- Title: GHANA: Winneba people capture antelopes in ancient rite
- Date: 22nd May 2012
- Summary: FRAMED PICTURE OF BUSHBACK ANTELOPES (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANDREWS AGYEKUMHENE, GHANA FORESTRY COMMISSION OFFICIAL, WILDLIFE DIVISION WALKING SAYING: "One of the major stakeholders that have helped us in the conservation of our natural resource is the traditional authorities and they do this because they know that if the resources are gone, then the resources is going away with their cultural heritage."
- Embargoed: 6th June 2012 13:00
- Location: Ghana
- Country: Ghana
- Topics: Environment,Lifestyle
- Reuters ID: LVA6C22XZUKT3RBWUYA7CHJKLFRI
- Story Text: An Effutu warrior carries a wide-eyed bushback antelope across his soldiers, flanked by proud, dancing and singing kinsmen.
They are Asafo - traditional warrior groups taking part in the annual Aboakyer festival. It is celebrated by the people of Winneba, a fishing town in the central region of Ghana.
The animal must be kept alive during the hunt to ensure the wellness of the community, warrior leader Asafohene Nii Tarkie said.
"Even the animal if you are bringing it and it dies, we would not bring it, people will die in the town. So if it dies we must leave it, so we bring it alive."
The Aboakyer festival is held to commemorate the historical migration of the people of Winneba from the northeastern African town of Timbuktu in what was known as the Western Sudan empire, to their home today in Ghana.
The journey was led by two brothers. Following the tradition, the hunt for the antelopes is led by two rival groups of warriors and the first to bring the animal to a designated shrine wins respect and praise.
Warriors say the hunt is harder these days because the animals have moved further away from the town.
"Those days we don't have to go as far as we went today, we could get them just behind this building here, so in that aspect, I will say it has changed, we didn't have to go far to get them, now we have to go far to be able get them," said George Lamptey leader of a rival Asofo group.
Traditionally the community had to capture a wild cat but too many lives were lost in those hunts and the people appealed for an easier target.
The animals are presented as sacrifices at the shrine to appease the gods, remove evil and ensure good harvests.
Animal conservationists in Ghana say they work closely with communities to monitor the antelope populations and there are no laws against the practices of the Aboakyer festival.
"One of the major stakeholders that have helped us in the conservation of our natural resource is the traditional authorities and they do this because they know that if the resources are gone, then the resources is going away with their cultural heritage," said Andrews Agyekumhene from the Ghana Forestry Commission, Wildlife Division.
The festival draws thousands of visitors and tourists every year and is traditionally held on the first weekend of May but being an election year in Ghana, it was rescheduled to avoid being interrupted by an ongoing biometric voter registration process.
Ghana's traditional chiefs wield strong influence across the country and politicians often seek their support and counsel to secure votes.
"Ladies and gentleman, this is an election year and we are going to go to the polls, I urge all of you to do it in peace and unity and to vote wisely in the election for the better Ghana agenda," said Ghana's vice president John Dramani Mahaman.
Day to day business in Winneba comes to a halt as the town gathers in the streets for the festival, one of Ghana's oldest. The festivities last for up to a week and climax on the day the antelopes are brought to sacrifice.
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