for selection to fill the vacant Ya Naship. Three months after the demise of Na Mahama Kpema on May 12th 1948 a surprising thing occurred. The Dagbon State Council is alleged to have met with the Gbon Lana (regent) of Na Mahama Kpema presiding. The Gbon Lana, who later became Mion Lana Andani and was on November 21st 1968 enskinned Ya Na Andani III, presided over the alleged meeting.

At this supposed meeting the Dagbon State Council is alleged to have unanimously resolved that a new selection committee of eleven (11) members, comprising seven (7) chiefs and four (4) elders, had replaced the four-member traditional king making body. The new king making body was named the selection committee. As far as records available indicate no sitting Ya Na up to 12th May 1948 raised any issue challenging the integrity of the traditional king making body of four.

3.6.2 Choosing a Successor to Ya-Na Mahama III as the Bases for the Dispute from 1948

The events following the death of Ya Naa Mahama III, performance of his final funeral rites, and enskinning his successor probably marks the beginning of modern day chieftaincy constitutional crisis in Dagbon. The events that followed the death of Ya Naa Mahama III reignited the bitter “Andani Yili – Abudu Yili” struggle that had hitherto plagued the Kingdom for the best part of the last half century, albeit to a lesser degree.[95]

In the final days of the reign of Ya Naa Mahama III and immediately following his death, there were rumours in the kingdom that Mion Lana Andani was responsible for the illness and demise of the Ya Naa.[96] The family of Ya Naa Mahama III was therefore angered by the alleged sorcery of Mion Lana Andani and banned him from attending the funeral of the Ya Naa. This accusation caused a lot of trouble in the kingdom, as Mion Lana Andani - a member of the Andani gate - was favoured to be enskinned Ya Naa to maintain the rotation of the Nam between the two gates. Ya Naa Mahama III was a member of Abudu Yili. Failure of Mion Lana Andani to attend the funeral of the Ya Naa could in fact disqualify him from presenting his candidacy for Yani (as in the case of Ya Naa Alasani).

On his death bed, it is said that, Ya Naa Mahama III requested that his first son not be installed Gbon Lana because of his physical deformities. Ya Naa Mahama III proposed to by-pass his children and install Kpating Lana Ziblim, a son of Ya Naa Abdulai II and nephew of Ya Naa Mahama III, Gbon Lana. A petition from the eldest son of Ya Naa Mahama III, Abdulai, and his supporters to the government of the Gold Coast and protests from Andani Yili led to the intervention of government forces and Abdulai was installed Gbon Lana.[97]

Next problem was establishing who had the right to select the successor to Ya Naa Mahama III. In Dagbon custom and tradition, the selection of the new Ya Naa fell on a committee of kingmakers made up of Gushie Naa, Kuga Naa, Tugri Nam, and Gomli.

The kingmakers consulted oracles and soothsayers to determine which of the eligible candidates’ (occupants of Yani gate skins) reign as Ya Naa would bring peace and prosperity to Dagbon.

Earlier in 1948 during the installation of Ya Naa Mahama III, as we have already noted, a new Ya Naa selection committee was formed to replace the traditional committee of kingmakers. The reason for the new selection committee was to include other members from outside Yendi to determine which of the contestants was most suitable for Yani. The older selection committee consisted of elders of Yendi and other parts of the Kingdom had no voice in choosing of the Ya Naa. More importantly, the new selection committee was conceived under the colonial governments strive to establish a democratic system of government in Dagbon, in the hope that it will make it easier for literate yanabihi to make it to Yani and other divisional chiefdoms. Thus, making the governance of the kingdom easier from the colonial government’s point of view.

They noted that the system of ascension to the skins of Yani and to other divisional chiefdoms excluded the young and literate princes of Dagbon from reaching high positions. The new committee was also a step towards democratization of the process, as most of the chiefs appointed to the skins in Dagbon lacked the education and commitment to the system of government and taxation put in place by the colonial government. The high-ranking chiefs of Dagbon were very critical and suspicious of education and therefore did not enroll their children in schools. Most of the literate princes were therefore eligible to lower ranking chiefdoms without much impact on the chieftaincy politics in the kingdom.

