Social Conflicts in Contemporary Effutu Festivals

by Charles Ohene-Amoh
Social Conflicts in Contemporary Effutu Festivals
Charles Ohene-Amoh
Social Sciences
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Title:Social Conflicts in Contemporary Effutu Festivals


Traditional Festivals are occasions used to mark and celebrate an important event in the Ghanaian society. In Ghana, there are different types of festivals. The Aboakyere is one of the commonest and important festivals celebrated in the Central Region of Ghana. Deer hunting is organised in honour of the tribal god of the people of Winneba called "Penkye Otu". The god receives an annual sacrifice of a deer from the people. It is usually celebrated in the month of May. Many traditional festivals in Ghana are losing their cultural significances as a result of many conflicts of interests.


Research for the article was undertaken in Winneba in the summer of 2013 and included interviews with members of the Winneba traditional council, spiritual leaders of the four Fancy Dress Festival groups and the confederation that unites them. In addition I draw upon my own experience as the Municipal Executive Secretary of the National Peace Council of Winneba and having participated in both festivals.

Aboakyere Festival and Conflicts

The annual Deer Hunt (Aboakyere) Festival of the Effutu people of Ghana's Winneba state continues to confound the individuals, elders and chiefs of that land. Until recently, Aboakyer, which translates literally as “animal catch,” had been known as the nation's most important traditional festival. But this has begun to change. A recent survey depicts that the Aboakyer festival has decreased in importance.

For the past five years, festivals in the Effutu traditional area have been greeted with disputes and conflicts including political intrusions and chieftaincy crisis. The two Asafo companies, Tuafo Number One and Dentsefo Number Two hunt for a live deer in a competition in which the first to catch a deer is declared the winner which more often than not, leads to conflict.

It is worrying to say that the once splendid annual festival has been dogged by sharp differences and disputes between the two rival factions of the Effutu Stool. To prevent any unpleasant circumstances and clashes in 2013 edition of the festival, the Ghana Police Service sought an order for an interim injunction at the Agona Swedru Circuit Court to restrain the Aboakyer Planning Committee and all members of the Effutu State from celebrating the festival.

This sharp shift in the way the Aboakyere festival is celebrated is due to a variety of developments. One of this is the arguments between practitioners of traditional religion and those who have converted to Christianity on the significance of the festival. Divisions between age groups, with elders in the vicinity remaining committed to Aboakyer and the youth desiring the Fancy Dress Festival. Again, national political parties seem to have great interest in the festival, thereby politicizing aspects of it. It circuitously observable that members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) are supporting the Aboakyer and members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) supporting the Fancy Dress Festival.

It is clear that residents have begun to put their energy into the Fancy Dress Festival which, though initiated in the 1920s was little known, has now taken on new importance, even replacing the Aboakyer which for many years has been popular in Ghana. Complicating this further is an ongoing dispute, which has repeatedly resulted in violence, within the Effutu royal family, where the Ghartey line is fighting with the Ayrebi Acqua line over which line is the rightful ruler of the area. This ongoing violence has generally pushed people away from celebrating the Aboakyer festival, including commercial companies that once offered financial and administrative assistance.

The activities of both festivals should have brought peace into the area, because they are dominated by music and dance which are elements of Ghanaian culture that binds people together. For example, at the commencement of the deer hunt festival, elders meet at a shrine and invoke the spirit of the war god Penkye-Otu, who will lead them to the forest to hunt for a deer. Invocation is accomplished by singing provocative songs that anger the spirit who in turn mounts and possesses his followers, preparing them for the hunt. Though done surreptitiously, leaders of the Fancy Dress Festival invoke Penkye-Otu as well. These same songs, now presented in a secular context, are later performed by brass bands.


Politician should stay away for the festival to be celebrated in peace since the Asafo companies has already resolved that the two litigating families should be distanced from the festival until such time that the issue of a substantive ruler would solved.


Present generation of Effutus must find a lasting solution to the protracted traditional and chieftaincy dispute, which had the potential to create differences among families that came from the same lineage. 

By: Charles Ohene-Amoh

Municipal Executive Secretary

National Peace Council

Effutu Municipality-Winneba

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