The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Tourism Authority, Kwasi Agyemang has said that the socio-cultural potential of the Savannah Region including but not limited to the Deng festival of the chiefs and people of Sonyo in the Bole District has catalyzed development hence the authority’s decision to include it in its calendar of annual festival celebrations.
He said the theme for the festival which is, “Harnessing Cultural Potentials for Tourism Development in Savannah Region” is very strategic to the development of the Sonyo Traditional Area and Ghana as a whole.
Mr. Agyemang disclosed that as a key driver of tourism development, the cultural resources including festivals are a delight to tourists and visitors in general and that the Mankuma Royal Mausoleum, the Salaga Slave site and Kulmasa crocodile pond are all being worked on to boost tourism in the Savannah Region.
A representative of the Ghana Tourism Authority made these comments on behalf of the CEO at the maiden durbar of the Sonyo Deng festival organised by Vagla Youth Association (VAYA) at Sonyo in the Bole District on May 20, 2023.
In attendance at the durbar was a delegation from former President John Dramani Mahama led by Professor Joshua who served as the Guest of Honour and the Savannah Region Representative of the Council of State Kpongriwura Alhaji Adams Zakaria who served as Chairman of the durbar.
Other dignitaries in attendance included the District Chief Executives (DCEs) for Bole and Sawla-Tuna-Kalba, Madam Veronica Alele Heming and Madam Barikisu Losina Watara respectively and the Members of Parliament (MPs) for Bole-Bamboi and Kintampo North constituencies Hon Alhaji Yussif Sulemana and Hon Joseph Kwame Kumah Jakala respectively.
The annual three-day festival which took place from May 19 to 21, 2023 was fully represented by the indigenous ethnic groups of Vagla, Safalba, Choruba and Nomee together with Gonjas as well as other tribes within Ghana and beyond.
Professor Joshua Alabi who represented the Guest of Honour former President John Dramani Mahama said, the former President would have wished to be part of the celebrations but is currently on a different assignment and had asked him to step in to represent him.
Professor Alabi said John Dramani Mahama is grateful to be part of the occasion and proud to speak on the theme of the festival “Harnessing Cultural Potentials for tourism development in Savannah Region”.
According to Professor Alabi, the former president sees culture as the life and blood of the nation and the essence that defines identities and shapes its future.
He said Savannah Region is blessed with a vibrant culture, customs and festivals that had been passed down through generations to the people and among these, the Deng festival holds a special place “in our hearts, which marks the celebration of unity and the abundance of the harvest of our hard work,” adding “The Deng festival has been a symbol of our collective spirit which binds us as a community, it is a time to honour our ancestors for natures gifts as well as we celebrate our cultural heritage to enhance the local pride of our people.”
Professor Joshua Alabi also said the Deng festival presents a lot of tourism potential which must be harnessed and sustained by careful planning and maintenance of which he will avail himself to the chiefs, elders, organizers and stakeholders to see the way forward.
Professor Joshua Alabi presented an amount of Gh¢10,000 with a carton of Schnapps on behalf of former president John Dramani Mahama to support the festival.
The representative of the Savannah Regional Minister, Saeed Muhazu Jibril said festivals are occasions that bring people together to celebrate their culture, share their traditions and foster unity for the development of the community and society among others.
He also said, “The beauty of the Deng festival is the multi-ethnic nature of it which involves almost all the indigenous tribes in the Bole Traditional Area, Deng festival is also a period for seeking the help of the earth deity ‘Sonyo Kipo’ through the offering of sacrifices and making pledges whiles redeeming old ones and hunting of rabbit known as woori.”
The minister was of the view that the numerous activities undertaken during the Deng festival are a good avenue to attract tourists across the globe and it is for this reason he finds the theme of the festival very appropriate. Adding this is a clarion call to heed to promote our culture and tourism.
The minister further added that the rabbit hunt is a very integral part of the festival which survives on the wellbeing of the ecosystem and together with the existence of the Mole National Park which is the largest ecotourism site in the country should be a good lesson for us to promote ecotourism in the region and to do this means, the environment needs to be promoted and protected from indiscriminate felling of trees, commercial charcoal burning and illegal mining.
The Savannah Regional Minister urged all the relevant stakeholders to take seriously what ecotourism will bring to the community and region at large which he is ever ready to support. He presented an amount of GH¢1,000 to support the festival with Ing. Dr. Clifford Braimah donating Gh¢5,000.
The DCE for Bole, Madam Veronica Alele Heming, welcomed all the dignitaries and people of Sonyo. She congratulated the organisers for putting in great effort in organising the festival successfully.
She said; “I know my people are concerned about the road network to Sonyo and in my capacity, I have done a lot to get a contractor to work on it. I’ve been promised several times to no avail but I won’t relent in my efforts until we get results.”
She added that her office will do everything possible to bring development to Sonyo because that is her hometown.
The Bole DCE also presented an undisclosed amount of money to the organisers of the occasion.
The MP for Bole-Bamboi Constituency, Alhaji Yussif Sulemana representing all the MPs in the Savannah Region congratulated the organisers of the festival and praised them for being thoughtful in visiting Parliament House in Accra to invite them to such a prestigious festival which presents a lot of tourism potentials that need to be developed into a bigger market.
He said; “this event is very historic and important and we must all be part of it. promoting culture is the way to go. I serve on the committee of Trade, Industry and Tourism, so I know what it takes to promote tourism.”
According to the MP, when the organisers of the festival visited them in Parliament, he told the organisers to invite the Ghana Tourism Authority, which he was given a letter and personally presented to the CEO.
The Bole MP said the CEO of the Ghana Tourism Authority later called him to inform him he can’t make it to Sonyo but has sent a powerful delegation to represent him
He added that the delegation of the Ghana Tourism Authority has marked the Deng festival on their calendar and this is a great achievement because the Deng festival will now be sponsored beginning next year by the Ghana Tourism Authority.
Alhaji Yussif Sulemana entreated the people to celebrate in modesty and unity because they are one people.
The Bole MP on behalf of the Savannah Region MP caucus donated Gh¢2,000 for the festival.
Speaking at the durbar, the President of the Vagla Youth Association gave a brief history of Sonyo and how the festival came into being and urged all to enjoy the festival.
The gathering saw the pouring of libation by the Sonyo Kuupo (a deity custodian) to begin the celebrations.
There was an exhibition of different traditional dances and a presentation of ‘Yaaye’ by women of some communities in the Bole area.
The Ghana Tourism Authority donated an undisclosed amount of money to support the Deng festival this year.
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