The legitimacy of this new committee was being challenged, as most felt that the formation of the committee in 1948 was not discussed at the Dagbon State Council nor was the committee involved in the selection of Ya Naa Mahama III. At an emergency session, the Dagbon State Council unanimously voted to adopt the resolution of 1948 reconstituting the Ya Naa selection committee (kingmakers).


4.1 Introduction

This chapter summarize the findings and provides a clear conclusion to the study that justify how it could be more resourceful and meaningful to adopt the traditional installation mechanism as an alternative chieftaincy conflict resolution mechanism in order to cement the factions of the two gates of the Dagbon Kingdom.

4.2 Summary of Findings

The study has given a historical evolution of the Dagbon Chieftaicy dispute from 1948 - 2002 when it assumed an alarming proportion. The empirical data gathered from the interviews conducted revealed that cultural, political, economic and social dynamics were responsible for the emergence, escalation and intractability of the conflict in the Dagbon Kingdom in the Northern Region of Ghana. Culturally, as in every kingdom, the Dagbon kingdom is headed by a king called the Ya-Na. Accession to the throne of Ya-Na (Yani), which rotates between the descendants of two sons of Naa Yakubu I (Abudulai and Andani) since 1849, was interrupted in 1948 and has been the main source of dispute since then with violent clashes in 1969 and 2002 resulting in loss of lives (including the over lord, Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II in 27th March, 2002) and property. This succession struggle between the two royal families to Yani is underpinned by an anxiety among both gates of being deprived of the kingship.

Intertwined with the accession problem is the issue of political interference in chieftaincy by various political regimes since the colonial era. In Dagbon custom and tradition, the selection of a new Ya-Na was the responsibility of a committee of kingmakers who, as part of the selection process, consulted oracles and soothsayers to determine which of the eligible candidate (princes) was most suitable to be enskined as Ya-Na. The colonial authorities, after they had tried various ways of getting their preferred princes to succeed deceased chiefs without success, influenced the establishment of a Selection Committee of eleven chiefs in 1948, as replacement for the previous tradition of four kingmakers which is a total contravention of the rotational principle.[98] This change, and the resultant events of 1954, could be said to be the root cause of the current protracted conflict in Dagbon.

The study also observed that, various post-colonial governments have also been drawn into the conflict to take advantage of it in order to market their political ideologies. The two gates are firmly divided between the two dominant political traditions at any given time in the political history of the country. Since post-1945 nationalism, the educated Abudu and Andani elites have aligned themselves with the main opposing United Party (UP) and Convention People’s Party (CPP) traditions of Ghanaian politics respectively and up to now the situation has not change and doing more harm to the kingdom than good.[99] It was based on this political lines division that the NPP during the 2000 electioneering campaign promised the Abudus to regain their political realm of Dagbon which they lost since 1974 through the deskinment of Naa Mahamadu Abudulai IV. These are some of the political games that raised unnecessary political anxieties in the kingdom following the party’s victory in 2000.

A third factor discovered during the study for accounting to the emergence and escalation of conflicts in the North and the Dagbon in particular, was economic in nature. The area is part of one of the least developed regions in Ghana. Most of the inhabitants, including the youth, are unemployed with its associated poverty. Economic and social deprivation and poverty engender despondency and desperation and invariably call for coping and survival strategies of various kinds, including those that are questionable. Thus, for a pittance, youth and others in such circumstances are induced to break custom and law rather than listen to reason. Consequently, they indulge in behavior risky to themselves and their neighbors because with very limited prospects, there is not much to live for anyway. The results are death, injury, poisoned social relations and increased poverty; or perceived spiritual mishaps.[100]

