Monday, August 13, 2007
Despite fears, it was a
THE climax of this year’s Homowo festival of the chiefs and people of the Ga State passed off peacefully on Saturday, despite earlier fears that it would be marred by chaos, owing to the chieftaincy disputes in some parts of the traditional area.
Amidst heavy police presence, the Ga Mantse, Nii Tackie Tawiah 111, sprinkled the traditional food, kpokpoi at the Ga paramount stool house, and in other areas within Ga Mashie (Central Accra), including Usher Fort and Salaga.
He was accompanied by his retinue and some youth clad in specially branded red Homowo T-shirts.
However, on Friday, the Police Administration had directed that there should be no public sprinkling of kpokpoi due to tension that had mounted in certain parts of the city.
The police had advised all parties involved in the celebration to confine their activities to their houses or palaces. Any public or outdoor activity or procession in any part of the city in respect of sprinkling of kpokpoi was to be suspended, according to the statement.
The sprinkling of kpokpoi, made from fresh palm nut soup, signifies appreciation to the ancestors for their blessings over the past year.
Later, in an interview with journalists, Nii Tackie Tawiah said he was unaware of any directive restricting the sprinkling of kpokpoi to homes.
“The Ga state has its own customs and traditions and is governed by their rules, traditions; it cannot be governed by directives from individuals or sections of the state”, he said.
Reacting to the public sprinkling by the Ga Mantse contrary to the police order, DSP Kwesi ofori, acting police Public Relations Officer, said “our main purpose was to prevent violence from occurring and should it occur, we should be capable of de-escalating the violence and to protect lives and property”.
He said that their target was the Gbese and Abola areas which were possible flash points, “therefore, any of the factions going to houses to sprinkle kpokpoi was not an issue to the police, even though people raised concern, but our purpose was to maintain law and order which was achieved”.
Prior to Saturday’s event, tension had mounted following statements by the Ga Dzase, king makers of the Ga State, calling for a low key celebration of the Homowo and a restriction of the sprinkling to the various houses.
The Ga Dangme Council, a group made up of eminent personalities of the Ga State and the Ghana Peace Council, an inter-religious body led by Peter Cardinal Appiah Turkson had also called on stakeholders not to engage in a public sprinkling of kpokpoi in the interest of peace.
Around 10 am a representative of the Nai Wulomo, Numo Ogbarmey 11, sprinkled kpokpoi at Nai We, their clan house, thus serves as a cue for the other quarters.
At Gbese, the police mounted a barricade on the street to prevent a possible clash of supporters of the two claimants to the Gbese stool, Nii Ayibonte 11 and Nii Okaidja 111.
The Regent of the Gbese stool, Nii Tetteh Ahinakwa, had earlier performed the sprinkling rite on behalf of Nii Ayibonte as the latter was still undergoing customary rites for full assumption of his role as Gbese Mantse.
On seeing Nii Okaidja, who emerged from his car in front of the Ga Paramount stool house and headed towards Gbese quarter, the supporters of Nii Ayibonte 11, became agitated and said Nii Okaidja was not the chief of Gbese and they would therefore not allow him access to perform any rite in that capacity.
Some of them displayed copies of a judgment given by an Accra High Court which said Nii Okaidja, Known in private life as Bill Annan, has no “Locus standing”.
The police prevented Nii Okaidja 111 from going into one of the ruling clan houses, Nii Tetteh Ankamah We, to perform the rite, a situation the rival chief said infringed on his right of movement.
He accused supporters of Nii Ayibonte of using the police against him but DSP Ofori, who was at the scene, said the police had not taken sides but were only “preventing a criss cross”, which could spark confrontation between the factions.
DSP Ofori explained that the Nii Tetteh Ankamah We where Nii Okaidja and his entourage had wanted to perform the rite is directly opposite to the Gbese Palace where supporters of Nii Ayibonte had converged, which he said could have led to violent clashes.
Later, a compromise was reached and four representatives of Nii Okaidja were escorted by the police to enable them to perform the rite. The celebration itself was marked with the firing of musketry, drumming, dancing and general merrymaking.
Ghanaian Times - Monday, August 13, 2007 Pages: 3 & 1