08.06.2004 Regional News

NGO organises peace-building workshop for stakeholders

08.06.2004 LISTEN

Tamale, June 8, GNA - Mr Ernest Debrah, Northern Regional Minister has said the region has become notorious for its internecine disputes and conflicts varying from chieftaincy, religion, land and politics. He said as a result, resources had been channelled in the maintenance of these conflicts at the expense of pressing development needs of the people.

He said the region has also become a no-go area, because media reports were scaring away people from accepting posting and transfers to work in the area.

Mr Debrah was speaking at a three-day peace building training workshop for the Northern Region Peace Advisory Council, representatives of political parties and members of the media in Tamale on Monday. The Ghana Network for Peace building (GHANEP), an NGO and the Northern Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) organised the forum to give participants the right information, attitude and focus on how to maintain peace in the region.

The participants would treat topics such as: "Understanding Conflict in the Northern Region", "Response to Conflicts" and "Understanding Politics, the State, Citizen and the Government".

Mr Debrah said partisan politics in Northern Region had been politicised and mingled with chieftaincy and some politicians had resorted to using chieftaincy as a possible live wire to help them propagate and entrench their political agenda.

He said equally, some aspirants to chieftaincy skins were also hiding behind the fa=E7ade of political parties to advance their causes. He noted that the most unfortunate aspect of it all was that, those divide and rule people continue to manipulate the youth and drag them into the quagmire, thus deepening the chieftaincy divide endlessly. The Regional Minister said the most challenging of the conflicts in the region was the Dagbon crisis, which had exacerbated the political tension between and among political parties in the region.

Mr Debrah expressed the regret that "this misfortune is being exploited to revive the fortunes of some exhausted persons who see it as an opportunity for their politics of division and exclusion". He said the real solution to the problem in Dagbon lies within the people but not outsiders, pointing out that "what outsiders can do is to act as a referees to ensure fairness".

He said after the workshop he expected that complaints related to partisan political activities would be handled and resolved amicably and the parties reconciled without the need to resort to the law enforcement agencies or violence.

The Regional Minister called on the leadership of political parties in the region to double their efforts at promoting peace in the area by constantly ensuring that the rank and file of their party supporters eschews violence in the course of party activity.

Mr Debrah reminded Ghanaians, especially the people of the Northern Region that the turmoil, carnage and social fragmentation that were witnessed in some neighbouring countries were brought about by conflicts, which were not addressed properly.

He said, the people in those countries now wished that they had made the necessary compromises towards peace but the nature of peace is that it is never appreciated until it has been lost. He urged the people in the region to avoid a similar predicament by taking all appropriate measures like peace building to reconcile and promote development and progress.

Mr Debrah therefore called on Ghanaians, especially political parties and the media to give up violence as a means of solving problems and imbibed the culture of dialogue and non-violence throughout the elections.

Mr Felix Naah Sabie, National Coordinator of GHANEP said his organization had a network of 50 NGOs engaged in various peace building activities in Ghana, aimed at building peaceful, just and reconciled communities in the country.

He said in the past years, GHANEP's activities were involved in researching into some conflicts in Northern Ghana, embarked in peace education and training in peace building as well as consulting with political parties aimed at achieving violence free elections this year. He said in the case of the Dagbon conflict, the GHANEP would work for mutuality in the management, resolution and reconciliation of the feuding factions.

Mr Sabie noted that in recent years, Ghana had been touted as a haven of stability and a gateway to West Africa, because of the country's democratic dispensation and peaceful setting, but expressed the regret that the country was saddled with more than 200 internal conflicts revolving chieftaincy, land and politics.

He said in wake of this disturbing situation, the Northern Region had emerged top of communal conflicts in the country He mentioned the Dagbon crisis, which he said had helped heightened political hostility and intolerance as well as the gradual lawlessness and impunity in the use of offensive weapons.

Mr Sabie said these activities had resulted in the loss of human resources and brain drain as public servants and development organizations were relocating outside the region to avoid the adverse effects of the conflicts.

The GHANEP Coordinator noted that political party leadership would make a lot difference in the conflict situation in Dagbon, if they chose to be committed to peace.

He urged the media in the region to sustain the prevailing peace in the region by promoting the culture of non-violence in the area. 8 June 04

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