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GHANA STUDIES / Volume 9 ISSN 1536-5514 / E-ISSN 2333-7168© 2008 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System 61 LEGITIMATING A CONTESTED BOUNDARY Northern Ghanaian Immigrants and the Historicity of Land Conflict in Ahyiayem, Brong Ahafo ISIDORE LOBNIBE Introduction In 2003, a local tension involving two northern Ghanaian immigrant households in Ahyiayem, a farming community in the Brong Ahafo region quickly escalated, degenerating into an open conflict, according to sources in the village. A teenage girl informed her parents in December of that year that a young man in the village was responsible for her pregnancy. Her parents sent the case to a village court to find out the truth of the allegations and what to do next, but the young man refused to appear before it to answer the allegations leveled against him. Frantic efforts were made by the village headman (himself a migrant) to resolve the matter at his level, but upon realizing that the issues involved were beyond his control, he referred it to his superior, the Omanhene (Paramount chief) of the Wenchi traditional area, under whose authority he was made head of the village . Matters came to a head when the relatives of the girl, angered by lack of cooperation from the young man and his father, and their subsequent failure to pay an initial fine of 200.000 cedis (= $140) for the upkeep of the expectant mother, decided to take matters into their own hands: the young man was declared a persona non grata in the village and his father, Dozie, was almost lynched in the village market. Dozie was summoned to the Wenchihene’s palace where he was fined an unspecified sum of money and, in addition, ordered to leave the village immediately after he finished harvesting his food crops. When news of Dozie’s expulsion from Ahyiayem spread to the nearby Dormaa town of Chiraa, the citizens of that town, in an apparent defiance of the Wenchi paramount chief, rallied to the support of the expelled 62 Ghana Studies • volume 9 • 2006 migrant farmer. One of the town elders, Agya Badu, is said to have even gone personally to invite him to come and settle on his piece of land under exceptionally generous terms; in Ahyiayem, the fields of migrant farmers are sited between five to ten miles away from the village, requiring long distance walking. But the land on which Dozie was resettled by Agya Badu lies between Chiraa and Ahyiayem (literally “a meeting place” in Akan) less than 100 metres from Dozie’s house, south of a disputed boundary. Some decades ago, Fortes (1975) noted that in Akan society the classification of an individual as stranger or native not only had an important bearing on the terms on which he/she gained access to land, but that the exclusion of northerners from land ownership came to define their status in the south. In the light of Fortes’ observation, it is striking that a domestic squabble between two immigrant households should receive the attention of the host community the way it did, and even ignite an invitation from a village elder in support of the stranger. What was at stake here? In this paper, I will explore the kernel that provided the spark that ignited the minor dispute in Ahyiayem in order to explain the motives of the disputants in drawing migrants into what apparently has been an aged-old dispute.1 More specifically, I examine the dynamics of historical production in the context of the present day struggles over land conflict between the Dormaa and the Wenchi, who live on the fringes of the southern Akan forest of Ghana, drawing on different versions of the past: each different in terms of its depth and connections with the colonial past rather than in 1. Acknowledgements: This paper is a substantially revised version of a paper I wrote for, and presented at, the “Migration, Movement, and Displacement in Africa” conference held at the University of Texas at Austin in March 2005. I wish to thank Toyin Falola, the conference convener, and other participants for a lively discussion that followed my presentation. Carola Lentz and Mahir Saul each read...


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