Gadangme Nikasemo Asafo – Public Lecture 14th April 2012
Fostering GaDangme Unity: the Dangme Perspective –
By- Nomo Kabu CHARWAY and Nokortama Awuley DOKU.
We thank the executives and members of GaDangme Nikasemo Asafo for the honour to deliver this important, interesting and rather politically and sensitive lecture. We would like to state that, as GaDangme, lecture will attempt to act as a catalyst in stimulating the discussion/debate. My lecture is no means a panacea but it will highlight some of the political, economical, cultural/traditional etc problems facing Gamei (Ga) and Dangmeli. Our intention is to stimulate the debate in an honest and respectful manner by bringing our intellectual and all experiences to the learning forum. This lecture is meant for the common understanding of all present.
Firstly because we believe that those who cannot speak Ga or and Dangme would have a clearer understand to this lecture if delivered in English. Secondly, we have had brief conversations with some of our GaDangme children at this gathering and I am convinced that they are keen to attend this lecture but most of them are born here inUKand their proficiency in Ga or Dangme would not enable them to comprehend this lecture and the discussions that follow.
Fostering GaDangme Unity: the Dangme Perspective
We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work that has been done by individuals, and in particular, GaDangme Council in promoting GaDangme unity. The work that Council did and continues to do is an example for all Gamei and Dangmeli to emulate if we are to realise our dream as one GaDangmeli/mei. We would also like to acknowledge the good work done by the various Ga or Dangme associations in our communities both at homeGhanaand in the Diaspora.
This debate in the Diaspora is an indication of the determination to hold together the belief that we are one people, which is epitomised by the proverbial “Ekome feemo, No mlin Hewale yor”. Some of us in the Diaspora and at home,Ghanahave for long time come to acknowledge the good that unity brings and the economic and social prosperity that comes with unity. We have seen a plethora of groups and nations coming together to take advantage of the social, political and economic advances that unity brings. Two such examples are EU and ECOWAS..
There is a general agreement that both the Ga and Dangme groups share common tradition, culture, religious beliefs and to some limited extent, language. Why in the face of this commonality between the two groups that, the idea of GaDangme union appears to be eluding us?
If we are to find out what issues are likely to hold back the unity between Gamei and Dangmeli, I don’t think we need to look very far to identify some of the issues.
It is agreed that growth and development, without doubt, requires a positive, practical and progressive approach to the problem at hand, in order to achieve the reality; more often than not, unity is the key.
This Lecture is about GaDangme but in particular, the Dangme’s, experience of promoting oneness, harmony, mutual and a unified front to enhance growth and development in their communities?
The Collins English dictionary defines Foster as:-To promote the growth and development, or to bring up. Unity, I understand, means being one, or oneness, composed of separate parts, agreement or harmony.
Who Are The GaDangme?
In an attempt to provide an answer I would briefly like to say that GaDangme are people now living in the Southern part ofGhana. They are regarded as a twin ethnic group but for practical purposes function as two ethnic groups. GaDangme are 9% of the population ofGhana. GaDangme –geographically share boundaries with the Akwapem (North), the Ewes (East) and the Fantes (West)
Ga are found to the West of Accra coastlands – from Tsemu lagoon near Tema. On the west bySakumofioRiver, North by Akwapem mountains and the South byGulfofGuinea. The Dangme to the East, occupying the coastal area ofGhanafrom Kpone toAda, on theVoltaRiverand inland theVolta. The Dangme includeAda, Kpone, Ningo, Osudoku, Prampram (Gbugblah) and Shai.
The GaDangme, as most of you may be aware, have a common origin. They are one ethnic group and are organised into clan base patrilineal descent. Their languages are closely related with similarities in basic vocabulary, the prime testimony to this fact. But that is not all. There are several well known facts that go to prove beyond doubt, their common ancestry.
A people’s identity will also manifest in the naming of their offspring. It is no accident therefore that the following names – just to name a few – are common among Ga and Dangme; e.g. Tettey, Tetteh, Kabu, Tackie, Korley, Marte, Sasraku, Akrobeto, Ayiku, Adi, Amugi, Lomo, Dzangma, Aryi, Yometse, Naadu, Dedo, Sakitey, Ologo, Koshie, Adzeley, Dugba,Doku, Abbey. Oko, Akweteh, Akweley, Akworkor, Ayerley, Azu, Dede, Korkor Maku, Mamle to name but just a few.
