The Homeland Study Group Foundation (HSGF) has been campaigning for the secession of some parts of Ghana into an independent “Western Togoland” state. The group, based in the Volta Region, was founded in 1994 by Charles Kormi Kudzordzi Papavi as a platform to discuss the political, civil and human rights of the people of “Western Togoland.”
In 2019, Papavi led the group to declare independence from Ghana at a public gathering in Ho, Volta Region. He recounted their struggles to restore the independence of pre-independence Western Togoland territory, then a German protectorate, which in his view was ‘illegally’ made part of Ghana.
Last Friday, the group blocked all major roads at entry points into the Volta Region. They also abducted three police officers. The incident led to the death of one person and the arrest of 31 members of the group.
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When did the group become very active?
The activities of the group gained momentum in 2019 after a budget presentation by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta omitted roads in the Volta Region. The Finance Minister went back to parliament the next day to correct the omission.
However, the HSGF capitalized on it as a demonstration of the Government of Ghana’s neglect for the region. “We’ve all witnessed what happened recently when we (Volta Region) were forgotten by the government in its budget. Can a parent forget about their children? We’re not their children, so they have forgotten about us,” Papavi, 80, said at the supposed independence declaration of the HSGF.
Before the group’s independence declaration, its members held regular cell meetings to educate residents of the Volta region about the history of the “Western Togoland.” They occasionally held market and community campaigns seeking to drum home their message.
Who are their sponsors?
The group has no known sponsors except Papavi as its patron and founder. However, at a press briefing on Sunday, Ghana’s Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said security agencies are working to arrest the financiers of the secessionist group.
“Yes we know where the funding is coming from and the various agencies are moving in as part of a comprehensive program to deal with this whole phenomenon. And we are also moving in to deal with their sources of funding and persons who we believe are associated with the funding of this group,” he said.
He added that key actors who have been identified as responsible for the activities of the secessionist’s group are on the watch list of the security agencies. In the coming days, their photos and identities will be revealed, he said.
Do they have an armed wing?
Most secessionists groups have a military wing but no organized armed group is openly associated with the HSGF. However, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) in February this year rounded up 21 people suspected to be linked to the separatist HSGF from a secret training camp at Kpevedui in the Volta Region.
Made up of 20 males and a female, the recruits were busted in a dawn raid by the Army in a training camp where they were undergoing military drills and physical training. However, the recruits said they were hoodwinked into believing that they were being recruited into the GAF, only to realize on arrival at the camp that it was not what they thought.
How popular is the group?
The group enjoys less mass support in the Volta Region and Ghana as a whole. Ghana’s National House of Chiefs and chiefs from the Volta Region have dissociated themselves from the group. The secessionist group has been condemned separately by President of the National House of Chiefs Togbe Afede XIV; the Awoamefia of the Anlo State, Togbi Sri III; a spokesperson for the Gbi Traditional Council, Togbe Adzimah V, as well as the Overload of the Alavanyo Traditional Council, Togbega Tsedze Atakora VII.
“This is not something anyone must condone. This is something everyone must support the government to ensure that it is nipped in the bud, so we continue to live in peace as a nation of one people with a common destiny,” the House of Chiefs said in a statement.
The Chiefs and people of Gbi in Hohoe have described activities of the secessionists as “treacherous” further warning the group to stay away from the area.
The Anglo State has also called on the security agencies to bring to book persons involved in the recent skirmishes to deter others from such acts in the future. In a statement issued and signed by Torgbui Sri III, the Awoamefia of Anlo State said the Anlo “condemn in no uncertain terms, the recent disturbances on the Accra-Aflao roads” and reaffirmed their support for the unity and sanctity of the sovereign state of Ghana. “I wish to state categorically that the Anlo State, its chiefs and people do not associate nor approve of the actions of such people and firmly dissociate itself from their subversive actions.”
