Palace burial of decapitated king sets tribes on path to war

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Andani tribe of the Dagbon kingdom in Ghana does not easily forget. It remembers how, almost three years ago, its beloved monarch was killed by a spray of bullets from an enemy clan, his head and arms cut off and his dismembered body paraded around his torched palace on a spear.

The Andani tribe of the Dagbon kingdom in Ghana does not easily forget. It remembers how, almost three years ago, its beloved monarch was killed by a spray of bullets from an enemy clan, his head and arms cut off and his dismembered body paraded around his torched palace on a spear.

King Yakuba's people have mourned him ever since; his 32 widows cannot hear his name without sobbing. And yet the news that his corpse is to be laid to rest in a newly-built palace has brought little comfort to the Andani because it is now that their tribal war is beginning in earnest. According to custom, a new king could not take the throne until the murdered Yakuba was buried and a new palace built. Now that has happened, the fighting is likely to start all over again.

The brutal feud between the kingdom's Andani and Abudu clans, leading to the murder of the 'Lion of Dagbon", as the King was known, in March 2002, was an act of regicide that appalled modern, democratic Ghana.

A power struggle that had been simmering for 30 years erupted as Abudu warriors clad in military regalia stormed the Andani King's residence and slaughtered him, along with 30 of his elders. By doing so, they assumed they were claiming the throne for one of their own.

In 1974, members of the rival families were ordered to alternate control of the northern kingdom. Almost immediately, there was a dispute. The Abudu claim their monarch was unfairly ousted by Yakuba in 1974, and waited more than 30 years to retake the throne . The murder, they assume, hands them that right.

The Andani however, still enraged at the killing of their leader argue, with some justice, that the clan responsible for the crime should not be allowed to profit from murder.

Threatening noises are already being made.

"It is the Abudu's turn to take control of Dagbon," Alhassan Iddrisu, an elder of the clan's chief, said. "Or there could be trouble."

Looking forward to a glorious incumbency, the tribe has been primping its young claimant, Mahamadu Abdulai for years, prematurely removing him from school and awarding him wives.

"When the Ya-Na (king) is chosen," Idrissu said, "drums will sound across the land."

A reminder of the toll such an open and bloody confrontation could take on the community came from the murdered King's brother, Alhassan Andani, who still bares the emotional scars of the clash in 2002 and, probably in consequence, is praying for a peaceful solution.

"There may be two kings in Dagbon, and that can bring many lost lives, much worse than before," he admitted. "Everyone here can be a warrior when the time comes."

The Andani must have thought things could not get any worse in the Dagbon. But it looks as though they could - and soon.

Comments