As a young graduate raised from a humble background in Kyiritwede an area in Berekum likewise most of my age mates and other generations, I have always prided myself in where I come from. The question of where I come from has been bothering on my mind since recent events in Berekum. It had never bogged on my mind until now. I sit in café in London looking out the window and I feel I am displaced; Displaced, in the sense that I see people of different colour, different social and cultural dimensions.By this I mean they drink tea, eat chicken and chips and go to the cinema in evening in contrast to drinking kooko(porridge), eating fufu and going to the drinking spot in the evening. Putting all this into perspective there is no way I can call this place my home. But back home there is something happening, something that has shaken our cultural and social facets to the core. We are loosing our identity within the bigger Ghanaian state. Two ‘bulls have locked horns’ for almost a decade now and this has caused mayhem and apathy in the kingdom.
Indeed it has been a while I have been back home but this has not kept me out of the day to day politicking of my town. I grew under the reign of Nana Yiadom Boakye II and it is not rocket science to realise that since his death ‘Berekum has ceased to be Berekum’. Lack of consensus between different factions about who should be the next of kin has plummeted the district now a Municipal into an unprecedented downward spiral. One might be sceptical about my superficial outlook on the issue but I do not believe I need to know nitty-gritty of the whole chieftaincy issue to assert that it has and will continue to cost us dearly if we continue in this path. Even though those of us from ‘BK’ as most youth will prefer to call it see ourselves as coming from a unique tribe in the bigger Brong-Ahafo region and the larger Ghanaian society we still come from smaller tribes within the district and even smaller if one wants to delve deeper but during the time when there was a widely recognised paramount chief our differences were second nature to our common goals and aspirations. We were proud ‘Eko)na’s’ (symbol: bull) and will continue to be proud indigenous farmers, foresters and hunters.
Growing up in the eighties I was rarely worried about my safety, food and shelter because to a larger extent there was a strong chieftaincy institution that created a sense of security. Now the establishment has gradually been weakened and has therefore resulted in a dysfunctional metropolitan in which the youth are increasingly becoming jobless, violent, deviant and easy money making livelihood has become the order of the day. Recently speaking to a friend in Berekum she indirectly summarised the state of affairs in a short phrase, ‘Now Berekum has changed, and young jobless people are driving Chryslers’. Only God knows how they make their money because the rule of thumb is that one has to work to have the means to these lavish assets. In a state where there is no authority students demonstrate, workers go on strike, military organise coups and the public war and this can be superimposed perfectly unto the situation in Berekum at the moment. There is the mushrooming of copycat ‘Nima’ groups who have become an element of intimidation and violence. They continuously prey on young vulnerable individuals in the town especially girls and this has alarmed the rate of teenage pregnancy, truancy and worker insecurity in the town. The town I will, exaggerating, say has been the America of the Brong Ahafo where immigrants from diverse tribes economically thrive. We do not have any major industries and so their shops serve to keep our local micro-economy alive. But because of the chieftaincy dispute which has given birth indirectly to these guerrilla warfare groups they do not feel safe to settle in the town.
I know some people have tended to stereotype these violent groups as being made up of the children of our moslem brothers in the community but I believe such generalisations will be detrimental to the unity we have enjoyed time immemorial. Even though it has been noted most of the members are Muslims it does not discount the fact some are also non-Muslims. I believe they would have been quelled if there was a proper functioning chieftaincy apparatus in place. One may argue that it is not the sole responsibility of the chief to keep law and order in his jurisdiction but also the Member of Parliament (MP) and the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE). Interestingly our traditions and social norms has imbibed some innate traits in us such that our chiefs have increasingly been recognised as the custodians of our lands more than MP’s and MCE’s and so therefore a frail chieftaincy equates a weak Kingdom.
We might be wistfully convincing ourselves that nothing is going bad because after all now Berekum is being showcased on the national stage and touted for some major successes example having two premiership teams, one of them having won the premier league and gone on to represent Ghana at the international level. One will not dispute this fact but again don’t we think our popularity is also partly for the negative reasons than the seemingly all positives because most football games are muddled with violence which are all excesses of the state of anarchy in which we are. The police are controlled by some ‘Big men’ who own clubs and they again manipulate these violent groups. Recent demonstrations by disgruntled youths in the district is the evidence of things falling apart and also revelation of what might happen in the future if we do not restore order.
‘The bulls must try to unlock horns cos their calves are stranded and have therefore resorted to cannibalism’
David Armah Mensah