The Dagbamba, like many other African societies, have their traditional mechanisms for conflict resolution. In Dagbon tradition, conflict is resolved through mediation and arbitration by the chiefs and their elders as well as religious leaders (imams). Community leaders from headsmen to the highest grade of chiefs are instrumental in adjudicating disputes that might lead to full blown violent conflicts. Every community has a chief who settles minor disputes between citizens. The highest level of conflict resolution, however, is the Ya Na’s palace. In the case of disputes arising from chieftaincy, especially over Yani, Kuga-Naa, the supreme father of both the Abudu and Andani gates, mediates between the factions. His decision or plea to the Ya-Na or his regent cannot be ignored. In extreme cases, the issue was referred to Nayiri, the king of Mampurogu, who mediates and resolve the dispute. It is also customary to put a disputed issue to the test by making contesting parties submit to supernatural arbitration through oracles, sworn statement and oaths. The fear for the sanction that comes from the oracles and the oaths deters disputants who know their claim is unjust and thus, abandon their assertions.

The study however found out that even though the Dagbambas themselves have not applied their traditional means of conflict resolution to the current conflict, the government has exploited part of it through the establishment of a Committee of Eminent Chiefs. The government however ignored the emic approach that would have taken into account the unique cultural practices of the Dagbambas and rather employed the etic approach which assumes that the Ghanaian culture in general could deal with the situation. Thus, in setting the Committee of Eminent Chiefs, the government, even though included northern chiefs, made a southern chief the leader. To some, this undermines the confidence of the people in the committee hence the difficulty of the committee to find amicable solution to the conflict.

The study also found out that the conflict resolution strategies adopted prior to and the aftermath of the 2002 violent clashes have not been too different. A key strategy employed by governments over the years in a bid to resolve the conflict was the setting up of commissions/committees of inquiry which presented reports to the regimes that commissioned them. The regimes, in most cases, enacted legal instruments to give effect to these reports. Awedoba argues that these committees/commissions were post-dated in the sense that it is after the conflict has taken place and the damage had been caused that they were set up to do a post-mortem.[101] Besides, the commissions/committees reports and their implementation were mostly contested by one faction or the other. The aggrieved faction in this case, saw in a change of government, an opportunity to have its desire satisfied and wasted no time to petition a new government. This resulted in commissions/committees upon commissions /committees been set up.

A significant departure from the fact-finding commissions or committees was the appointment of a Committee of three Eminent Chiefs made up of the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II; the Yagbonwura, Bawa Doshie and the Nayiri, Mahami Abdulai Naa Bohagu in 2003 to look into the traditional issues relating to the conflict and to help find customary and traditional solutions to them in order to resolve conflict. The Committee of Eminent Chiefs had so far presented a “Roadmap to Peace” in March, 2006. The “Roadmap to Peace” spelt out five major benchmarks in the conflict resolution and peace building process. These comprised the burial of the late Ya Na Yakubu Andani II; the installation of the regent of the late king; the performance of the funeral of the deposed ‘former Ya-Na’, Mahamadu Abudu; performance of the funeral of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II; and finally, the selection and enskinment of a new Ya-Na for Dagbon. Unfortunately, apart from the first two targets the committee’s work suffered setbacks due to disagreement between the two gates.

On the question of why the conflict remains unresolved despite the various efforts made to resolve it, the study found out that lack of justice in the opinion of both factions in the conflict remained a very important reason for the intractability of the conflict. What constitute justice however continues to be a matter of perspectives. Whereas finding and punishing the murderers of Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II represented justice for the Andanis, the implementation of the Supreme Court ruling of 1986, especially the part that state “that Naa Mahamadu IV be accorded the rights of a former Ya-Na” constitutes justice in the opinion of the Abudus.

It also came up that mistrust among members of the two families was an impediment to the resolution of the conflict. The decision of the late Naa Yakubu Andani II, and now his regent, Kampakuya-Na Andani Yakubu Abudulai not to vacate the palace appeared to have been informed by the mistrust that the Abudus would not vacate the palace after they had performed the funeral of their late deposed ‘former king’ Naa Mahamadu Abudulai IV. This same mistrust made the Abudus initially resisted vehemently the Andanis’ planed installation of a regent just before the burial of Naa Yakubu Andani II.