The history of the GaDangme people offers yet another good ground to strive and foster GaDangme Unity because they were once unified groups.
- Many historians say that the GaDangme ancestors travelled together as a group to their present habitations or their permanent environments.
- They have similar dialect i.e Ga and Dangme as I have mentioned earlier.
- In solidarity, the GaDangme collaborated with one another and fought wars together particularly during their existence in present dayGhana. At Kantamanso in 1826 lead by King Tackie Kome the GaDangme exhibited a strong unity and as a result defeated the Ashante at Dodowa. Their victory for obvious reasons posed a big threat to the colonial masters (MacCarthy War). Again in 1865/66 and 1869, as a united force the Ga again with the Dangme fought the Adidome, Avenor and Todje wars and defeated the Anlos (GLOVER War). The Dangme warriors who fought along King Tackie Kome were notably, Tawiah Gbagbladza a Mankralo of Korgbor Ada and Nene Sackitey of Odumase Krobo.
- That GaDangme share similar Hebraic religious beliefs and cultural practices and tradition e.g male circumcision Gen 7: 10-14, 23-27), naming ceremony (kpodziemo) (Luke 2: 21-39)and patriarchal lineage of naming the new born a child- (A.A. Amartey)
- The GaDangme have a common patriarchal inheritance system.
- Dipo and Otofo- a physiological puberty initiation from immaturity to maturity. They are female initiation custom and are believed to be ancient Hebrew Israelites custom. Dipo and Otofo ceremonies signify the purification and assumption of adulthood, marriage and parentage and other social responsibilities of maturity..
We would not like to lay any great emphasis on GaDangme history on this occasion but we are aware of the different views and commentaries by socio-anthropologists, academics and historians such as Dr Nii Abeka Mensah, A.A. Amartey, Joseph .J Williams, Hosia Levi, Kofi .B Kukubor, Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman, Bene Menashe and Tudor Partiff, F. Romer, Bruce Myers, Henderson Quartey, Field and Reindorf Sride and Ifeka and Quartey Papafio just to name a few who argue whether the GaDangme are really one of the lost Jewish groups in Africa.
As you are aware, GaDangme were socially and politically influenced, over several years, by their Ewes, the Akwapim, the Obutu or Afutu neighbours and by the Danes and English e.g through trade, inter-tribal marriages and wars but the bond and common identity of the group have remained strong. So why have the GaDangme groups not able to foster a sustainable unity?
We believe that GaDangme need to foster Unity as it is the only sure means of raising the profile and well-being of the GaDangme peoples. It is unity that will:-
- Create a sense of togetherness essential for collaboration in major projects.
- And we believe it is the unity that will pave the way for the future.
Sir Joan Chittister- a modern day prophet once said;-
‘’The spirit that we have, not the work that we do is what makes us important to the people around us’’ i.e. it is the spirit of unity, and our need to foster this spirit of unity towards one another which would empower us to speak on.
GaDangme must try not to act according to their individual’s own desires only; they must pay regard to community goals. We believe that every mission is a service and not an ego trip. So there is the need for co-operation where for example one Sempe, Ga Mashie, Osu, La Teshie, Nungua would do the planting, Gbugblah, Prampram, Ningo would water and Ada, Kro and Shai(Se) would maintain and supervise the farm and God would give the growth and together we would all harvest and share in an equitable proportions.
The Dangme Experience
Dangme Feelings Towards Fostering GaDangme Unity
When it comes to form a GaDangme union, many Dangme feel uncomfortable, they are generally reluctant. I hear some of my Dangme friends and relatives who say ‘don’t bother wasting your time and energy because the Ga will only use you to do the dirty job and politically to make up the numbers to their benefit. But when it comes to sharing the ‘big apple’, i.e. ke eyeli be ese’ the Dangme are marginalise.
