I have followed keenly the reportage on the recent activities of the secessionist group called Western Togoland Restoration Front which purports to be fighting for independence for the area called Western Togoland.
While I commend the media for their proactiveness in reporting the situation, I am obliged to point out some apparent distortions in most of the reportage on the issue. It is important to point out that like the secessionist group(s), the media appeared to have also bought into some of the obvious falsehoods and half-truths being churned out by some elements of the group.
First, both the secessionist group and the media are confusing Western Togoland or British Togoland with Ewe unification or Ewe nation. Contrary to the claim by the group(s) and carried by some media houses that the Western Togoland covers the entire Volta Region, the unadulterated truth is that not all of the Volta Region as it stretches today constitutes the Western Togoland. For purposes of emphasis, the Anlos, Tongus, Pekis and a small portion of Adaklu (Hinakorpe and Adaklu Ahunda) did not form part of the Western Togoland although they are in the Volta Region. These areas together with Ada, Ningo, Prampram, Accra, and the Eastern region formed part of the Eastern Province of the Gold Colony and formed part of the Eastern Provincial Council which boasted of renowned Kings such as Nana Sir Ofori Atta I and Togbui Sri I.
The Anlo, Peki, Tongu (who share boundaries with the Ada) and Adaklu Ahunda did not take part in the 1956 plebiscite that united the Western Togoland with the Gold Coast to form Ghana in 1957. It is, therefore, wrong on the art of the media and the public to assume that the entire Volta region constituted the Western Togoland and for that matter the entire region is behind these secessionist activities. The only thing these areas have in common with the Western Togoland is the fact that they are all Ewes.
Administratively, the two areas were administered differently until 1952 when for purposes of administrative convenience, the colonial Government cut off the Anlo, Peki, Tongu and Ahunda areas and joined them to the Buem-Krachi, Kpandu and Ho districts of the Western Togoland to form the Trans-Volta Togoland which later became the Volta Region. The other three districts – Mamprusi, Dagomba and Gonja – were also joined to the north to form the Northern Territories. This palpable falsehood and distortion of history is what is making it possible for the leaders of the group(s) to lure innocent youths of these non-Western Togoland regions of the Volta Region into this cause.
Another falsehood that requires disabusing is the long-held belief by some people including the secessionists that the 1956 plebiscite had a fifty-year moratorium after which the people of Western Togoland can determine their wishes and aspirations of nationhood. Yet, again, I am sorry to say that is another straw. The facts do not support such assertions. What then are the facts? Ahead of the plebiscite in May 1956, a voter registration was organised for the residents of Western Togoland between 10th January and 13th February 1956.
To qualify as a voter, one must have passed her/his 21st birthday; have lived for at least twelve months during the past two years, in Togoland under United Kingdom Trusteeship; must not has been sentenced by a court to imprisonment for more than one year (unless five years have passed since one was discharged from prison); one has not been convicted of any offence involving dishonesty (unless five years has passed since one’s conviction or since one was discharged from prison.
Other requirements are that one must not have been disqualified from registration as an elector on account of an offence connected with elections. Finally, one should not be registered as a voter for the plebiscite in any other ward or sub-ward (Ghana Weekly Review, 1956).
To prove that all prospective registrants were residents of the British Togoland, they were required to produce their rate receipts and/or tax disc to assist officers in establishing the claim of registrants to have lived in British Togoland for the necessary time. Following the registration process, there were public educations held in the six affected districts. The education covered the purpose of the vote, its ramifications, the processes involved and the symbols (Ghana Weekly Review, 1956).
Political parties – Togoland Congress in the Ho, Kpandu and Buem-Krachi Districts – and Northern People’s Party (in the Mamprusi, Dagomba and Gonja Districts) were given the opportunity to campaign on one of the two issues of their choice. The Conventions Peoples Party also took part in the campaigns. Although ideologically opposed, both the CPP and the Northern Peoples’ Party [NPP] campaigned for ‘yes’ or union with Ghana whilst the Togoland Congress with its slogan ‘Ablode’ campaigned for ‘no’.