Furthermore, it had been observed that lack of confidence in the peace process on the part of both the Abudus and the Andanis was an inhibiting factor to the resolution of the conflict. Both families demonstrated their lack of confidence in the peace process by boycotting and rejecting the proposals and recommendations of the commissions/committees instituted by the state. As a result, key road maps that could help resolve the conflict could not be implemented.

One other major obstacle to the peace processes in Dagbon, according to the findings, is the activities of ‘spoilers’ – actors who are opposed to peaceful settlement for whatever reason, from within or (usually) outside the peace process, and who use violence or other means to disrupt the process in pursuit of their aims.[102] It was observed that influential individuals, groups and organizations (including political parties) described as ‘faceless but powerful’ hold opinions that often sway the decisions and actions of the real Royals. It was also alleged that political parties, particularly the NDC and the NPP, using ‘spoiling’ tactics, undermine the peace process in Dagbon. They do this by adopting divide and rule strategy by which they effectively infiltrate the rank and file of the two gates and made them believe that any compromise they make would inure to the advantage of their opponents.

4.2 Conclusion

Chieftaincy succession conflict is a major problem to national development in Ghana. There are many issues of chieftaincy dispute in almost all the regions; however, Ghana’s northern region via Dagbon chieftaincy comes with a high severity for all. The conflict is quite unique in that it has characteristic that has national politics underground meddling and stand-alone aspects from other chieftaincy related conflicts. And thus, no other chieftaincy conflict has so passionately divided the political elite in Ghana as the Dagbon conflict has.

Although various mechanisms have been proposed and adopted for arresting the canker, nothing much is seen to have lessen the situation. That does not mean this deadly dispute should be allowed to linger, but stakeholders must be guided by the history of the people under study. As indicated earlier somewhere in this study, the Dagbon dispute managers and resolvers must turn to the Traditional Installation Mechanism which is well known and perfectly used in resolving issues of this nature in the Kingdom. The best way to ensure sustainable peace in Dagbon is not necessarily equipping the area with heavy military to the detriment of national development but resorting to the application of local conflict resolution techniques where soothsayers and the Kuga-Na as well as the Nayiri could play a key role in the chieftaincy succession processes.

Thus, the government institutions of Ghana in charge of conflict prevention and management must relegate themselves from “hypocrisy” towards the Dagbon issue and empower the local authority to handle it with traditional methods including the Gacaca Method adopted in Rwanda where perpetrators of atrocities voluntarily confess and seek forgiveness and were automatically granted such request for the betterment of societal development and sustainability.



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Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

[1] K. Odotei & A. K. Awedoba, Chieftaincy in Ghana Culture, Governance and Development (Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2006).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Republic of Ghana, Constitution of the Republic of Ghana (Accra: Ghana Publishing Corporation,1992).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Steve Tonah, “Politicization a Chieftaincy Conflict: The Case of Dagbon, Northern Ghana,” Nordic Journal of African Studies Vol. 21 No. 1 (2012). p. 5

[7] Edwin C. Ahiave, “Conflict and Conflict Resolution in Ghana: The Case of the Dagbon Conflict,” (Master’s Thesis, Univ. of Ghana, 2013). P.2

[8] See for example; M. Prah, & A. Yeboah, “Tuobodom Chieftaincy Conflict in Ghana: A Review and Analysis of Media Reports,” The Journal of Pan African Studies Vol.4 No.3 (2011). P. 20; S. B. Kendie and A. K. Tuffour, “Spatial Analysis of Violent Conflicts in Ghana: 2007-2013,” (Faculty of Social Sciences, UCC Ghana, 2014); A. K.Awedoba, “Modes of succession in the Upper East Region of Ghana,” in I. K. Odotei and A. K. Awedoba (eds.), Chieftaincy in Ghana. Culture, Governance and Development, (Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers,2006) p.409

[7] G. K. Nukunya , Tradition and Change in Ghana: An Introduction to Sociology (Ghana Universities Press, 2000)

[8] A. A. Boahen, Ghana: Evolution and Change in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (London: Longman, 1975).

