There are all indications that Ghana might be grooming its homegrown insurgency in the name of Western Togoland. What appeared to be a joke by a few disgruntled people is assuming alarming proportions; if what the so-called Western Togoland insurgents inflicted on some parts of Volta Region in late September is to be taken seriously. If we didn’t take them seriously, we must now do so.
On September 25, 2020 a group of young rebels brazenly invaded some police stations arrested and detained some officers and confiscated their guns and vehicles. Thereafter, the armed men demanding the secession of Western Togoland from Ghana blockaded major entry points to the Volta Region of Ghana on the morning of September 25, 2020. One of the roads blocked was the strategic Aflao border road, which serves ECOWAS countries, including Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.
Thus, the attack was not only calculated to undermine the economy and security of Ghana , but ECOWAS as well. Subsequent acts of burning state-owned STC buses and disrupting the movement of people from Ho, the Volta regional capital to Accra could not be a mere security, but an economic assault as well.
What are they demanding?
In 1955 the United Nations Visiting Mission to the Trust Territories of Togoland recommended that Togoland under United Kingdom Trusteeship should be administered as an integral part of the Gold Coast, with which it shares a common legislature, common budget, common administrative and technical services and common government machinery and political institutions at the central, regional and local levels. The report noted that the “Under present arrangements, the administrative union of the territories is complete for all practical purposes of day-to-day government, the Northern Section of the Trust Territory forming a part of the Northern Territories Region of the Gold Coast, while the Southern Section is combined with neighbouring areas of the Gold Coast Colony to form the Trans-Volta Togoland Region. Thus, the question of the so-called Western Togoland becoming autonomous after 50 years or any time they choose had been settled as early 1955 before Ghana became independence.
Some analysts have attributed the stance of the separatist to under development and lack of opportunity in the that part of the country. Such comments remain unsubstantiated, yet those pushing the agenda have been able to peddle such falsehood to the point of some youth believing that they have been marginalized and the only way they can possibly get opportunities is for the Volta region to break away from the larger. This dangerous propaganda has slipped into the minds of some youth. It must be pointed out that the issue of underdevelopment and lack of opportunities for the youth is widespread across the country. No single region or territory in Ghana has had all its problems solved after independence. In fact, the problems facing the youth of Ghana are the same across the country. Sadly, the very politicians who failed the youth of the Volta region are those infesting them with hatred against the rest of Ghana. Ghana has come a long way as a small unitary state, with a people with a common destiny to transform the economy for future generations. This new development path must not be overshadowed by Western Togoland question.
Other analysts do not see the disturbance merely as a development issue, but purely an agenda of a few people (including politicians, chiefs and business men and women) to gain recognition and influence over the very people they helped to impoverish.
Deployment of security
The Western Togoland issue heated up when the government closed Ghana’s borders and deployed security to the borders across the country to enforce the closure. The deployment was necessitated by the security implications of COIVD 19, as several cases of COVID 19 recorded initially were traced to migrants from neighbouring countries. These interest groups had created the impression that only the Volta region was the target of the deployment. The misinformation and disinformation intensified during the voter registration exercise, perhaps, as Ghana’s borders remained closed, and shattered the opportunity for non-Ghanaians to infiltrate our voter registration system. This was obviously to the disadvantage of some interest groups; hence the decision to fuel disinformation and misinformation. Of course, with government’s communications system ineffective in countering the fake news, it was only a matter of course for the people to swallow the fake news. The fact that the Western Togoland issue gains public attention when a certain political ideology is in power and dies a natural death when another political ideology is in power gives a worrying signal some politicians are fueling it.
Ex-President John Dramani Mahama’s attempt to justify the insurrection in the Volta region is inexcusable, especially as he is seeking reelection as president. The ethnocentric comments by the Volta regional chairman of the NDC that the region was under siege because of the closure of borders is equally condemnable. The former president wittingly or unwittingly stated that rebel groups like Boko Haram often rise if preferred candidates don’t win an election, putting himself as the candidate who can restore peace. Perhaps, this is an attempt to create an environment of insecurity so that the electorate will come under pressure and vote for him. Even in 2000 amid intimidation of 64 Battalion (Commandos) the electorate stood their grounds and voted for a candidate they believed offered better alternatives. The agenda by some interest groups is that because each of Ghana’s neighbouring countries-Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have had insurgencies, naturally Ghana must have its version of rebellion is untenable.
