Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Northern Regions

Unlike Jamaica, Ghana does not have a lot by way of natural disasters like hurricanes, or even earth tremors. Like many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa however, the two main problems seem to be droughts, or the total opposite torrential rains.

We have just come out of the rainy season - or so we thought. After a year of praying for rains they have finally come with so much damage and destruction that it is somewhat frightening. For us living in Accra, we only see the 'good' side by way of the rising levels in the dam as I noted in an earlier post. Even the papers this morning reflected the following:

Maximum level : 278.00 ft
Minimum level: 240.00 ft
Previous level (17/09/07): 246.95 ft
Current level (18/09/07): 247.45 ft

The picture and the stories in the Daily Graphic however gives the other side of the coin. It seems as if both the White and Black Volta have flooded their banks, leaving 140,000 persons homeless, with some 12,844 houses washed away. The death toll is now up to fifteen and a state of emergency has been declared.

The effects of this are being felt mainly in the three Northern Regions - Upper East, Upper West and Northern. Having worked in these areas before, I am familiar with the levels of poverty and dire need that already exists for most of the population even without the challenges of a natural disaster like this. Property aside, there is the worry about the outbreak of diseases like cholera and guinea worm. Hundreds of acres of crops have also been washed away, or under water and one wonders what this will then mean in a couple of months. The Government and the development partners seem to be handling the situation well, so let's hope that relief will get to the people who need it most. From what I gather, parts of Nigeria and else where in West Africa are experiencing similar difficulties.

Also worrying is the outbreak of another tribal clash between two clans in the North - the Bimbobas and Konkombas, already resulting in six persons dead, 300 houses burnt plus numerous others injured. According to the papers this was all started by a misunderstanding between two persons, one from each of the ethnic groups, at a market sometime last week!

Not having ethnic/tribal groups in Jamaica (
unless you think about political parties!), it if difficult sometimes to understand - or even physically see - the differences among people. While not a problem as far as I can see in Accra, which already hosts a melting pot of tribes, in other parts of the country it can be an issue. It would be interesting to look at the major tribes/clans in Ghana - and this could take up several posts in itself, but would in turn require a bit more knowledge for me to post factual things - perhaps time allowing one day I should do a bit more reading around the topic.

It gets even more complicated when you look at the issue of language (again based on ethnicity). Though English is the official language, there are 9 (nine) other recognized languages some of which are also written and taught in schools - Akan (the most popular), Agaare/Waale, Dangbe, Dagbane, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, and Nzema. Additionally there are some 26 other languages plus numerous dialects as well. Most Ghanaians speak English, plus an additional 2 or 3 of what is mentioned above.

Based on my facial features, build and even my last name (yes!) , a lot of people think I am actually Fanti! And in fact meeting non-Ghanaians can be quite funny as they automatically assume I am Ghanaian until I tell them otherwise. Seems as if I have come full circle.


Anonymous said...

It would be interested to know about the Fanti. What part of Ghana do they usually live in? What is the social structure of the tribe? Is there a history of longstanding feuds with other tribes and if so, how were they resolved? For all we know, the forefathers were probably taken as hostages and sold to the white man. - Madlon

Denise said...

Trust you to send me on a knowledge quest Madlon! Will try and get some info and post. Nice to know you are a regular visitor to my blog :-)