[9] K. Arhin, Traditional Rule in Ghana – Past and Present (Accra: Sedco Publishing Limited: 1985)

[10] Ali Y. Nyaaba, “Transformations in the Chieftaincy Institution in Northern Ghana from 1900-1969: A Case Study of Navrongo and Sakot,” (PhD Thesis, KNUST, 2009). P. 27

[11] C. Abotchie, “Has the Position of the Chief Become Anachronistic in Contemporary Ghanaian Politics?” in Odotei & Awedoba, (eds) Chieftaincy in Ghana…

[12] Ahiave, “Conflict and Conflict Resolution…” P.2

[13] Abotchie, “Has the Position of the Chiefs…” in I. K. Odotei, & A. K. Awedoba, (eds) Chieftaincy in Ghana...

[14] Cletus K. Mbowura, “The British Colonial Factor in Inter-Ethnic Conflict in Contemporary Northern Ghana: The

Case of the Nawuri-Gonja Conflict,” (PHD Thesis, University of Ghana, Legon, 2002), 34-36

[15] J. Cocodia, “Exhuming Trends in Ethnic Conflict and Cooperation in Africa: Some Selected States,” African Journal on Conflict Resolution Vol. 8 No. 3 (2008), 910-12.

[16] Ibid.

[17] For details see: A. Cohen, Custom and Politics in Urban Africa: A Study of Hausa Migrants in Yoruba Towns (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969); Cocodia, “Exhuming Trends in Ethnic Conflict…”

[18] K. Ahorsu and B. Y. Gebe, Governance and Security in Ghana: The Dagbon Chieftaincy Crisis (Accra, Ghana: WACSI 2011).

[19] D. Tsikata and W. Seini, “Identities, Inequalities and Conflicts in Ghana,” (Crises Working Paper 5, 2004).

[20] Mbowura, op. cit., 1-2.

[21] Tsikata and Seini, “Identities, Inequalities…” Odotei, & Awedoba, (eds) Chieftaincy in Ghana…; Ahiave, “Conflict and Conflict Resolution…”

[22] Ayensah P. Kobina. Role of Asafo Groups in the Effutu Chieftaincy Conflict in the Effutu Municipality in the Central Region of Ghana (University of Cape Coast, May 2013).

[23] Ministry of Defense (UK), “The Causes of Conflict in Africa,” (London: Department for International Development,

[24] Chris Allen, “Warfare, Endemic Violence and State Collapse in Africa,” Review of African Political Economy Vol.

[25] Ministry of Defense (UK), “The Causes of conflict in Africa….”

[26] Allen, “Warfare, Endemic Violence…”

[27] Ministry of Defense (UK), “The Causes of conflict in Africa….”

[28] Abdul Karim Issifu, “An Analysis of Conflicts in Ghana: The Case of Dagbon Chieftaincy,” The Journal of Pan African Studies Vol.8, No.6, (September 2015). p. 33

[29] Ibid. p.11

[30] Ahiave, “Conflict and Conflict Resolution…”; Karim, “An Analysis of Conflicts in Ghana…”

[31] E. Wertheim, “Skills for Resolving Conflict” (Victoria: Eruditions, 1998). P.3

[32] A. Tidwell, Conflict Resolved (Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. 1998) P. 9

[33] L. Boulle, Mediation: Principles, Process and Practice (Sydney: Butterworth, 1996), p. 10

[34] A work Life for you Guide, “Conflict Resolution,” (2011).

[35] Ahiave, “Conflict and Conflict Resolution…” P. 26

[36] Ibrahim Mahama, Murder of an African King: Ya-Na Yakubu II ( New York: Vantages Press, 2009).