The debate for the creation of Greater Accra is a typical political example. History will recall Mr E.R.T. Madjitey- a Krobo, (the 1st Inspector General of Police -IGP of Ghana, in fact, he was the lst Commissioner of Police(1958)-Africa South of the Sahara and the first British Commissioner to command a Police Force. Others include Mr E.H.T.Korboe, Nene Azu Mate Korley(Oklemekuku) and Abedi Boafo to mention just a few expressed their strong resentments to the idea of Dangme becoming part of Greater Accra. They seemed to me to have argued mainly on economic and social grounds but they also strongly felt that though the Dangme and the Ga are one twin ethnic group the Ga however, saw Dangme different and somehow, felt that they the Ga were more superior to the Dangme. For these reasons, the Krobos advocated strongly and decided joining the Eastern Region (Juabens, Akwapems, Akyems and Akwamus and Kwawus) rather than seeing themselves as part of the Greater Accra Region even though the Krobo speak similar dialect, of same ancestry and have common tradition and customs with theGa.
Don’t forget Ladies and gentlemen Gamei and part of the Dangme groups co-existed even after the separation at Lorlorvor after many decades of settlement around Akuse, Kpong and Dodowa.
Yes, Dangme may now be seen by others as one of different tribal groups with differentParamountchiefs and clan groups and geographically living some distances apart. But like their cousins, Ga, they share common resemblances and characteristics e.g. their dialects are closely similar than to Ga dialects. They also seem to maintain good relationships with their traditional ancestry homes/ancient settlement, leaders and clan groups within Dangme districts e.gAda, Gbugbla, Odumase, Osudoku, Dodowa, Agormnya, Doryumu, Kordiabe, Ayikuma, Asesewa etc. This spirit of mutual exchange of cordiality tends to bring the Dangme groups together to sustain a level of ‘we are one group’.
Where the Dangme seem to defer from their cousins Ga (mei) is in their approach to civic duties.
In communal responsibilities, the Dangme seem to hold each other in equal esteem, regarding one and all as equal and dignified partner. Dangme believe strongly in family unity. The usual ‘Tsekobi and Nyekobi’ or cousins relationship be it maternal or paternal, hold strongly for them. The mutual inter-tribal relationships still remain strong which encourages unity. Dangme believe that fostering unity will create no room for arrogance, no room for dividing themselves and no room for monopolizing the limelight.
The Dangme believe that unity would not allow the individuals to use their individual talents to dominate others but rather lay emphasis on ‘inclusion and not exclusion’. And appreciate other’s need and role in harmonization, progress and development of families and community.
Above all Dangme believe that no one “is an island”. So jealousy, arrogance and selfish attitudes are inappropriate in fostering unity between Kroli, Seli, Gbugblali, Nugoli and Adalihi. Therefore, the individual, the family and the clan strongly feel that for unity to happen among them, they must commit themselves to work together with each other.
Problems with Fostering Unity
It is no doubt that in fostering unity one face what I would call AMPUTATION- whereby members of the various groups and communities cut themselves off from really committing themselves to the cause of progress and advancement. The result is a bigger loss to our communities. The Dangme are not immune from these occurrences.
We also see our elders, Mantsemei, Asafoatsemei, Weku Onukpai, Nokotamehi who have grown too big for their shoes, causing the communities and groups to suffer politically, socially and economically. Their inert and inept attitudes and actions have been responsible for lack of developments and stagnated existing projects.
As a result there is what one would call –ATROPHY- where people just sit there passively and have resigned to inaction and complacency and slowly the various groups and initiators fall out with one another, ushering in community brake-ups.
As already stated, fostering unity in any group would just not happen by itself. It would take a great deal of energy. It requires both faith and trust; a continuing display of human care that begins with anyone and every GaDangme who is mindful of contributing towards a community spirit.
What is centrally important for us all is that together we keep a unity of purpose. This involves working at a process of making all our communities real and of doing it out of common vision and one heart.
A Need for GaDangme in Fostering Unity.
We believe that there is a very important need to create an atmosphere where people can apply their individual gifts for the common good. The young, the elderly and women should be given the opportunity and encouragement to use their gifts to greater achievements and we should resist the individual inclination to store up for their own security alone.
As individuals, we strongly do not subscribe to the selfish attitude of ‘you are ok I am ok. Let’s pretend we are friends’
What is Happening In Ga?
