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19.02.2009 Feature Article

Is Tamale Becoming Synonymous with Violence?

Tamale, Fastest Growing City in West AfricaTamale, Fastest Growing City in West Africa

Is Tamale Becoming Synonymous With Violence?
Each time I visit myjoyonline or ghanaweb, or tune my radio on, and “violence” comes up, the next thing I see or hear is the “north”, and it's almost always Tamale! This has been especially true for most part of this decade. So the “stupid” question I get tempted to ask is “Is Tamale Becoming Synonymous with Violence?”

Quite recently, Tamale was noted as being the fastest growing city in the West African subregion. I doubt whether the same can be said today. Tamale is a beautiful city with loads of growth potential. Its strategic spatial location, actually connecting the “south” with Burkina Faso, Mali, etc is a big advantage. And most non-governmental organizations are headquartered there. Business is mostly brisk, and its demography is becoming impressively cosmopolitan. Everything points to Tamale as an enviable city in the offing.

Peace and stability are sine qua non for growth and development. And until our people realized this, and stopped these backward, progress-retarding violence, we won't move forward. Chieftaincy disputes exist across the country, and are so sensitive and convoluted (beyond my scope) that I don't want to touch. What I want to discuss, however, is the manner in which politicians exploit the youth for their own selfish or parochial endeavours. Our politicians take advantage of the “ignorance” on the part of some youth to foment trouble and chaos. They just buy them over with measly or derisory “chop monies”, and the next second, you see them (the youth) going on rampage; let me call them “instruments of violence”. What these instruments don't know is that when they have been incited to cause mayhem, these politicians go behind the scenes to dine and wine together! When we see “Honourable Members” inveighing one another in parliament, we conclude it's so real. Yet after the day's business, they go to have fun together. Most of them are the best of friends. One needs to see, for instance, the Minority Leader in a cozy tête-à-tête with the Majority Leader (over some STAR beer, I guess). When it comes to signing loans to get themselves cars, or ex-gratia that benefits all of them, they come together. And we (the supporters) who benefit very little, if at all, tend to fight one another. God have mercy!

Can't my brothers see? Can't we learn? For me, what hurts is the fact that those of us who have been privileged to have some more formal education, and are supposed to be more enlightened, and so should serve as agents of change have failed our less fortunate brothers. Because the so-called less privileged ones respect us and our views, we should be able to convince them to eschew violence. Ask any of those leaders (NDC, NPP, CPP, etc) to send their own sons to go and cause trouble to test their commitment to violence, and you'll be amazed!

When the 2008 Elections drew nigh, many people felt gripped by trepidation that something terrible would happen. And after the peaceful run-off which paved the way for a peaceful transition, and the subsequent emergence of Ghana as the “beacon of democracy” in Africa, many of us proudly told all our friends how proud we are to be Ghanaian. And I was personally gratified that no violence erupted in the north, especially Tamale due to evidence available from the past. The clashes (on Wednesday) came as a shock that over-shadows the relative peace we maintained there at the time.

Who is there to gainsay that the “north” and “south” have a wide development gap? And whilst efforts are being made, particularly with the establishment of the Northern Development Fund, to bridge this gap, we don't seem to be helping the situation with recurrent violence. No prudent investor, however risk-loving, will invest in a violence-prone area. Investors are looking for havens to invest their funds; not areas beset with insecurity and uncertainty. We need to wake up from our slumber. Like many places in the country, and in Africa, we have pressing needs. Every single sole counts towards our struggle against poverty, illiteracy and disease. And every pesewa counts as well. All the funds that go into keeping peace in the area (and many other areas) could be channeled into productive ventures that will benefit us as a country.

I'm calling my brothers, sisters, uncles, and the general Ghanaian people especially our leaders to join in sensitizing our people on the need to fight violence, not only in the north, but the entire country. After all, there is nothing to gain from violence, but a lot to lose! In other words, with peace, there is nothing to lose, but a lot to gain!

Iddisah Sulemana ([email protected])
Graduate Teaching Assistant
Department of Economics
The University of Akron
Akron, Ohio, USA

Iddisah Sulemana
Iddisah Sulemana, © 2009

This author has authored 18 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: IddisahSulemana

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