Meanwhile, in the plebiscite, the voters were to answer one of two questions: (i) Do you want the union of Togoland under British administration with an independent Ghana?; (ii) Do you want the separation of Togoland under British administration from the Gold Coast and its continuance under trusteeship, pending the ultimate determination of its political future? (Ghana Weekly Review, 1956) A critical look at the two questions is revealing.
Put together, the outcome of the two questions is irreversible. It is an exercise whose outcome is not terminable. In the public education which preceded the vote in May 1956, the voters were told: “It is your duty as a citizen to vote in the plebiscite so that you can help to decide how Togoland [under British administration] will be governed. This is a very important matter which will affect your children and your children (sic) children” This shows that the process intended the outcome to settle the issue of identity and status of the Western Togoland permanently.
The second question even throws more light on it. The second question which is a rejection of the first one asked the voters to agree that British Togoland would separate itself from the Gold Coast but retains its Mandate/Trusteeship status under British administration until that time that it could determine its political future. The second question implied that the outcome of the first question is/was irreversible.
The simple question is if the outcome of the first question were reversible, why would there be the need for the second question which enabled the voters to wait and determine their future at a later and more convenient time? And why would the UN spent a fortune to conduct a plebiscite which would not solve the issue permanently? Did the UN intend a delayed-conflict? Far from it! The UN wanted the issue resolved once and for all. Simply put, there is no such thing as fifty-year moratorium on the outcome of the plebiscite after which the people of British Togoland can decide their true aspirations. The allegation of this fifty-year moratorium may have come about during the campaigns which followed the process, although the campaigners knew it was not true.
At the close of the polls, Ninety-Three Thousand and Ninety-three (93,093) people representing 58% of the valid vote voted for union with the Gold Coast and Sixty-Seven Thousand (67,492) people representing 42% voted for separation from the Gold Coast. Of the six districts that voted in the plebiscite, only the Ho and the Kpandu districts voted for separation from the Gold Coast. Dagomba, Mamprusi, Gonja and Buem-Krachi districts all voted for union with the Gold Coast.
Another complexity in this whole thing is the impression on the part of the secessionists that they are fighting the cause of all Ewes. This is more confusing considering that in one breadth they are staking a claim to Western Togoland, but in another breadth, they want their call to sound as though it is a call by all Ewes.
All Ewe groups may be in the Volta Region today but not all Ewes are part of the swathe of land referred to as Western Togoland. The Anlos (including Some Aflao, Avenor), Tongus, Pekis and Ahunda were Gold Coasters ahead of the independence in 1957. This distinction must always be made to help educate the public since it appears some elements exploit the ignorance of some naïve people to lure them into these activities.
A thorny and solution-defying issue is that the Western Togoland is not limited to only modern day Volta Region. The entire Oti Region as we have it today was part of the Western Togoland so were the North East Region, part of the Northern Region and the Upper East Region. In the case of the Volta Region, only a small part of it was part of the Western Togoland. Only the stretch of land from Kpetoe through Ho to Kpedze and Avatime areas ( originally called the Ho District) and parts of Kpeve to Have through Kpando to Hohoe and the Tafi areas ( originally called the Kpando District) now formed the Western Togoland in the present day Volta Region. It is that stretch of landlocked area that is in dispute not the entire Volta Region.
Also of complexity is that the current Volta Region is not only made of up Ewes. There are non-Ewe speaking groups such as the Avatime, Logba, Tafi who are also bona fide owners of the area now called Volta Region. So any attempt to form an Ewe-only country out of the Volta Region will be alienating those ethnic groups too. This is something they will not subscribe to.