Perhaps it would be fair to say that the Dangme societies appear to have suffered less in fostering unity than their Ga cousin. The observations are that Dangme work harder, although not always perfectly, towards kingship, allegiance, culture identity and belonging, civic responsibility, resulting in less protracted disputes as opposed their Ga cousins.
Chieftaincy in Ga for long period has become problematic .The various royal gates are against each other thus, the problems have created a big gap of disunity among their own people and the communities.
As we are speaking despite the intervention by various traditional groups, government and the judiciary and security agencies, there seem to be no traditional authority for Gamei. The struggle for traditional authority and status as Ga Mantse sadly continues to eat deeply across the boundaries from Obutu to Langma to the boundaries of Dawhenya. It is a sad situation because the whole Ga is losing respect and the seat of authority has lost its respect and recognition in the eyes of the Ghanaians and the rest of the world.
The once important and influential role played by Gamei through the offices of the Ga mantse has sadly been lost and the authority and respect accorded to the Ga mantse has seriously been compromised by the inability to act as one people with common destiny thus, no economic progress to enhance the social, environmental and the welfare of the Ga communities.
Adafor e.g has one and only one overall traditional head. He is the one and only ‘Nene Ada’, the paramount chief of the whole ofAdaand its surrounding villages. This structure of authority is the same for Krobo who have the ‘Kono’ and also structure to Gbugbla or Prampram. All the other chiefs, e.g. the Wetsoyi (head of the clan), Asafoatse gwa and Asafoatse wayo are all subservient to their paramount chief-. ForAdathe Asafoatseme are under the authority of the paramount chief and they annually re-affirm their allegiance by swearing an oath to him, Nene Ada sitting in state during Asafotufiami festival.
This act of affirmation of solidarity by oath fosters the spirit of oneness among the clan groups and the families.
The Challenge For Ga and Dangme
The activities of the traditional leaders mainly, the head of families, ‘weku onukpa or nokotoma’ and his elders in managing the stool and family lands for example are worrying factors. The sellers of the lands do not account to the people and revenue from the sales of lands are not properly invested to enhance firstly the education of the younger and future family members or put to good investment. There is an urgent need for accelerated economic development in within GaDangme to promote- education, health, welfare, better environment and a good standard of living.
These are the challenges for GaDangme leaders- both traditional, spiritual and community leaders, matseme, weku nokortomaa me, our parliamentary representatives and others to lead the people assertively but sensitively to bring the spirit of unity among GaDangme.
The fragmented loyalties would never foster unity because it is a recipe for failure if the people and their communities cannot speak with one voice in order to promote our culture and tradition, heritage and establishment of a system which will accommodate and enhance economic and political progress and social advancement. MrAde Sawyerrtalked about some of the conflicts between families and the individuals land matters in the Rexford Dodoo lecture on -‘Right and Problems Associated with Ga Lands.’. The problem is not unique to Ga but to Dangme as well. GaDangme have the duty to formulate a progressive system for land tenure and ownership which should enhance positive development and advancement in GaDangme.
A Dangme citizen will considers him/herself first and foremost as Adano or Krono or Gbugblano. His or her birth place is of less importance. So e.g if you ask a Krobo or a Seno or an Adano where he or she comes from? The first response will be I am a Krono, Seno, Nigo/Prampramno or Adano. He/she will not say ‘I am from Otrokpe, Big Ada, Lolonya, Odumase, Somanya, Kordiabe, Ayikuma Kpongunor, Dodowa or Obawalesi. On the other hand a Ga will first say ‘I am from Osu, Abokobi, La, Amansaman, Nungua, Ga Mashie, James Town(Englishie Accra), Korkordzor, Achimota or Kaneshie. The attitude may not seem a factor for concern but it is very important in fostering GaDangme unity.
We should be proud first to say we are Ga or Dangme and our place of birth should be secondary as our identity. This would be the beginning of a lasting unity. It is my hope that one day grandchildren and great grand children would consider themselves as GaDangme first before Dangme orGa.It is only then that we shall be able to say, we are truly GaDangme.