[37] Ghana Districts, “Yendi Municipality,” www.ghanadistricts.com.

[38] Arthur K. Boafo, “Chieftaincy in Ghana: Challenges and Prospects in the 21st Century,” African and Asian Studies Vol. 2 No. 2 (2003).

[39] Ibrahim, Murder of an African King... P.1

[40] Ghana Statistical Service, 2010 Housing and Population Census of Ghana (Accra: Ghana Statistical Service, May, 2012).

[41] Mumin, A. Alhassan, Islamic Studies for West African Senior High Schools (Islamic Option, University of Ghana Legon, 2011), p.351.

[42] Martin Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon: Political Change in Northern Ghana (London: Cambridge University Press, 1975 No.3 (1977), pp. 473-475.

[43] Abridged History of Dagbon…p.12.

[44] Interview with a sub-chief as an informant, Tamale, Jan. 10, 2018.

[45] Dagbon Conference of 1930. Quoted in the Abridge History of Dagbon. p.11

[46] Abridge History of Dagbon. p.50.

[47] Ahorsu and Gebe, Governance and Security…; A. Yakubu, The Abudu-Andani Crisis of Dagbon, A Historical and Legal Perspective of the Yendi Skin Affair s (Accra: MPC Ltd, 2005).

[48] Karim, “An Analysis of Conflicts in Ghana...” P.9

[49] Ahorsu, & Gebe, Governance and security in Ghana…

[50] Dagbon refer to the kingdom of the Dagbamba in the Northern Region of Ghana .

[51] Tsikata and Seini, “Identities, Inequalities and Conflicts in Ghana

[52] Ahiave, “Conflict and Conflict Resolution in Ghana…”

[53] Ahorsu and Gebe, Governance and Security in Ghana…

[54] Wuaku Commission Report p.65

[55] Tonah, “Politicization a Chieftaincy Conflict…” p. 5

[56] IRIN, “Ghana: Counting the Cost of the Dagbon Crises”. Accessed on Nov. 10, 2017. At; http://www.irinnews.org/report/42019/ghana-counting-the-cost-of-the-dagbon-crisis.

[57] Tonah, “Politicization a Chieftaincy Conflict.” 5.

[58] Yakubu The Abudu and Andani Crisis…

[59] Tonah, “Politicization a Chieftaincy Conflict...” p. 5

[60] K. J. N. Brukum, “Chieftaincy and Ethnic Conflicts in the Northern Region of Ghana, 1980- 2002,” in S. Tonah (Ed.), Ethnicity, Conflicts and Consensus in Ghana, (Accra: Woeli Publishing Services, 2007) pp.98-115.

[61] K. J. N. Brukum, “Ethnic Conflict in Northern Ghana, 1980-1999: An Appraisal”, in I. K. Odotei, & A. K. Awedoba, Chieftaincy in Ghana Culture, Governance and Development (Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers 2006), pp.429-31.

[62] IRIN, “Ghana: Counting the Cost of the Dagbon Crises.” Accessed on Nov. 10, 2017. At; http://www.irinnews.org/report/42019/ghana-counting-the-cost-of-the-dagbon-crisis

[63] J. Ziem, “Dagbon Conflict Benefits Some People,” Rumnet Rural Media Network (Accessed on 5 January 2014) from https://rumnet.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/dagbonconflict-benefits-some-people/.

[64] Karim, “An analysis of the conflict in Ghana….” P. 6 66 Wuaku Commission Report, 2002.

[65] Ahorsu and Gebe, Governance and Security in Ghana…

[66] Wuaku Commission Report, 2002.

[67] S. B Kendie (Ed.), Conflict Management and Peace Building for Poverty Reduction. (Tamale: GILLBT Press, 2010)

[68] Ahorsu and Gebe, Governance and Security in Ghana…

[69] Abridged History of Dagbon, http://www.dagbon.net/index.php/history. Accessed; March 5, 2018. p.20

[70] Wuaku Commission Report…

[71] Ibid.

