The question above or its exclamation form “Konkombas Again!!!” Or its generic form “these northerners” were some of the reactions from people who learnt about the Konkombas’ conflict with the Chokosis in the North Eastern Region of Ghana.
This article is not an attempt to exonerate Konkombas or to condemn any other tribe but to throw more light on the saying that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Konkombas are largely found in the north-eastern part of Northern Region of the Ghana, specifically in Saboba, which is their indigenous home. They are predominately a farming community. The people are referred as Bikpakpaam (united people) and their language is Likpakpaaln. They are the second-largest ethnic group in the Northern Region.
They are sub-divided into different clans just like many other ethnic groups in Ghana. Konkombas are noted for their Kinaachon and Ichaa dance, Bisaatom and imonkuun as their staple food.
River Oti runs along the traditional area. They share borders with the Democratic Republic of Togo and boundaries with Chereponi, Tatale, Yendi and Gushiegu Districts in Ghana. One remarkable thing about them is that they are very hard-working people; a reason for which they are spread as far as Accra. They have communities dotted in the following Regions: Oti, Volta, North Eastern, Asante, Brong (Afram Plains and Atebubu), Ahafu, Eastern and of course Greater Accra. A cross-section of the Konkomba tribe can also be found in Togo.
Konkombas had engaged in tribal conflict with the Nanumbas, Dagombas, Gonjas and of course the Chokosis. Due to such past record, it defies logic to imagine how such a tribe, which has engaged in tribal conflict with nearly all the northern tribes around them, could right. They cannot certainly be exonerated. Once you are often found fiddling and meddling with everyone else’s business, you are always seen as the “bad one.” But hay!! Wait a minute!! One thing that also defies logic in this case, which obviously contributed to the perennial problems are that they are a people with distinct features just like any other group of people, a people with dignity and certainly, human beings who wants identity and recognition as a tribe.
Dignity, recognition, human worth and distinctiveness are normal longing of every human person. Every human person or group of persons won’t stop longing for the above until they realize it.
The truth is that Konkombas and for that matter any other tribe will fight for their dignity as long as they are taken for granted. Many times, what are often projected as the motive for their fight namely Land or Chieftaincy, are what meet the eye but beneath this is about the fact that they want to be recognized as a people, as tribe with dignity and must be respected as everyone else.
Another fact which is so absurd in my estimation is the fact of trying to neap a whole tribe which is one of the largest in the northern region and well spread in the country into a bud. This is mission impossible. Not with standing these, there are a couple of factors that contribute to some of this late awkward awakening in their traditional area.
Konkombas from the onset were an acephalous community (that means they didn’t go by the normal chieftaincy institution unlike almost all their neighbours. They were ruled by an elder of the community or an Utindaan). It was much later they decided to follow the well known traditional chieftaincy system of ruling their people. Changing from the acephalous system of ruling definitely send bad signal down their neighbours spin. It implies they are going to be like us. This involves land demarcation, self-esteem, up-liftment as a people and recognition onto the traditional house of chiefs.
Another factor which contributes to the tribal conflict is the fact that Konkombas didn’t have a sedentary lifestyle from the beginning because of their farming and rearing of animals. Some had to move around because they had to farm for their neighbours. In the last three to four decades, they have decided to settle at one place for farming and this has also brought discomfort and unrest among their neighbours.
Konkombas, among most of the northern settlers is one of the tribes that had embraced formal education a little late. This has an immerse impact on the tribal conflict experienced so far. Currently, a greater number of them had gone through formal education and this is an eyeopener for them but a big threat to their neighbours. Today talk of all the sectors in the country there are Konkombas contributing to the nation.
Finally, Konkombas want to have a traditional autonomy as a tribe to contribute distinctively as a people to the nation and to their own traditional area. Currently they have a bunch of individual chiefs whose voices do not cross the “Oti River” and that can be sickening. The chiefs can’t form a consortium because they are under other traditional umbrella of another tribe, which impedes development and growth an area.
