Enimil Ashon: West Togoland: Let’s go to UN

Last Saturday, for the first time in living memory, NPP and NDC spoke with one voice on an issue.

On Joy FM’s Newsfile, reps of the two political traditions were united in their loud disagreement with the recommendation of Prof Emmanuel Kwesi Ening, a security expert at Kofi Annan Peace Keeping Centre.

He had prescribed negotiation as the solution to the Western Togoland secession problem and matters arising therefrom.

Three days later, on Tuesday, the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council spoke on the troubling issue. Their position: negotiate.

In November last year, my position, published on this page in the ‘Daily Graphic’, was the same: negotiate.

But I have changed my mind. I have, not so much because of the recent intensified co-ordinated attacks that bear the unmistakable signature of terror, but because I am getting only one answer from the question I have been asking myself: what are we going to negotiate over?

The secessionists want to carve out for themselves a portion of the landmass currently called Ghana and name it Western Togoland. Will Government ever agree to cede a centimeter of Ghanaian space? Will the secessionists settle for anything less? The issue is dead on arrival.

Since we cannot (and should not) negotiate with them, and since we cannot attempt to disband the group – they are now an underground terrorist group using guerilla tactics, including raiding of a police station and making away with 10 AK 47 assault rifles, and setting a whole STC bus ablaze – my suggestion is that we insist on judgement by the UN. The group itself has long petitioned the world body.

The Homeland Study Group Foundation, the secessionist group, is “officially” listed as a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), an international organization whose “members are groups of indigenous peoples, minorities, unrecognized states and occupied territories that have joined together to defend their political, social and cultural right… and to promote their right to self-determination”.

Remember the terror that is threatening to break up Cameroon because of the activities of the Ambazonia separatists. Remember the daily bombings that rocked the Niger Delta of Nigeria by separatists in Ogoniland. That is the situation into which Ghana is being dragged.

For a country that cannot exist without big-time foreign direct investments, what are the consequences of terror? Investors are running away from, or not too keen to remain, in Nigeria and Cameroun. Why would they behave differently to a Ghana if their investments will not be safe?

In their November 16, 2018 news conference, the Homeland Study Group Foundation claimed that the Akosombo Dam is in their ‘country’ and “want to take possession right away”.

A certain Association of Western Togoland Youths (ASWETOY) has also “warned” Ghana to “stop venturing into the mineral deposits of the homeland of Western Togolanders”.

As far back as 1975, a group of Voltarians publicly demanded secession from Ghana at a durbar at Ho attended by Gen. I.K. Acheampong, then Head of State. On January 12, 2018, a group by name Association of Volta Youth (Ghana) in USA petitioned the United Nations Secretary General and Amnesty International and all member states of the United Nations, for a homeland, threatening “radical action” to stop Ghana from exploring or drilling for oil in that part of the country.

They have resolved to counter  police arrests with aggressive retaliation, threatening ” barbaric and bloody outcome”.

They describe the 1956 plebiscite that resulted in the union between Gold Coast and Trans Volta Togoland as “most fraudulent, dehumanizing and unconstitutional”.

I wish it were easy to reason with them, but it isn’t, from the look of things; otherwise, I could draw their attention to historical records which show that “although there were several semi-autonomous Ewe-speaking communities along the coast and in the Togo hills, there was no Ewe state in precolonial times”; that, in fact, the name, Trans Volta Togoland, was the coinage of the British for ease of administering the territory.

They will not listen to me, they will not listen to Ghana Government, but they will be prepared to sit once they are assured of independent and neutral arbiters. That is why we must go the UN.

The genesis of all of above was the 1884 Berlin Conference where Europeans sat around a table and carved up Africa among themselves. From that conference, Germany established the Togoland protectorate.

During the First World War in 1914, Britain and France invaded the protectorate. After the German defeat and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the western part of Togoland became a British mandate under supervision of the Trusteeship Council of the League of Nations (now the United Nations).

The Ewe area in the British controlled territory was formally constituted into the Trans-Volta-Togoland region in 1952 for ease of administration.

The 1950s saw a rise in Pan-tribal movements amongst Ewe speaking groups. There were constant demands by some Ewes for unification either as a separate state or to join Ghana or Togo Republic.

On May 9, 1956, the United Nations held a plebiscite to decide on the wishes of the Togoland people. With 83% voter turnout, a resounding 58% of the population backed the union with the Gold Coast; 42% said “No”.

On this basis, the British government therefore recommended that the Trans Volta Togoland should be integrated into the Gold Coast.

The UN General Assembly approved the union and on March 6, 1957 the British trust territory of Togoland and the Gold Coast became the independent and unitary state of Ghana.

The new Parliament of Ghana, after independence, named the Trans-Volta Togoland area as Volta Region.

I sympathize with the opinion that says the group has no legitimacy; that it should be disbanded and the people arrested. With the experience of the Ogonis of Nigeria and Ambazonia in Cameroun, one thing is clear.

We can talk tough all we want; these people are terrorists, and there are two things terrorists have no fear of: death and jail. In guerilla warfare, the enemy knows you but you don’t know them?

They can walk to any sensitive installation or crowded place, not excluding schools and churches, and release detonations. This West Togoland groups has become an existential threat to Ghana.

To the UN we must go.

While at it, I plead that it is not in the national interest for the NDC to start portraying the recent escalation as a failure of intelligence by the NPP government. In a country without extensive CCTV cameras and metal and explosives detectors, how else do we deal with terror?


The writer, Enimil Ashon, is a former Editor of the ‘Ghanaian Times’ and now a columnist of the ‘Daily Graphic’.

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