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07.03.2009 Regional News

Veep calls for release of farmlands to Bawku residents


Vice President John Dramani Mahama on Friday said there was an urgent need for the feuding factions in the Bawku conflict to release leased farmlands to tenants for cultivation as the farming season approached.

Farming, he indicated, was the main occupation for the majority of the people in the area and so there was the urgent need for frank discussions on issues bordering on land in Bawku and its environs to enable them to prepare adequately for the forthcoming farming season.

The Vice President said this in Bolgatanga when he met the two feuding ethnic groups, Kusasis and Mamprusis, as well as other minority settlers including Moshes; Busangas; Bissas; Hausas; Frafras and Dagombas. Apart from the main groups, which presented five representatives each for the meeting, the minority groups were asked to present two members each.

The Vice President said he was impressed by the openness and willingness on the part of the parties involved and the urgency with which they wanted the volatile situation to be normalized.

He said the Government was also determined to ensure that it employed all necessary means, including dialogue to bring lasting peace to the area.

He told the warring parties that he had studied their petitions presented to him when he visited Bawku on Thursday and said it was conclusive that both parties had similar grievances, which included suspicion expressed against the security agencies for their biased attitude in handling the conflict; the need for government to be neutral at resolving the impasse; the need for strict action to stamp out acts of impunity in the area and the creation of a platform for serious peace dialogue on Bawku.

Vice President Mahama expressed concern that both sides vigorously attached political dimension to the conflict and said he did not completely buy the idea because there were Kusasis and Mamprusis in both the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and therefore found that assertion untenable.

He warned the factions against impunity and said Government frowned on such actions and was, therefore willing and ready to take firm actions against people found guilty of acts of impunity to create a platform for genuine interactions between the parties for a sustained peace.

The Minister of the Interior, Mr Cletus Avoka, who is a Kusasi, told the parties to be genuine participants of the peace effort being initiated by the Government, and be willing to allow for concessions in their discussions. "When you take this seriously it will erase the potential for entrenched positions," he said.

The Interior Minister told the people that no amount of vengeance or killings could bring the desired peace. "Let's jaw-jaw and think about the development of our community and stop the war."

The Vice President later went into a closed-door discussion with the feuding parties.