Reacting to the issue last week Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia explained that all the ethnic groups that formed the former Trans Volta Togoland which voted in the 1956 plebiscite to stay in unitary Ghana have not changed their minds. “The Mamprusis are part of Ghana, they’ve not expressed interest in going anywhere; the Gonjas are part of Ghana, they have not expressed any interest in going anywhere; the Oti people are part of Ghana, they’ve not expressed any interest of going anywhere. So, where is this figment of Western Togoland?” he asked.
House of chiefs responds
It was equally refreshing that the Volta Regional House of Chiefs distanced itself from the criminal act and called for investigations into the Western Togoland development. According to the chiefs, even though recent developments have caused uneasiness among the people in the region, they do not support the agenda of the group to divide the country. “The Volta Region House of Chiefs roundly condemns these acts by the purported “Western Togoland Group” in no uncertain terms. These were criminal actions, which should be investigated and those involved be made to face the full rigours of the law; the House said in a statement.
The House of Chiefs asked two pertinent questions, which the security agencies must provide answers to assure Ghanaians that they are on top of the security issues. (1) How did the group manage to mount their billboards and flags without anyone noticing until these billboards were seen only in the morning, in all past cases. 2 How did the culprits manage to hoist a flag of the “Western Togoland Group” at the Volta Region Coordinating Council, the office of the Regional Minister, unnoticed by the night security.
However, just as the first part of their statement generated so much euphoria, the second part diluted the goodwill the House of Chiefs would have received from Ghanaians. The chiefs alleged that a few years ago, Hon. Kennedy Agyapong, MP for Assin Central, “urged the killing of the Voltarians and Gas.” We were all witnesses to the case, based on a conditional statement Kennedy Agyapong made about the manhandling of Akans at Odododiodio Constituency. He said given the situation “if’ Akans elsewhere should also attack “Ewes and Gas”, will that be right? With respect, I think our august chiefs made a wrong allusion, since attempts to break away from Ghana cannot be lumped with the Kennedy Agyapong utterances.
Fake news and disinformation
Further the House of Chiefs cited a video circulated by one Kevin Taylor, “supposedly based in the United States of America, in which he alleged that the government was planning to send vigilantes to foment trouble in the Region, ahead of the elections, with a view to disrupting same.” The chiefs got it right when they described Kevin Taylor’s statement as an allegation, and it remains an allegation. What worries me is how our august chiefs use an allegation as basis to draw conclusions on such a sensitive national issue. Our chiefs should not allow themselves to be deceived by ‘fake news.’
Kevin Taylor is a hateful blogger, whose trade is to malign and blackmail anyone opposed to his masters, if it means publishing false information that can inflame the country. He doesn’t care the consequences of his publications, after all if Ghana burns he is in America and will not bear the brunt. He deals in ‘fake news’, ‘disinformation’ and ‘misinformation’, which are hot commodities in the news industry. One concern around ‘fake news’ is that the barriers to entry in the media industry have dropped, because it is now easy to set up websites and easy to monetize web content through advertising platforms.
Currently, not only are large numbers of non-professional citizen journalists and bloggers engaging in journalism, they are using interactive multi-media that are challenging the ideas of cautious verification and gate-keeping. The sad development is that social media, and citizen journalism functions are not performed by individuals with professional journalism training, but by ordinary people with no journalism background.
The situation gives rise to unethical presentation of stories, sensationalism and ‘fake news’, like Kevin Taylor churns out. According to UNESCO, a particular danger is that ‘fake news’ in some sense is usually free – meaning that people who cannot afford to pay for quality journalism, or who lack access to independent public service news media, are especially vulnerable to both disinformation and misinformation ( UNESCO 2017).
The key question is whether the current codes of ethics in journalism are valid for online and social media too? Should the likes of Kevin Taylor, hiding in a foreign country be allowed to use fake news to disintegrate Ghana without rules and regulation of information applicable? Perhaps, the Ghana Government should request the United States Government to extradite Kevin Taylor to come and substantiate this highly inflammable fake news.
(***The writer is a Development and Communications Management Specialist, and a Social Justice Advocate. All views expressed in this article are my personal views and do not represent those of any organization(s). (Email: [email protected]. Mobile: 0202642504/0243327586