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King of the Dagombas - GHANA

Short History #1

Dagbon is the part of Northern Region of Ghana inhabited by the Dagbanli speaking people. It covers an area of about 8000 square miles with a population of over 650 000. The people refer to themselves as Dagbamba (Dagomba) and their language Dagbanli (Dagbani). The Kingdom of Dagbon is almost surrounded by the Gonja Kingdom, with whom it borders in the southern and eastern directions. The Dagbon Kingdom also borders with the Mamprusi in the north and the Nanumba in the south-east. The Kingdom of Dagbon is ruled by the Ya-Naa (King of Strength) assisted by about thirteen divisional chiefs and over two hundred subdivisional chiefs. MORE

Short History #2

Ghana is located on the west coast of Africa, about 750km between latitude 4-11.50 North of the Equator the Gulf of Guinea. More than 50% of Ghana is less than 152metres above sea level.

The Capital, Accra, is near Tema, which lies on the Greenwich Meridian. The country has a total land area of 238,537 square kilometres, and is bounded on the North by Burkina Faso, on the West by La Cote d’Ivoire, on the East by Togo and on the South by the Gulf of Guinea. The land area stretches for 672kilometres North-South and 536kilometres East-West.

Ghana is in essence flat and low-lying. The country does nowhere top an altitude of 1000m and almost half of it lies at an altitude of below 150m. The far south of the country is dominated by the low-lying coastal plain which runs between 100km and 150km inland of the Atlantic coastline, except near Accra where the Akwapim Mountains around Aburo rise from the coastal plain only 20km inland.

The low-lying Volta Basin, at the heart of the country, is Ghana’s most important drainage system. It stretches from around Tamale in the north to the Volta mouth at Ada. The Lake Volta is the world’s largest artificial body of water with 8500km2.

Mountains to the east and west flank the Volta Basin. The eastern highlands, part of the Togo-Atakora range that stretches through to Benin, reach altitudes in excess of 900m near the Togolese border. The Mount Afadjayo is the country’s highest peak and part of this range. The highlands to the east and west of the Volta Basin are characterised by a high number of waterfalls, most famously the Wli Falls near Hohoe, reputedly the highest waterfall in West Africa.

Discover Ghana and get to know its people

There is a place on the western coast of the African. continent; its sandy shores washed clean by the Atlantic Ocean, its land rich in gold, diamonds cocoa, manganese and bauxite; inhabited by the friendliest, most open hearted people you'll find any where on earth. Its tropical rain-forest, blends with river valleys and dry Savannah plains, to create 250,000 square km of paradise for the lovers and watchers of nature's wonders. It's no accident that Ghana was once known as the 'Gold Coast,' a name bestowed on it by Portuguese traders who landed there in 1472. The legendary gold deposits of Ashante remain the world's richest and largest. MORE

The most prominent ethnic/linguistic groups in Ghana are the Ashanti, the Ewe, the Fanti, and the Ga (Saaka 1994). The Mossi-Dagomba (16%) have been less touched by western influences than other ethnic groups in Ghana. The northern region is generally less developed than the southern region of Ghana, having inferior soil and climatic conditions for cash crop cultivation and little mineral wealth, and the northern peoples such as the Dagomba and Mossi are generally less well educated than their southern countrymen. Many northerners live as migrant laborers.

The Dagomba had it own ruling dynasty, related to the Mossi kingdoms of Burkina Faso (Upper Volta), before colonial powers arrived. In the 1740s, the Dagomba were dominated by the Ashanti, and by 1874, their kingdom had fallen apart. Islam has had its greatest impact among the Dagomba, Manprusi, Wlaba and Hausa/Fulani groups of Ghana. Historically, many Konkomba, a stateless group who live along the Oti River on the Togo border, were subject to Dagomba control. The Konkomba have also had numerous disputes with the Nanumba.

The Mossi originated in Burkina Faso, and many migrate south each year to live in northern Ghana. They share common traditions with the Dagomba, Manprusi and other northern Ghanaian groups. Many lived in the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo region where they worked on farms belonging to natives of the region. MORE


1550-1650: Asanti (Ashanti) exported gold north.

1697: Osei Tutu, the Asantehene (king), created Asanti Union.

early 18th century : The kingdom of Asanti (Ashanti), in the modern state of Ghana, became powerful. In order to expand the power of his kingdom, Osei Tutu, together with his chief priest, changed the constitution and the ceremonial regalia (cloths, ornaments, and decorations). Particularly, Osei Tutu substituted for the royal throne (a stool) a special Golden Stool, which (he said) had descended from heaven into his lap, symbolizing the Asanti nation. Every year, the Asanti people assembled after the yam harvest for a national festival, the Odwira, for their unity with their kingdom.