It will not solve the problem of the ‘Ewe Question’ or the Western Togoland problem considering that although the non-Ewe speaking section in the Volta Region today are in the minority, they have geographical contiguity which they can leverage on in the future to also demand their own independence and sovereignty however small they may appear. Even among the Ewes, there is this Anlo and Ewedome divisions, rivalries and suspicions that cannot guarantee the formation of nationhood.
But more complex is the fact that since the 1940’s when these agitations began; the Buem-Krachi enclave which now constitutes the Oti Region never supported the idea. They have never bought into any plan of Ewe unification or transforming the Western Togoland into a sovereign country as they feared an overbearing dominance and control in the hands of their highly educated Anlos and Pekis. When they had the opportunity in the 1956 plebiscite, they voted overwhelmingly in support of unification with the Gold Coast where they see their destiny lies. With their prayers having been answered and a new region created for them, the Oti people will never look back. They will never ascribe to any agenda that will bring them into an alliance or separate nationhood with the Southern Ewes. They are happy where they are.
For the Gonjas and the Dagombas and their allied ethnic groups which also formed part of the Western Togoland, their heartfelt desire even as at the time the agitations started in the 20th century, was to join their kinsmen in the Gold Coast, hence the Northern People’s Party [NPP] campaigned vigorous for union with the Gold Coast in the May 1956 plebiscite. Little wonder did the three Districts of the north that formed part of the Western Togoland at the time (Mamprusi, Gonja and Dagomba) voted in support of union with the Gold Coast and they have never looked back.
Also of complexity is the fact that it is simplistic to call for unification of Ewes of Ghana and Ewes of Togo. On hindsight, the pioneer leaders of the Western Togoland movement relegated to the background the idea of Ewe unification (of British Togoland and French Togoland) even during the initial stages of the agitations for independence of the German Togolands because of its impractical nature. The original German Togoland which now forms parts of Ghana and the entire Republic of Togo is not only populated by Ewes. Even in Togo where the Ewes are in the majority, we still have ethnic groups such as the Kabye, Gurma and Tem. In the case of British Togoland, besides the Ewes, there are Guans, Gonjas, Dagombas, Akans and Gurmas. None of these ethnic groups has ever shown the willingness or zeal for a joint Togoland Republic that will be dominated by the Ewes.
Now that the issue is becoming an existential threat to the Volta Region and Ghana, stakeholders including chiefs, politicians and duty bearers from the region must be seen and heard doing something to contain the threat. Our inaction and silence is becoming too loud, and does not augur well for the socio-economic development and the future of the region. As a step, the government must equip the National Commission for Civic Education with the true history and resources to embark on regular education in the affected areas in order to explain the true history to the people and the youth in particular.
We must also work towards creating opportunities for the youth as it is obvious that the leaders of the movement are using job prospects especially into the security agencies to lure these unsuspecting youths. More importantly, we must as state wok towards eliminating all forms of real or perceived discriminations and treat all citizens equal. It is time to have a dedicated national institution that will be in charge of fighting stereotypes, prejudices, ethnocentrism, discriminations and phobias such as Ewephobia and Voltaphobia.
In conclusion, with all the balkanization that the British Togoland or the Western Togoland has suffered, with most of its former districts now enmeshed happily in Ghana, it is only the Kpetoe through Ho through Kpandu to Hohoe areas of the Volta Region that remain of its glorious past. What all these amount to is the fact that there is very little appetite among the majority of the original districts of British Togoland for secession from Ghana even if they are offered the opportunity considering that many of them are key decision makers in the affairs of Ghana.
Let it be established that not all Ewes or all Voltarians are/ were part of the British Togoland or Western Togoland. The Western Togoland issue is not a peculiar one to Ghana. Cameroon which was also a lost territory of Germany is suffering same at its Anglophone section.
The Western Togoland problem or in extension the ‘Ewe Question’ is a very complex one. It is a more complex problem than it appears. The status quo is more of a compromise and a better solution.
The writer, Nicholas Mawunyah, is a writer and conference speaker on topical issues in education, political-history, school leadership and innovations.
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