This is a very important area that must not be taken for granted or that we should pretend that all is well. Language surprisingly tends to foster cordiality and understanding. It is easier to exchange knowledge and experiences and make friends when we can understand what others are saying. Language is an important element of communication in all economic activities and foreign relationships.
Our languages and our names identify who we are. When these elements are missing then we ‘have lost our identity and consequently lost persons. The Fante, Ewe, Guan, Dagbani, andAsanteproudly speak their languages. But the observation in Ga has a different tune. My observation is that even our brothers and sisters Ga seem to have abandoned their rich and lovely and have adapted to speaking Akan. This is very alarming!!. Instead of encouraging others to speak their language the sadly marginalise the Ga language to insignificance. If we lose our language then effectively, we no doubt lose our culture identity.
We are all witnesses to comments by non-Gamei inAccrawith the words “midie, saa kasanu, min ti”. We are aware of the offence that this has caused to the host population which had rightly been condemned by all right minded people inGhana, regardless of their tribal affiliations.
But for a long time, Dangmeli have been at the receiving end of such jokes from Gamei who refuse to speak or even hear the Dangme language. At an assembly of GaDangme, Gamei would assume and sometimes insist that Ga be spoken on the false assumption that all Dangmeli speakGa.If truly, we share common traditions and language to a certain extent, then it is right and proper that we each respect and accept each other’s dialect. I am neither advocating here that Ga should speak Dangme nor Dangme should speakGa.What I am stressing is that we should have a common respect for each other’s dialect.
Respect For Each Other- Use of Conducive Language to Facilitate Unity.
Recently, there was a discussion on one of the internet GaDangme radio stations about the delays by Dodowa in settling the Ga Mantse issue. One of the comments made was that, the Greater Accra House of Chiefs is dominated by Dangme Mantseme, and there was also the unfortunate comment that, ”agbene Dangmemei ye wornor” (now the Dangme are ruling us). On the same subject the comment was made by a Ga VIP who spoke about the role of Dangme Mantseme in the Dodowa case and expressed similar sentiments as those above. He went on to say that Ga is being left behind while the Dangme are progressing and rather arrogantly went on to say, “now they have their own banks”.
As far as Dangmeli are aware, the creation of Rural Banks throughout the entire country was a not a Dangme initiative but rather a national government initiative. What about the hundreds of banks in Ga areas, including the Bank of Ghana. Has any Dangmeno complained about this? No!!! And this is because Dangmeli are aware thatAccrais the capital and it deserves to have the best of banking facilities in the country. Dangmeli are proud of Ga,Accrabeing the capital ofGhana. Dangmeli will not under any circumstances show such a disrespect and prejudice to Ga as expressed with impunity by eminent and traditional Ga leaders.
We need collaboration at all levels to share ideas and experiences and to support, help and assist each other to develop and make progress in our communities. We must always be mindful about our utterance; arrogant, disrespectful and insensitive languages will only bring negative effects on bringing people together. Humility, trust an accommodating the other group are variable for the equation for the common agenda to foster unity.
When Dangme listen to discussions on the GaDangme forum or on GaDangme internet radio stations, they often find that Homowo is very often presented as a Ga festival. Very seldom are the three Dangme states of Kpone, Gbugbla and Ningo mentioned. Often when people talk about Homowo they only refer to Ga Mashi, Osu, La, Teshi, Nungua and Tema. But Kpone, Gbugbla and Ningo are often marginalised in this instance and rarely get a mention when it comes to Homowo festival
Homowo Ngmayemi and Asafotufiami Festivals
One of the main events that bring Krobos or Kroli, Pramprambihi and Adacitizens together is their annual traditional festivals. The Kro Gmayemi and Ada Asafotufiami festivals are communal and inclusive celebrations. For e.g there are many different clans and sub-clans in Adayet for the Asafotufiami festival Thursday and Friday are set aside for the various clans and families to perform their traditional customary rites. On Saturday there is a durbar, a to bring all the people together as one people. The concept of doing it together in oneness tends to foster the spirit of unity. This is an opportunity of gathering kith and kin together, reconciliation and let go resentment s against each other. On the other hand, the Ga Homowo Yeli which is celebrated annually by the various traditional Ga clan groups is fragmented. The various groups e.g Kpakpatse We, Abola, Teshie, Nungua, Sempe, Osu and La etc celebrate the festival separately.