Konkombas and their neighbours in their attempt to fight for freedom have employed means and ways that are uncalled for. As a country dialogue is a civilize and approved means to deal with issues. “Sword begets sword” has never solve a problem. Actually, the only “good” it does is it aggravates the problem and renders others as victims.
It is often said that there are many ways of killing a cat just as there many ways of solving a problem but if you take the worse option be sure of victimizing yourself in the process. There are many tribes and towns in this country who equally have similar or related problems and issues, nevertheless, we don’t hear of them, probably because they have chosen a less rough way of solving their issues. Using bow and arrows, burning people’s houses and farm produce, causing fear and panic and killing is certainly not the best option.
It will interest you to know that quite often when a conflict is prolonged and all efforts to curtail it is not yielding any results, stop bothering those on the ground fighting and look for the Shadow Actors. Sometimes the Shadow Actors are even part of those mediating the conflict.
Sad as the situation may be, Konkombas have to be true to their name. Bikpakpaam (United People) need to stand up to their name in the positive sense. Be people who are united to fight illiteracy, poverty, poor sanitation in you the area and better the lives of the young people.
Even though you have employed the chieftaincy system for some time now there is still much to be desired. Use the appropriate means and ways to learn how the whole chieftaincy system works.
Beside the inter-conflict between Konkombas and the other ethnic groups there are equally intra-conflict bothering on chieftaincy and land. The crux of the matter is, until Bikpakpaam deal with those internal problems they would not make any head way to what they have been longing for or what is legitimately theirs.
Konkombas have to take documentation of their history, succession of chiefs, demarcation of land and even the current events seriously as this will go a very long way to help stamp out “hearsay history” which is contributing to the intra-conflict in the area. Otherwise posterity will continue the struggle at where the present age group will end theirs.
Bikpakpaam have to think beyond “clanery” and political lines to reach where they desire to be. There is too much rift, bickering, individualism and show off of educational pedigree and be honest about their assertion over issues. The truth should be told a brother or sister when he or she is wrong and not say otherwise to cover up for him because the person is from your clan. Allow perpetrators to be dealt with according to law so that it will serve as a deterrent to others. When an individual has a problem with his kinsman, it should not be viewed as an attack on a particular clan or community. In such cases when the whole community or clan gets involve, resolving the conflict become a little messy. Chiefs and elders involving in solving a problem of two individuals should not take sides but condemn the act if need be. Konkombas should value being a tribe first before a clan. It is the tribe that gives essence to the clan. Stressing so much the clan or sharply divided on those lines deepen the division among them and not the tribe, which is generally considered by many as Konkombas being one people.
Lastly, kindly allow me to make a suggestion on another outlet for conflict. The role and time limit of Regents in the Northern Region. The role and time limits of Regents today has become a rather strongest recipe for conflict. Real time lines and proper job description should be assigned to them. A Regent should not be given an absolute power like a chief. In most part of the Northern Region, the major role of a Regent is to step in as a chief dies, to help perform the funeral of the late chief and afterwards pave way for the next chief to take over. The reality now is when he takes over and has been greeted obsequiously at big gatherings; he becomes power drunk and won’t relinquish his position when the time is due. This creates distortion, extortion and confusion in the community. Regents should be given a certain number of months or at most a year to foresee the funeral of a late chief. He should not be allowed to perform certain functions reserved for chiefs, particularly leasing or selling of land and Enskining a chief. If I were asked to really make a ruling on this, I would say do away completely with Regents taking over when a chief dies. Preferably, succession plans should be put in place by the next group on the line before a chief dies. This I believe will help a great deal.
I would like to passionately indulge the government, Konkomba Youth Association (KOYA) and other stakeholders to look a little closely at this perennial historical problem and discard mere reports of Konkombas fighting because of “guinea fowls,” land and chieftaincy. It is deeper than that. Enough money had gone down the drain; lots of people have lost their lives and property, women and children traumatized. These atrocities certainly is avoidable if a little care is taken.
The writer is Nicholas Nibetol Aazine, SVD