1896: As British colonial power expanded in West Africa, there were clashes with the Asanti and the area became a British protectorate. The king Prempeh was removed.

1901: The area was annexed with the southern area of what is now Ghana as the colony of the Gold Coast. The British often used the Golden Stool in ways that distressed the Asanti people.

1935: The Golden Stool was returned to the people of Asante. The Asanti were re-united, at least in a symbolic way, as a new Asantehene (king), Prempeh II, revived the ceremonies. During the late 1930s, Prempeh II did much to restore the glories of the old ceremonies of the Asanti.

1947: Kwame Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast.

1957: Ghana became the first black African state given independence by Britain. Leaders Kwame Nkrumah was referred to as J.J (Junior Jesus) as Ghanaians believed that just like the Messiah, Nkrumah saved the country from colonial rule. Under Nkrumah=s regime, the Ashanti people suffered humiliation.

1957-1963: The Greater Togo Movement of Ewe separatists sought to separate Trans-Volta (now Volta Region) from Ghana and annex it to Togo. During this period, especially 1961, not one Ewe held a position in Nkrumah's cabinet.

1966: Nkrumah was overthrown by General Emmanuel Kotoka (an Ewe) and went into exile. It was widely held that Kotoka had a lot of support from his own people. Power transferred from the coastal Akan peoples to the Ewe and Ashanti. The Ewe and Ga were over-represented in the cabinet. Northerners represented only 12 of the 1966 cabinet. (They account for about 25 percent of the country's population)

1967 April: General Kotoka was killed during an abortive coup attempt. Anti-Ewe sentiment rose throughout the country. The coup attempt was widely believed to be conducted by Ashantis and Fantis who try to reverse the growing domination of the state by Ewes.

1969: Government intervention in the selection of Ya Na (paramount chief) of the Dagomba, a northern people, resulted in rioting against the government.

1969 September: Ewe supported their compatriot K.A. Gbedemah and his party, the National Alliance of Liberals (NAL), in the general elections. But the Progress Party (PP) came to power.

1971: Only one Ewe was serving in a senior army position by the end of 1971.

1972 January: Ignatius Acheampong (an Ashanti) seized power in a coup. His National Redemption Council (NRC) was relatively diversified in ethnic composition. Yet under Acheampong's rule (1972- 1978), the Ashanti appeared to play a key role in politics. Between 1973 and 1977, Ewe revived the sentiments of secession.

1978 July: Acheampong was replaced at the head of the SMC by General Fred Akuffo. But Akuffo's regime (SMCII) proved to be no more than a footnote to Acheampong's period in power.

1979 June 4: Flt.-Lt. Jerry Rawlings (half Ewe) seized power in a coup. Ewes took many key positions in his regime.

1979 September: Hilla Limann (a northerner) became president through a general election. Ewes supported Limann's Peoples National Party (PNP) in the election. Limann's PNP had its support base in the north and west. Many Akan peoples living in Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo areas voted for the PNP in the 1979 elections, but they did not get adequate recognition from the Limann government. By the end of 1981, the Limann regime had lost its influence over the groups making up the society and the economy declined sharply.

1981 December 31: Rawlings led his second coup and assumed the chairmanship of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) after overthrowing the Limann's civilian government and banning all political parties. As Rawlings came to power, Ewes' ethnic consciousness has further consolidated to the extent that they attempted to maximize their political influence. Rawlings cut back on the prominence of Ewes in his cabinet and yet Ashanti demands increased.

1982: Contention was greatly intensified among different ethnic groups. The armed forces were increasingly divided along ethnic lines, with the Ewe supporting Rawlings while the large number of northerners backed Sgt. Aloga Akata-pore.

1983 June 19: A coup was attempted but crushed by the government troops. The PNDC government accused Ivory Coast of allowing its territory to be used as a base by the Ghanaian dissidents. Throughout the 1980s since the PNDC assumed power, there were a number of attempts and plots to overthrow the government.

1990 July 5: The PNDC, under pressure from western donor nations and opposition groups to restore a multi-party civilian government, announced the commencement of a national discussion on the country's political future aimed at the development of democracy.

1990 August: The Movement for Freedom and Justice (MFJ), an umbrella organization, was launched to promote the return of multi-party politics to Ghana.