Interestingly, the three Dangme states of Kpone, Gbugbla and Ningo, which also celebrate the Homowo festival, do so on exactly the same day and at the same time.
Anyemimei, Unity is strength. The Ga say ‘wo blo he ati’. Meaning by bring the various broom sticks and binding them together it is very difficult to break the broom. The Dangme say ‘kake pemi ne hewami nge. Unity is strength. The Dangme also say that ‘yi kake ye dami’. Literary meaning two heads are better than one. It is a fact that many a time we are not strong enough singly to fight our deadly enemies. But if we are united our combined effort will knock them down for ‘six’. The saying is- ‘united we stand and divided we fall’. The pieces of straw twisted together can bind an elephant. We can break individual stick easily. But we cannot break individual stick bound together. So we should realise the value of unity. The spirit of unity is now-a-days manifested in different forms i.e unions, associations, federation, congress etc.
Unity is strong and powerful. By our united effort we can easily achieve what we separately cannot.
We must always bear it in mind that we cannot foster unity if we as individuals do not show humility. Our leaders’ willingness to listen to the people, the youth, the elderly, the women folks and people of different persuasions or of different political colours in our societies is a key to fostering and sustaining unity. When important decisions are being made, people want to be heard. This does not mean that we must submit to every critic’s opinion and constantly adjust our determined plan for our people. .
It is only a genuinely listening to others when considering a course of action. Bigotry stifles progress. But spirit of tolerance goes a long way in diffusing potential conflicts.
A commitment to guarding the leadership goal is very important. Dangme do not expect unity without leadership harmony. Whilst no head expects complete agreement amongst his people in all decisions, people who are not agreeable should not serve in leadership positions because the leader sets the example for the people in fostering unity.
We must persuade and support our leaders to follow the rules and regulations and guidelines in confronting troublemakers and admonishing those who sow discord. The discipline must however, be patient and sensitive and the goal must aim to redirect erring individuals and guard the unity of the people.
Anyemimei, -mutual tolerance and acceptance, good system of communication and decision making at all levels, understanding each other and showing respect for one another for whom and what we are strong means for fostering GaDangme unity.
By respecting each other and recognising ourselves as people of common mission and set up an equal playing field where everyone’s position is legitimate and valid, will enable us as GaDangme to learn from each other and correct our mistakes.
During the annual Asafotifiami Festival, invitations are always sent to paramount chiefs to join Nene Ada to celebrate the festival. This spirit of cordiality should not be underestimated as it is an opportunity for our leaders to talk over matters that are importance and beneficial to the GaDangme communities.
We would like to emphasise that unity is a fragile thing- one moment everything is going great and the people are happy and unified, then suddenly an ’issue’ comes up , criticisms surfaces and a spirit of disunity begins to mark the life of the people. .
Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen whatever our perspective we must commit and engage. Our agenda must involve sharing responsibility. That sharing must seriously inculcate into the young ones the ideas of ‘GaDangme’ otherwise we could be one of the disappearing tribe groups inAfrica. Our common dialects, culture, tradition and language are the things that make us different from the Fantes, Ahantas, the Ewes, Asantes, Hausas, Grushis and Nzimas etc. We must be proud to put all these into practice wherever we are. For if we lose our language and our names then we have lost our identity as GaDangmebii/hi.
The challenge to foster sustainable unity is a message for all – individual GaDangme, groups or associations at homeGhanaand in the Diaspora. GaDangme must encourage their leaders to take time to strategize on-going ways to communicate decisions and directions and seek the people’s input.
Mr Chairman, Neneme, Niime ke Naana me, ladies and gentlemen, my message to all GaDanmes in every corner of the world is that if we continue to see ourselves different from or better than the other then we would be establishing a serious obstacle in our path to unity.
Unity I strongly believe makes a community strong. Ladies and gentlemen, it is true that the Ga and Dangme groups influence and are influenced by each other.
Fostering GaDangme unity is a worthy cause which must be pursued with zeal and passion to the end by all GaDangme citizens. Unity brings harmony, cohesion, peace and tranquillity.
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