First published: April 14, 2010
When President Mills promised to bring those who killed Ya Na Yakubu Andani to justice, he picked up a very hot potato and bit more than he could chew.
The recent arrest of suspects and their arraignment before court is an indication that he is swallowing something he has not taken sufficient time to chew on. He’s going to choke and there could be dire consequences – for the president, his party and the country.
Finding the culprits behind the murder of the Ya Na and punishing them will send out a message to all Ghanaians, especially those in Dagbon, that impunity will (and should) not be tolerated in this country. It’s the president’s job to send that message. He can try, but with Dagbon he seems to have taken the wrong path in his bid to get the message across.
The Dagbon conflict is complex. It’s incomprehensible, perverse and intractable. I don’t see it getting resolved – ever!
The Dagbon conflict would have confounded the wisest man who ever lived. It would baffle the United Nations’ chief peace negotiator and get the Israeli and Palestinians patting themselves on the back for, at least, agreeing to sit down every once in a while in an attempt to make peace.
The justice President Mills and his government are seeking with the prosecution of the nine Abudu men who were arraigned before a magistrate court in Accra last Monday will only damage the fragile peace Dagbon has enjoyed over the past couple of years or so.
It’s often said that without justice, there cannot be peace. But this does not hold true all the time.
In Dagbon, justice for one faction means injustice for another.
In Dagbon, ‘justice’ – the sort the president wants to achieve – will not prompt a peaceful settlement. Of course, it will gladden the hearts of the Andani factions but it will fill the Abudu with volatile bitterness. On the other hand, if ‘justice’ is not achieved (that is, if no one is punished for the Ya Na’s murder), the Abudus will sit pretty while the Andanis brood over what they rightly perceive to be an injustice.
It was a volatile situation at the court premises when the Abudus who are being prosecuted for their alleged roles in the Yakubu Andani’s murder were first arraigned before a judge. There were Abudu youth who were ready to fight and, possibly, die for their kinsmen. They couldn’t do much because security forces at the court precincts had superior fire power. Back in the dry, near-desert plains of Dagbon there is what many describe as an “uneasy calm”. But beneath the calm is anger and bitterness that will explode with the tiniest spark.
That spark could be any hint that the Abudus are merely being prosecuted to appease the Andanis and to give the president a trophy to point to as proof that he has (tried to) fulfilled his campaign promise to deal with those who killed the Ya Na. The Abudus, clearly, have made up their minds that there is a certain unfairness in the whole process and they are not going to stop agitating until government takes some steps to change the perception that the Andanis are being favoured. So far this is what everything points to.
The arrests carried out on Saturday were, at best, random and didn’t seem to have been informed by any serious intelligence work. Otherwise, 40 people wouldn’t have been arrested for only nine of them to be hauled before court. And in court, prosecutors came with no evidence whatsoever. They argued for the suspects to be held in prison whilst “investigations” continue.
If the state was so sure of its case, it would simply have presented its evidence for justice to be delivered swiftly. But, alas, that’s not the case. With one of Ghana’s foremost litigants, Atta Akyea, on the side of the Abudus, you can be sure that this is going to be a long drawn out legal process which will set a lot of people’s blood boiling.
The reported attempt to arrest the regent of Dagbon, the Boli Lana, without an arrest warrant will not help matters. If this whole process is not handled well and with utmost fairness, it will make the situation in Dagbon worse than it already is.
The cure President Mills and the NDC are offering will end up being worse than the disease. The quest for justice would have endangered peace. And what would have been achieved? More chaos, probably.
The best way for the government to handle the Dagbon issue is to do nothing. Both the Abudus and Andanis are not ready to make the compromises that will ensure lasting peace. In such circumstances, even King Solomon would have thrown his hands up in despair and frustration. The eminent chiefs Kufuor appointed to help resolve the dispute have all but lost hope. This conflict will not end anytime soon. President Mills and the government should just give up and let sleeping dogs lie.
The people of Dagbon have lived in peace without justice for the past two years or so. It’s not an ideal situation. But serving justice to endanger peace is worse.