1990 September 15: The MFJ was denied permission by the police to hold its inaugural rally in Kumasi, Ghana's second largest city.

1991 July 2: Political opponents of the ruling PNDC, who were in voluntary exile, were granted amnesty to return and assist in the national reconstruction.

1991 December: According to a report of the International Human Rights Group Amnesty International, the PNDC misused power by using imprisonment as a means to suppress political opposition. The report stated that over 50 people were being detained without proper trial. Secretary of the Interior Nana Akouko Sarpong denied the existence of political prisoners and dismissed the human rights report as being part of a Apropaganda war@ against developing nations.

1991 December 28: The Consultative Assembly on the drafting of a new constitution asked that its deliberations be prolonged until March 1992.

1992 March: On the 35th anniversary of independence, Rawlings announced a timetable for returning the country to civilian rule.

1992 May 17: In the wake of the adoption of a new constitution in April, the ban imposed on political parties in 1981 was lifted. The registration process was boycotted by many groups, who took legal action against the legislation.

1992 November 2: Rawlings won 58 percent of the vote in the presidential election. Ewes in the Volta region on Ghana's eastern border overwhelmingly voted for Rawlings, their favorite son candidate, while the Akan vote was more evenly spread. All of the four opposition parties -- New Patriotic Party (NPP), consisting mostly of Ashanti, People's National Convention (PNC), National Independence Party (NIP), and the People=s Heritage Party (PHP) -- immediately disputed the results, alleging fraud and intimidation of voters. Yet, the head of a 15-member international observers, called the Commonwealth Observer Team, said that although the process had not been without incident, the elections were free and fair.

1992 November 11: The Ashanti regional administration lifted a curfew that was imposed last week on the Kumasi metropolitan area due to rioting over the results of the recent elections.

1992 December 29: The four main opposition parties boycotted the national parliamentary elections. They wanted to postpone the elections for two years and to establish an interim parliament with equal representation for all the parties. Among the four parties, the NPP had been quite certain of ousting President Rawlings. Still, the elections were held and Rawlings' National Democratic Congress won 189 seats out of 200.

1993 January 7: The Fourth Republic of Ghana was proclaimed. Also the four main opposition parties issued a joint statement of the acceptance of the Apresent institutional arrangement.@ The parties, assembled as the Inter-party Coordinating Committee (ICC), urged its members to Agive the government a chance to prove that it is interested in the institution and restoration of democracy.@

1993 January: A shadow organization calling itself Farigan, led by Lagos, Nigeria-based Alhaji Damba, claimed responsibility for bombings in Accra (the capital) and Tema (an industrial city).

1993 June: Refugees who have been fleeing Liberia's civil war since August 1990 now total 20,000 in Ghana. Also, tensions in Togo resulted in as many as 150,000 Ewe-speaking refugees fleeing to Ghana. (Reports conflict on the numbers of Togolese who fled to Ghana-they range from 10,000-150,000)

1993 December 20: More than 1,500 delegates of the NPP (a major opposition party) met at the University of Ghana, Legon, for their second annual conference. A resolution called for a revision of electoral laws and procedures. In addition, the resolution demanded a commission of inquiry into the recent allegation of corruption and embezzlement of public funds.

Update 2/17/96

1994 February 2: Fighting in the north near the border with Togo broke out between Konkomba and Dagomba ethnic groups. The incident began with a dispute over prices in a market, but quickly accelerated to large-scale violence. The two groups have been at loggerheads for many years because the Konkomba, who are not Ghanaian natives, are denied chieftainship and land. Only 4 of 15 ethnic groups in the region have land ownership.

1994 February 10: The government issued a state of emergency in the northern region (the districts of Yendi, Nanumba, Gushiegu/Karaga, Saboba/Chereponi, East Gonjo, Zabzugu/Tatale and the town of Tamale). About 6000 Konkomba fled to Togo as a result. The government also closed four of its border posts to prevent the conflict from spreading.

1994 March 4: A grenade exploded in Accra in a Konkomba market injuring three. It is thought to be a spillover from the violence in the north between the Konkomba and Dagomba.

1994 March: The government fired on a crowd in Tamale killing 11 and wounding 18. Security forces fired on mainly Dagomba after they had attacked a group of rival Konkomba. It is difficult for the government to reach Konkomba fighters since they operate in small packets under bush cover.

Members of the Dagomba, Gonjas and Namubas (allies) turned in their arms in compliance with a government order to all warring factions.

The seven districts affected by the fighting are the breadbasket of the region and food prices have increased since the fighting broke out in February.

