Posted by: rumnet | November 5, 2009

Partitioning Ghana’s Northern Region

Ghana President J.E.A. MillsOriginally published in the November 2009 Edition of TheADVOCATE:

By Abdallah Kassim

For more than three decades now, various personalities from the Northern Region have been hammering on the need to partition the region. The most consistent call has come from the Gonjaland Youth Association. Over the years, the association has made the call for  partitioning almost an annual ritual at its congresses. The most recent call was at its get-together in Accra in October.

However, the latest and most significant call has come from no less an institution than the Northern Region House of Chiefs. The House presented a resolution on the creation of a new region or regions from the exiting Northern Region to the Vice President on Wednesday, 14 October, 2009 at the Osu Castle. The request for the government to set up a committee to work out the technical details for creating another region is evidence of the fruition of the persistent but intermittent demands from various quarters.

Key among the reasons for the demand is the comparative vastness of the region. The sheer size of the Region, the largest in Ghana, poses the problem of effective administration and development, they say. The Region covers an area of 70,384 square kilometers, with a population of 1,854,994- according to the 2000 census- which represents about 10.3% of the country’s total population. It has a population density of 26.4 and a growth rate of 3.4% –  far above the national average of 2.6%.

The demand for the creation of another region out of the present region gathered momentum when the late Alhaji B. A. Fuseini, then Northern Regional Minister, amplified the idea when he was handing over the seat to Alhaji Seidu Iddi in 1996. This was followed by another call by the late Yagbonwura, Safo Amantana II at the Gonjaland Youth Association Easter Convention at Buipe in 1996.

Alhaji Fuseini’s main argument was on the size and complexity of the Region: “It is one single region with the most complex problems ranging from chieftaincy disputes, ethnic conflict, illiteracy and ignorance, high incidence of disease, low enrolment in schools, fewer teachers, doctors and nurses.”

The crave to partition the region heightened in 1998 when the then Regional Minister, Alhaji Seidu Iddi, at a “meet the press” series in Accra in February  that year, lent his voice to the call for another region.

For Alhaji Iddi, the vastness of the region and the effective tapping of her resources made the proposal imperative. “A number of thorny problems hindering the region’s progress could be solved through such an intervention. Some of the problems are ethnic conflicts, high illiteracy rate and security. Moreover most of the districts are very far from the centre of development”.

When the New Patriotic Party took over the reins of government in 2000, the Northern Regional Minister elect at the time, Mr. Ben Salifu, at his vetting by parliament, also suggested that the Region be split.

Mr. Ben Salifu, as substantive Regional Minister,  reiterated that two more regions could be created to make three. He said the size of the region and the lack of good road network makes it nearly impossible to administer effectively. He noted that the region occupies one-third the landmass of the country, while the remaining nine occupied two- thirds.

“Yet when the regions national cake is being shared we take the same as the smaller regions. For instance, Northern Region is bigger than Ashanti, Greater Accra and Eastern Region put together. I feel that to speed up development in this area it will only be prudent for this appeal, which has been on for several decades, to be heeded.”

Mr. Salifu added that there are traditional systems that are inherent and deep rooted to cultural values. Traditional rulers would not want their states to be divided. There is therefore the need for some kind of “geo-political education to create two more regions to make three. That is the only way you can develop at a fast rate at this time of our economic depression.”

MR. S.S. Mahama, Regional Secretary of the Ghana Red Cross Society, also suggested that the Region should be split into two for effective administration. He said a region that is a third of the country in terms of landmass must surely have problems, especially when the national cake is not shared according to size.

“When there is disaster, it is difficult to move faster, especially to places like Bole or Saboba. The poor road network hinders movement and makes it difficult to tackle the region holistically in terms of development. Moreover most of the District capitals are far from the Regional capital.

Mahama said even foreign visitors are alarmed when they look at the map of the region. “If you are asked to do a pilot project there is the tendency to choose a District near by, which might not be the best. So those who are far away are disadvantaged in terms of development- a division will make access to districts easy from Regional Capitals.”

 “For the effective administration of the region, it should be split into two, if possible three,” says Alhassan Marie Mahama, a businessman in Tamale. He added that most of the ethnic conflicts in the region may have come about because of land disputes and the role chiefs play in those disputes.

Marie added that with the present status of the region, the likelihood of political appointments being skewed towards the major tribes is high. Splitting the region would allow the minority tribes to also be recognized and instrumental.

When the issue came up in 2001, the late Tuluwe-Wura Kurabaso Bore-saa III, Paramount Chief of Tuluwe Traditional Area of the West Gonja District, concurred with the carving out of another region but suggested more districts to start with. He mentioned the new districts as Kpandai, Kpembe, Kpanshegu, Tuluwe/Kusawgu, Buipe/Debre, Bamboi and Daboya.

