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20.11.2008 Regional News

Peace Returns To Bawku

An atmosphere of peace and good neighbourliness has returned to Bawku after months of misunderstanding and disunity, which resulted in a bloody conflict about two months ago.

At a three-day workshop on security management and peaceful elections organised by the National Peace Council (NPC), the participants agreed that the animosity was fast giving way to brotherliness, unity and a strong desire for peace.

The workshop was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Following the development, some citizens and residents of the border town in the Upper East Region are very optimistic that the December 7 polls will pass peacefully in Bawku, contrary to fears expressed in some quarters that the conflict will be a recipe for violence during the electioneering.

According to them, the peaceful manner in which the recent limited voter registration exercise was organised in Bawku is a vindication of the people's resolve to embrace peace.

They expressed these views in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic in Bolgatanga after attending the workshop that ended on Sunday.

Previous elections in Bawku have been keenly contested mainly by the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

While admitting that fact, the interviewees expressed the belief that the bitter experiences the people had gone through and the recent peace overtures they had made were strong indicators to bolster their confidence for peaceful elections.

The Bawku District Police Commander, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Blewushie Cashman, confirmed that the security situation in Bawku had improved tremendously.

He, however, said that there was the need to beef up security in the town, adding, “We are hoping to overcome any threat”.

DSP Cashman called on stakeholders in the elections to sensitise the youth to be law-abiding, “because violence doesn't contribute to positive results”.

A Kusasi opinion leader, Mr Thomas Abilla, admitted that Bawku was a flashpoint as far as the elections were concerned, but he expressed confidence that nothing bad would happen.

He said the security agencies had met the opinion leaders of both the Kusasis and Mamprusis and warned that they (security) would deal with acts of violence swiftly and that message had been duly communicated to the people.

“Now, most people are tired of conflict but, of course, there a few miscreants who may want to destroy the process no matter what. But that one, we will leave to the security agencies themselves to deal with it”.

For his part, a Mamprusi opinion leader, Mr Mohammed T. Nambe, said there had been a series of meetings with all the key actors to underline the need for a dialogue to resolve the conflict.

“I think things have been going on well. That is why you see that there is a semblance of peace now. We are not taking things for granted. We want to make sure everybody gets on board to make them understand that it is better to have peace than violence,” he remarked.

“The way things are going, I don't want to be too optimistic, but I think that the December elections will come and pass peacefully”, he added.

Mr Nambe said the reason why there had been peace in Bawku over the past months was that many people now appreciated the need to “jaw-jaw rather than war-war”, and commended the NPC for its mediating role.

A teacher in Bawku, Ustaz J. Sa-ad, also expressed optimism that the elections would be peaceful.

He said sensitisation programmes embarked upon by various institutions, particularly the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), had made the people to understand that it was better to have peace than conflict.

Pastor James Oko Barnor of the Church of Pentecost in Bawku said “we are trying to do our best by educating the people on the ground, visiting the chiefs and talking to them so that they will understand the need for peace before, during and after the elections”.

Story by Kofi Yeboah