The Mamprusis in Bawku turned out in their numbers this week for the Damba, capping a weeklong celebration of one of the prominent traditional festivals in Ghana’s north this year with strong calls for peace as the country prepares to go to the polls next month.
The festival is observed once a year to foster unity, to seek development and to promote the culture of the descendants of Naa Gbewaa, a warrior king said to have lived centuries ago in what is known today as West Africa.
Young men took a street ride on horse backs in the Mamprusi-populated suburb of Natinga to observe the festival in honour of which a communal cleanup exercise was undertaken days before the finale. A multitude paraded the municipality’s major road in smocks, which they repeatedly flaunted in a spinning style to the tunes of Damba at the venue chosen for the climax.
“Politics is not about violence. Politics is about choices. Democracy is about what you want and what somebody also wants. On the 7th of December, we should all go and exercise our civil rights by voting. And when we finish voting, we may go back home and rest. Maybe towards evening, we can converge and listen to whoever would have emerged the winner in a particular electoral area or polling station.
“The choices should not result in the violence that has characterised elections in some other nations. Whoever wins should see development as a conduit for democracy. I pray that at the end of the day we shall sit here and thank Allah once again,” the leader of the Mamprusis in Bawku, Naa Alhaji Adam Ibrahim Zangbeo, told the Damba crowd in a speech interpreted by a legal practitioner and member of the Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee, Mohammed Tahiru Nambe.
The calls for peaceful polls resonated with the theme for the weeklong celebration— “Election 2020: Our collective Role to Ensure Peaceful Elections”.
Let’s not sacrifice our future for violence— MCE of Bawku
Political figures graced the event with their presence, among them the parliamentary candidate of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the Bawku Central Constituency, Gabiana Agbanwa Bugri.
Gabiana was not seen in public for some time, feeding public rumours that she had succumbed to an undisclosed infirmity at an unnamed health facility. But her unexpected arrival at the crowded festival ground quashed the rumours more than an earlier denial from family and friends ever did and was greeted with women-led cheers.
She waved at the rejoicing crowd and, shortly after she had exchanged pleasantries with the other important people present and announced in a brief speech that she had stopped over to celebrate the festival with her people whilst on her way back home from a break, left the premises, waving again as she made her way out in a company of aides. Her main political rival from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, Mahama Ayariga, was absent but was mentioned at the event among those who made donations towards the celebration of the festival.
When the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of Bawku, Hajia Hawa Ninchema, took her turn to address the gathering, she warned the youth to not sacrifice their future on the ‘altar’ of violence.
“Ghana has an enviable record when it comes to peaceful co-existence within the sub-region. According to the 2020 Global Peace Index (GPI) issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Ghana ranks as the most peaceful country in West Africa, placing 3rd in Africa and 43rd in the world. Isn’t that a good record to guard jealously together? Peace building is a collective effort which requires the involvement of all and sundry particularly young men and women. My dear young people listening, let’s not sacrifice our future for violence.
“It is in the spirit of ensuring a peaceful 2020 election and beyond that the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act 2019 (Act 999) was passed by Parliament to disband vigilante groups, including political party vigilante groups and land guards. Bawku Central’s presidential and parliamentary elections have always been fiercely contested but relatively peaceful over the years. I call on all of us to remain peaceful and respect the democratic process as we go into this coming election,” she emphasised.
By Edward Adeti, Upper East Region, Daily Mail GH