1994 April: An 11 member government delegation held separate talks with leaders of the warring factions in Accra. Both sides agreed to end the conflict and denounce violence as a means of ending their conflict. The three-month old conflict left over 1000 (one report suggested 6000) people dead and 150,000 displaced.

1994 June 9: A peace pact was signed among all warring factions in the north. Two main groups of disputants were involved in the fighting (Konkomba vs. Dagomba, Nanumba and Gonja) as were several smaller groups (Nawuri, Nchumri, Basari). No incidents were reported in the past several weeks, though the region remained tense.

1994 July 8: Parliament agreed to extend the state of emergency imposed on the 7 northern districts for a further month.

1994 August 8: Parliament revoked the state of emergency officially closing the conflict.

1994 October: Police seized arms bound for the north. The Tamale region is tense and the peace agreement signed in April was regarded as a dead letter. Dagomba communities, backed by the Nanumbas and Gonjas, again began buying arms. Many Konkomba have been keeping out of sight following a series of lynchings.

1995 February 16: Bushfires swept across Ghana causing extensive damage to forests and crops. At least 12 were killed.

1995 March: Renewed ethnic fighting in the north left at least 110 dead and 35 wounded. The Konkombas were largely blamed as instigators of the latest violence. The government had the situation under control by the end of the month. In Nanumba District, five arrests were made in connection to the violence. A total of 25 have been arrested since September 1994 in connection to the violence. Latest casualty figures put the number of dead at 2000 since February 1994, and 400 villages and farms have been burnt to the ground.

1995 April: The government began proving funds for the rehabilitation of displaced persons from the ethnic conflict. An estimated 200,000 have been displaced. Most health, education and water facilities were destroyed in the wake of the conflict and most personnel fled the area. Outbreaks of cerebro-spinal meningitis, polio, diptheria, measles, tetnus and whooping cough were reported. Agriculture in the area is nowhere near its pre-conflict levels.

1995 May 3: Armed forces of Ghana and a detachment of US special forces began a joint military exercise in the northern region.

1995 May 12: Anti-government demonstrations took place in Accra. They were sponsored by the Alliance for Change and they resulted in clashes between pro- and anti-Rawlings demonstrators. Five people were killed in the clashes. (The Alliance for Change may be a mostly Ashanti organization-they were planning a similar demonstration in the Ashanti region.)

1995 June 26: President Rawlings initiated peace talks in parts of the conflict area, praising both sides for their efforts to put aside their differences. Yet, he later issues a warning against the Konkombas in particular to heed reconciliation moves.

1995 June 23: Thousands demonstrate in the sea port of Takoradi in protest over the high cost of living. Ghana has implemented World Bank sponsored austerity measures since the early 1980s and is generally thought to be in healthy financial shape compared to other African states. Yet, per capita income is low (about $450/year) and unemployment is high.

1995 November: Tensions were on the rise between Muslims and non-Muslims in areas of Ghana including in the cities of Sekondi and Kumasi. The tensions between the Dagombas and Konkomba, though essentially over land use, were exacerbated by the fact that Dagombas are mainly Muslims while the Konkomba are mainly animist.

Update June 1999

1996 December 4: Political activity in Kumasi was banned by the Regional Security Council following pre-election violence. The ban on the political activities includes rallies, blockade of roads and streets with songs, and other acts that are likely to lead to violence in the metropolis. The decision was the result of an incident which occurred at Old Tafo near Kumasi on December 3, which resulted in the lynching to death of one Emmanuel Yao Gruponi, popularly known as Ima Yao of the NDC [National Democratic Congress] youth wing. The NDC's party office was burnt down, and a house was attacked.(Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/4/96)

1996 December 10: Although the official total from December 7 presidential elections has not yet been announced, President Jerry Rawlings looks assured of a historic win in Ghana's elections after dominating the West African nation's political scene for almost two decades. No incumbent has been re-elected since Ghana won independence from Britain in 1957. The final count for parliamentary elections also held on December 7 has been announced. The count gives the president's National Democratic Congress party 117 seats in the 200-seat assembly. The combined opposition has 62 seats.(Source: Reuters World Service, 12/10/96)

1996 December 23: Kofi Annan of Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan African Secretary General of the United Nations. (Source: Inter Press Service, 12/23/96)

1997 January 25: The Ashanti Regional Police Command has sent a reinforcement to Nsuta to help contain the tense situation which has developed between the people of Nsuta and Bepawso. Citizens of Nsuta yesterday blocked the road between the town and Bepawso and prevented travelers going to and from Bepawso. The blockade was in protest against a letter allegedly written by the Bepawsohene [traditional ruler] to the Nsutahene claiming that the people of Nsuta are occupying Bepawso land. Fourteen people, including school children, were injured, and four people were killed.(Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1/25/97)

