For many, Paga, the capital of the Kassena-Nankana West District of the Upper East Region is known as a tourist destination in Ghana because it is blessed with friendly Crocodiles with ancestral connection.
But, the history of the people Paga, Ghana and Africa cannot be told in total without the Pikworo Slave Camp at Nania community, about three kilomtres West of Paga.
Pikworo, in the Kassem dialect means a place of rocks and Nania means a place of cattle. The names depicted the abundance of rocks in a very thick forest in the area around the 1700s.
The Pikworo Slave Camp was founded in 1704 as a transit centre, where slaves were kept in shackles, auctioned and later resold in the Salaga Slave Market after trekking about 150kilometres to the South.
They were then moved onto the Coast for shipment to French, English and Dutch slave traders.
History has it that Pikworo was a thick forest with rocks until one day in the 16th century, a man named Baggaw, came from nowhere and asked the natives of the community for a place to settle.
The community members, after several trials to ascertain the origin of the man who kept on changing his identity and lying to them, gave him the name, “Daggaw” which in Kassem simply means, “bushman”, to depict that the man came from the bush.
The natives also accepted him for who he was because they thought that the man was running away from danger due to the volatile nature at the time with slave trading at the peak in Burkina Faso and Mali.
In that era lands were given out for free, so the natives gave Daggaw a piece of land to settle and farm and treated him like a brother and friend but never knew he had other intentions.
After settling well into the community, Daggaw, who could speak multiple languages developed a plan by visiting the houses of the community, convincing the households that he had a link at the Coast with the Whites that he could link their young energetic sons and daughters to travel and work with the Whites to enable earn well and come back to take good care of their families.
He used items like mirrors, hard drinks, gun powder, salt and things that were not common in the community at the time just to convince them and out of ignorance, they bought into his words and handed over their energetic sons and daughters to him.
These people were camped at Pikworo, which eventually became a holding place for slaves. There was no shelter and they were chained and shackled against trees and had their freedom curtailed.
The slaves would trek several kilometres from Nania to the Salaga Slave market in the Savannah Region and proceeded to Asin-Manso and to the Elmina Castle to be transported to Europe via ship.
When the community realised that Daggaw was deceiving them, they rose against him, and perceiving the threat, he decided to invite his two friends, Samori Ture and Babatu from Burkina Faso and Mali respectively who were experts in slave trading in their countries.
They recruited people and armed them with weapons to forcefully capture the people.
The reason for using the place as a camp was that the rocks provided certain basic things for the slave traders such as spring water which was used for drinking and cooking.
The slaves were made to carve bowl-like holes in the rocks to serve as bowls for food to be served for them, grinding stones for the grinding of flour and other items to prepare food were also created by the slaves on the direction of their slave master.
Some rocks in the area generated different sounds when hit with stones and the rocks were used to provide source of entertainment in the evening for the slaves to relieve them of the torture experienced during the day.
Punishment rock and cemetery
Some rocks served as meeting places, where the slaves met every morning and evening for briefings from their masters. The highest rock point served as a watch tower against slave raiders.
Slaves who tried to escape or disobeyed their masters were made to sit on a rock called, “the punishment rock” with their hands tied at the back, legs chained against the rock and made to watch the sun from sunrise to sunset. Some became blind in the process.
Those who could not withstand the punishment died and were buried in the cemetery created in the area in local and traditionally made tombs.
According to Mr Eric Kandwe, a Tourist Tour Guard at the Pikworo Slave Camp, slave trade in the area was abolished in 1762 when Samori Ture and Babatu were killed by the Paramount Chief of Sandema in the Builsa Municipality, when they attempted to capture some energetic young people as slaves, but the Daggaw was able to escape and until date, no one knows what happened to him.
Despite the huge tourism potentials that could create jobs and rake in revenue for the government, not much has been done over the years to develop the area to attract the needed tourists.
Mr Henry Yeledour, the Upper East Regional Director, Ghana Tourism Authority, on the occasion of the World Tourism Day, told the Ghana News Agency that the Pikworo Slave Camp was one of the most attractive tourist sites in the country.
He said it was regrettable that it had been left underdeveloped over the years to take advantage of the proximity of the border to attract tourist.
However, he said, government had constructed a modern administration block and waiting area at the Pikworo Slave Camp and was in the process of constructing washrooms, summer huts and a peripheral wall as part of enhancement processes.
He said roads leading to the Pikworo Slave Camp and other tourist sites in the area such as the Zenga Crocodile pond were deplorable and called on stakeholders to invest strategically to develop domestic tourism.