[72] Ahorsu and Gebe, Governance and Security in Ghana…

[73] Ahiave, “Conflict and Conflict Resolution…” p.79

[74] Tonah, “Politicization a Chieftaincy Conflict…”

[75] P. Conteh, “Otumfuo can’t Resolve Dagbon Conflict – Bombande” (Accessed: January 8 2015) from http://citifmonline.com/2015/01/13/otumfuo-cant-resolve-dagbon-conflictbombande/.

[76] Conteh, “Otumfuo can’t Resolve Dagbon…” p. 33.

[77] Ibid. P. 34.

[78] Conteh, “Otumfuo can’t Resolve Dagbon...” p.36.

[79] Ferguson Phyllis, “Islamization in Dagbon: A Study of the Alfanema of Yendi,” (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cambridge, 1973). pp.3-17. R. B. Bening, “The Development of Education in Northern Ghana 1908-57”, The Ghana Social Science Journal, Vol 1, No 2 (), pp.214-15 .

[80] Phyllis, “Islamization in Dagbon…” p. 37.

[81] Presumptiv e, forming reasonable basis for the acceptance that something exists or is true.

[82] Mion Lana, is the chief of Mion. One of the Gates which qualifies a candidate to the Dagbon Kingship .

[83] Interregnum , The period of time between the end of one reign or the regime and the beginning of the next.

[84] Gbon- Lana is the accepted title in Dagbon royal nomenclature for a regent when a Ya- Na, the Dagbon king, dies. However, given the feud between the Abudu and Andani royal gates with each gate concurrently having apprehenders to the throne, the two gates have evolved titles that they confer on their respective heir apparent, such as Bolin- Na (Abudus) and Kampakuya- Na (Andanis).

[85] Elders , here referred to the King making body of Dagbon .

[86] Burial Kit , consisting of the skin of a lion and some leopard and clothes in which to address the body.

[87] Katini duu , A small hut where a Ya-Na is dressed with a regalia believed to belong to Tohazie, the Red Hunter.

[88] Termini, in this context has to do with people who have gone beyond the Hight of their glory and are very old.

[89] Mbadugu , was the elder responsible for the king's treasury and, under the Native Courts Ordinance, he was appointed a member of the Yendi native tribunal; he also sat in his own tribunal with the Damanko, a minor elder.

[90] A. Mahama & A, N. Osman, “Dagbon Chieftaincy Crisis: The Truth and Hard Facts” (Accessed; November 6, 2017) from http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/Dagbon-Chieftaincy-Crisis-TheTruth-And-HardFacts-93656.

[91] Ibid.

[92] Ibid.

[93] Mahama and Osman, “Dagbon Chieftaincy Crisis…”

[94] Ibid., p. 5.

[95] “Abridged History of Dagbon…”

[96] Ibid.

[97] “The Abridge History…”

[98] Ahorsu and Gebe, Governance and Security in Ghana…

[99] Ibid.

[100] Awedoba, “An Ethnographic Study of Northern...”

[101] Awedoba, “An Ethnographic Study of Northern...”

[102] E. Newman, & O. Richmond, “Obstacles to Peace Processes: Understanding Spoiling,” in E. Newman, & O. Richmond (Eds.), Challenges to Peace-building: Managing Spoilers during Conflict Resolution (New York: United Nations University Press, 2006). p.4.

65 of 65 pages


Going Back to our Roots. Traditional Installation Mechanisms as a Lasting Solution to the Dagbon Chieftancy Dispute
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology  (Faculty of Social Sciences)
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going, back, roots, traditional, installation, mechanisms, lasting, solution, dagbon, chieftancy, dispute
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Hamza Mohammed (Author), 2018, Going Back to our Roots. Traditional Installation Mechanisms as a Lasting Solution to the Dagbon Chieftancy Dispute, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/445363


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