The chiefs and people of the Alavanyo Traditional Area have also condemned the action. “I wish to state without any equivocation that so far as we are concerned, Alavanyo is part of the sovereign state of the Republic of Ghana and that Alavanyo owes allegiance to the State and Government of Ghana,” Overload of the traditional council, Togbega Tsedze Atakora VII, said.
Several conspiracy theories have emerged concerning the sponsors of the group. Government critics say it is a deliberate attempt to destabilize the region for electoral advantage. The Volta Region is the stronghold of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Other government critics say the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) has adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards the separatist group. Government supporters also say the secessionist group becomes active anytime the NPP is in government, suggesting that opposition figures are behind the group.
So far, the government has not secured any convictions for members of the separatist movement in custody. Following the latest activities of the group, the government has deployed soldiers to strategic locations in the region to forestall any future brazen attack by the group.
Are they recognized by any international group?
The international body, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), recognizes the HSGF as a member. It is an international organization whose “members are groups of indigenous peoples, minorities, unrecognised states and occupied territories that have joined together to defend their political, social and cultural right… and to promote their right to self-determination”.
According to UNPO’s website, the secessionist group has been a member since 2017.
UNPO said it “supports the peaceful campaign for self-determination that the HSGF has undertaken. It is important that the true will of the people in Western Togoland be heard, without coercion, threat or misuse of the judicial system to silence advocates of independence.”
Furthermore, UNPO said it “believes in the importance of the history and culture of West Togoland to be taught freely and condemns all violence and discrimination against the people of the region in its entirety. To this extent, it is important for Western Togolanders to have an equal chance to develop, both socially and economically.”
Kudzordzi’s group has been demanding the secession of the Volta Region and parts of the Northern, North East and Upper East Regions from Ghana to become the Western Togoland state.
Arguing that the Volta Region lacks the needed development, members further “claim that residents of the Western Togoland voted to become a union with the Gold Coast (now Ghana) but the union had not been established up till now and that Ghana opted to be a unitary state under the plebiscite in 1956 [referendum] to be in union with a common constitution with the WesternTogoland and the Gold Coast but there had been no unionized constitution up to date.”
The group maintains that the Western Togoland was not incorporated in the act establishing the Gold Coast by Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, an article by the Graphic Online said.
In 2016, the group intensified its call for a restoration of the pre-independent Western Togoland through a total break away from the current Republic of Ghana.
It claimed that Western Togoland stretches from Kulungugu in the Upper East Region to Keta in the Southern coast.
According to the members of the movement, the Gold Coast voted to be a unitary state on July 12, 1956, while the Western Togoland voted to be in union with Ghana on July 9, 1956, and that the union had not been established till now.
It said the size of Eastern Togoland was 22,000 square miles and the Western Togoland as 12,600 square miles.
The Volta Region, traditionally inhabited by the Ewe, was first demarcated in the 1880s when it became part of Togoland, a German protectorate. After the First World War in which Germany was defeated, the British and French cut Togoland in half. The western side became British Togoland while the eastern side French Togoland. Thus, the Ewes were split.
In 1956, when Ghana was at the height of gaining independence, British Togoland held a vote on whether to join with Ghana or remain separate. The result was 58% in favour of becoming part of Ghana. British Togoland was incorporated into the newly-independent nation and its southern districts became the Volta Region. Four years later, French Togoland became independent Togo.
In recent times, many people, who have condemned the group’s actions, argue that calls for secession would be useless if it is not fully supported and backed by the President of Togo.
“The leaders of the HSG have a far better chance of physically immigrating from Ghana and becoming Togolese by naturalization, than rather dangerously presuming to be legitimately empowered with the inviolable right or birthright to annexing any landed property internationally recognized as part and parcel of the Republic of Ghana to any other country in the West African sub-region. In case the HSG leaders are not already aware of this fact, history is a very fluxional and messy business whose authenticity is invariably more politically determined than anything else,” writes Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. in 2016.