1997 October 21: Tension is mounting between two ethnic communities - Konkombas and Nchumurus - in Ghana over ownership of land, bringing back bitter memories of a conflict in the Nothern Region of Ghana in 1994 which claimed hundreds of lives and property. The people of Kete-Krachi and Nkwanta Districts are worried over the influx of Konkombas into the area to take over lands by force. The Traditional Council has called on the government to "act speedily to avert another conflict in the two districts". A letter prominent chiefs in the area sent to the government said "with their numbers increasing, Konkombas have tended to disregard all customary rights to land and have resorted to lawlessness". The government has sent a serious warning to all the ethnic groups that it would not tolerate another ethnic conflict. President Jerry Rawlings toured parts of the Northern Region last week and made it clear that his government would take strong action against any group which would launch an attack. (Source: Africa News, 10/21/97)

1998 September 9: The Ashanti regional security council has urged members of the Sunna and the Tijaniya Muslim sects to respect customs, traditions and norms of the Islamic religion. They should also tolerate each other's views to avoid frequent outbreaks of violence between them. The council directed that the use of public address systems by the two sects should cease. Police have been monitoring the Zongo and the Aboabo communities to ensure that there is no breach of the peace. (Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/9/98)

1998 October 15: The man reputed to be the Kabila of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Goozie Tanoh, is reported to have gone underground after what NDC reformers called persistent pressure on him to renounce his Movement. In recent weeks, signals have been sent to the NDC to reform or risk the imminent breakup of the party. (Source: Africa News, 10/15/98)

1998 October 25: John Agyekum Kufuor, a lawyer and economist, was re-elected presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to contest the 2000 elections. (Source: Africa News, 10/25/98)

1998 December 17: The National Democratic Congress (NDC) starts its delegates congress today in Sekondi in the Western Region. With the issue of who succeeds President J.J. Rawlings now put to rest by the President's repeated endorsement of his Vice President, Professor John Evans Atta-Mills, the struggle has now shifted to certain key positions in the party. Alhaji Issifu Ali, the party Chairman has been removed from his position. Already there are many party functionaries in a queue to fill the void created by Issifu Ali's exit.(Source: Africa News, 12/17/98)

1999 June 1: A vote of No-Confidence has been passed on the Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive Nana Akwasi Agyemang for highhandedness, nepotism, dictatorship and gross abuse of office. (Source: Africa News, 6/1/99)

History of the Dagomba Kingdom in some Hausa Ajami Manuscripts

According to oral tradition, the related kingdoms of Dagomba and Mamprusi should have come into being in the 15th century. It is commonly accepted that their founder was a certain Na Gbewa (spelled also Na Bawa) and his two sons. After they had quarrelled, they separated and gave rise to two kingdoms which were independent from each other. In the end of the 16th c. those political units were conquered by Gbanya warriors of Mande origin who earlier had founded the Gonja kingdom. Until the 18th c. the Gbanya exercised control over the Dagomba people. They imposed a sort of levy upon them, and had also a considerable influence on the internal matters of the Dagomba kingdom.

Of great importance for the history and development of the Dagomba kingdom was the Islamic religion. It is believed that some Muslim elements in the Dagomba culture must have been brought into the area by the founders of their state. However, this is not confirmed by Dagomba oral tradition. According to oral history, the first Muslim ruler of the Dagomba may have been a certain Na Zangina who ruled circa 1700. It is claimed that he may have been converted by Sabali-Yarna, a Muslim Dyula from a large group of traders engaged in gold trade who since a long had been settled in the first Yendi

The early Muslim community in the Dagomba country was represented by yarna or leaders of the Dyula religious groups. In the course of time, both Hausa traders and those originating form Borno were more and more becoming active as Muslim missionaries. Their influences in the Dagomba country were characterised by a considerable intensity. Therefore, it is not curious that the main role in the Islamisation of the Dagomba was attributed rather to them than to Dyula. MORE

The Damba Festival

The Damba Festival is an ancient celebration of the Dagbamba people of Northern Ghana. Festivities take place on the 11th, 17th and 18th days of the Damba month: the third month of the Dagbamba calender (lunar calendar). Damba is the most important festival of the Dagombas(Dagbamba).

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The King of the Dagombas beheaded?
King of the Dagombas - GHANA

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