Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ghanian King Returns to Easton, Seeks Support for Peaceful Elections in His Homeland

By Christina Georgiou

Nii Guate Asuasa Ekasee Ako II, hereditary Custodian of the Gua War Stool and king of the Ga people, center, met with members of the press Monday,  accompanied by (from left to right) bodyguard Braindoph Tettey, Ghallywood film school director William Akuffo, Easton Mayor Sal Panto, Greater Accra Regional Secretary for the YMCA, Reginald Ffoulkes Crabbe, and secretary Rita Baidoo, along with the Ghallywood's technical director,
George Annang (not pictured).

Nii Guate Asuasa Ekasee Ako II, hereditary Custodian of the Gua War Stool and king of the Ga people of Ghana, met with members of the press Monday afternoon in Easton's city council chambers, accompanied by members of his staff and Mayor Sal Panto.

Guate, who went by his birth name, John Quartey, during the 1990s while he lived with an uncle in Palmer Township while attending Easton Area High School, and later Allentown Business School, expressed appreciation to local friends and teachers for his time during his formative years and said he's very glad to be able to visit Easton again.

“I'm just grateful and happy to be back,” Guate said, adding, “I'm also happy to be a Rover.”

However, though he will spend some time with old friends and also a few local events, the thrust of the trip is a serious one.

“The main reason I'm here is to promote peace,” the tribal leader said.

Though Ghana is officially ruled by a parliamentary system, the hereditary kings of its various tribes still hold sway with their people and often take part in governmental affairs, and his purpose for visiting is to garner support for freely held elections in Ghana, Guate said.

The sub-Saharan nation, located in western Africa, is better off than most of its neighbors, but his homeland is “not immune to violence,” he said, adding that the traditional lands of the Ga, the nation's capitol, Accra, “is the backbone of democracy in Ghana,” but continual ethnic struggles threaten that status and the country's economic development.

Citizens respect the U.S., recognizing that what happens here usually affects the entire world, he added, and to that end, during his stay in America Guate plans to travel to a number of cities, including Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia, Trenton, Reading, York, Kutztown and others, gathering statements of support from various state and local leaders to bring back to Accra, in the hope their messages will ease some of the tensions.

While the country strives to develop itself, these efforts are hindered by agitating Islamist factions, and the country was nearly plunged into civil war in 2008, a fate many of its neighbors succumbed to and still suffer from, Guate told reporters.

“Experts say Ghana was lucky. We were lucky because there were events that almost plunged Ghana into civil war,” he said. “We have to be very careful to make sure that what happened to our neighbors doesn't happen to us.”

He added, “Ghana is fortunate.We are fortunate to learn from the mistakes of our neighbors...if they make mistakes.”

While the country is comprised of four dominant tribes, along with several minority ones, the nation will best survive through restraint, and though the many centuries history of the Ga people is one of meeting challenges from neighboring tribes on the battlefield, peaceful resolution of difficulties is key to the country's development and prosperity, Guate said.

“The best thing we can do is hold ourselves together as a people,” he told reporters. “As Custodian of the Gua War Stool, I believe that if history should record my name, it should record my name in a positive way.”

Guate also addressed reported controversy about his status and title.

“There were some comments about me being a chief and not a king,” Guate said. “Africa is the cradle of civilization...My forefathers were kings. I don't see myself as a chief...This hierarchy is not recent. The Gua War Stool is the same as that during the war of 1616.”

He added that the royal lineage is much older.

“The Ga tribe has been led for 55 centuries by the Gua Stool,” Guate said.

“'Nii' means 'king',” added Panto.

Guate was accompanied Monday by several staff and advisors, who will accompany him on his journeys during his visit, including bodyguard Braindoph Tettey, secretary Rita Baidoo, Greater Accra Regional Secretary for the YMCA, Reginald Ffoulkes Crabbe, and Ghallywood film school director William Akuffo, along with the school's technical director, George Annang.

Ghallywood film school director William Akuffo
talks about the docudrama being filmed about
Nii Guate at a press conference in Easton city
council chambers Monday afternoon.

Akuffo and Annang will be filming the trip as part of a docudrama they are producing on Guate.

It will not only include his mission in the U.S., but also other significant events in the king's life, including his crownings by his grandfather, Nii Guate Asuasa Ekasee Ako I, at age 4 and then again at age 9, Akuffo said.

“I'm sure the docudrama will prove that he is a king and not a chief,” Panto said.

In Easton, a reception for Guate is planned at the Grand Eastonian for Friday evening.

Additionally, Guate will attend the 260th anniversary celebration of the Easton Farmers' Market on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as the 35th Annual Easton Heritage Day events on Sunday afternoon.

Members of the local community that would like to meet Nii Guate Asuasa Ekasee Ako II are invited to do so on the Centre Square by attending the latter two events.

A document provided by Nii Guate Asuasa
Ekasee Ako II illustrating his explanation of
the traditional Ga royal hierarchy.
A note about the “king” versus “chief” debate that has been discussed in various other local media outlets: This is not the first time the “true” title of the hereditary tribal rulers of Ghana has been called into question—indeed, a little bit of research online has uncovered that this argument has been going on since the time of colonial rule in Africa. It should also be noted that conquering factions in many places and times have often sought to detract from the legitimacy of indigenous leaders' titles in order to attempt to elevate the occupying ruling government's status. Historically in Europe, as well as today, there are many hereditary leaderships that do not officially govern or are competing for status or have governed smaller groups of people than we commonly perceive to be of “kingdom” size, yet we often still call them “kings” (or “queens”). The Easton Eccentric therefore concludes, both from these facts, as well as Guate's detailed explanation, that his claim of being a “king” is perfectly legitimate, even if some people, both in his country and the U.S. refuse to recognize it.

To learn a little more about Ghana, we recommend this article in the New World Encyclopedia.

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