Kunkuaw-Wura, Jetre E.N. Kotomah, once the Registrar of the Northern Region House of Chiefs, favoured splitting of the region. He said: “I have been in the Upper East before. There, an official can use a day to cover all the district capitals. This makes administration very easy.”

Chief Kotomah said the size of the region makes the rehabilitation of roads difficult. “What the region gets by way of funds is inadequate compared to the Upper East and Upper West Region, which even put together is nowhere near the size of the Northern Region. They should split it into two to make villages in the hinterland feel the impact of the national cake.”

map of ghana


However, while all agree that there is the need for the partitioning of the region, opinions differ markedly on how it should be done. The nature of the region is such that any form of demarcation would put almost all Gonjaland (Gonjas) in one region and the other tribes in another. This, some argue, does not auger well for unity of the nation.

 Others contend that it does not matter if Gonjaland becomes a region, because Ashanti Region is predominantly Ashantis and it has not caused any disaffection. They add that if anything at all there are other minority tribes within Gonjaland.

Chief Kotomah suggested that for the sake of unity the southern sector, Bole (and Sawla), Damongo( and Buipe), Salaga(and Kpandai) including Bimbilla(and Wulensi) should be excised from the rest “so that it will not be one tribe. The capital should be Buipe because it is more central; all the other Districts can meet there.

Mahama who advocated for one more region, is also of the opinion that Bole (and Sawla), Damongo (and Buipe) and Salaga (and Kpandai)  should form the second region. “Culturally, it is ideal, although people may see it as tribal-centred. The capital should be at Damongo or Buipe.

On how the division should be made, Marie said: “there are three major tribes in the region, Dagombas, Mamprusis and Gonjas. You cannot have each of the tribes constituting a region. So you can put the Mamprusis, Nanums and Dagombas into one region. They are a family; there has never been a dispute between them. Of course you have the Konkombas, Basaris and Chokosis.”

Marie continued: “If you look at the Gonja areas, at Bole they are with the Lobis Tampulmas and Mos. In Damongo the Gonjas are with Vaglas and Taplumas. In the Salaga area they are with the Nawuris and Nchumurus. So Bole (and Sawla-Tuna), East Gonja(and Kpandai)   and West Gonja(and Central Gonja) can also become another region.”

The Tuluwe-Wura suggestd that it should be made up of Nanumba( North and South), East Gonja(and Kpandai), West Gonja(and Central Gonja)  and Bole Districts(and Sawla-Tuna). This includes ethnic groups like Nawuris, Konkombas, Nchumurus, Gonjas, Tanpulmas, Mos, Lobis, Safalbas and Nanumbas. “Buipe could be its capital because it is central,” he aid.


The demand has constitutional implications though. Chapter two of the constitution empowers the President to create, alter or merge any regions in Ghana either at his/her own discretion or upon a petition -like the one submitted by the Northern Region House of chiefs to the Vice president. Article 2(c) adds that in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, the president must “appoint a commission of inquiry to inquire into the demand and to make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation.”

Artcle 4 of chapter 2 adds that where the commission of inquiry finds it imperative and there is a “substantial demand” for the creation of a region or more, it must recommend that a referendum be held to determine the issues and places where it should be held.

Thereafter, the President would refer the matter to the Electoral Commission which would organize the referendum. Article 5 states that: “unless at least 50% of the persons entitled to vote cast their votes at the referendum, and of the votes cast at least 80% were cast in favour of the issue,” it will not be considered as a referendum. After a successful referendum, the President would now issue a constitutional instrument to effect the results.

The Northern Regional Minister, Mr. Sumani.S. Nayina, put the icing on the cake when he said: “I am for it. I want to see the Northern Region partitioned into another region or two but I am also against a region being partitioned on tribal lines. We must think of the interest of the region. Every group is important and so I am for the partitioning of the region into even more than one but the way and manner people look at it, is where I differ from them.”

The debate continues unabated and contributions on the creation of another region out of the present one are welcome.

RUMNET welcomes your comments on this article.  What do you think about partitioning Ghana’s Northern Region?



  1. very elaborative and interesting to read even though very long

  2. I think we should look at the demarcation as being important kkk.if the demarcation is done and one tribe is at one side is not a problem.cus we ar looking the development of the region not the abt tribal reasons.for example we can say the ashanti region is done by tribal reasons so we should send some tribes over there to also mix with them it is all abt the development and not abt tribes.if that place deserves to be a region then it should be done that way kk it does not mean we should force it by adding differen places which will the region difficult to identify.that one will be a waste of tym.

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