Sekondi, Aug. 9, GNA - Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama on Monday, opened the first ever Western Region Homecoming Summit at Sekondi, with an appeal to chiefs involved in land and chieftaincy disputes to use the appropriate channels to resolve these disputes and avoid taking the law into their own hands.
He said the region could not derive the full benefits of the summit if there was no peace and drew attention to "disturbing chieftaincy disputes" in many traditional areas in the region.
"Government is deeply concerned that, a noble institution, so much respected is unfortunately plagued with numerous disputes," some of which he said very often resulted in violent clashes leading to loss of lives and destruction of property.
Alhaji Mahama noted that these disputes had not only adversely affected the peace, stability and security of the region, but also its development and progress.
Such situations, he said, no doubt drove away prospective investors and also resulted in dividing communities into antagonistic factions to the detriment of overall development.
He said the summit should provide the people with the opportunity to discuss and seek workable solutions that would make things better for them.
Vice President Aliu Mahama encouraged the people to examine the challenges and difficulties that hamper development and devise strategies and programmes for promoting accelerated development of the region.
Western Region paradoxically is one of the poorest and deprived regions in spite of its abundant human and natural resources. It accounts for close to 60 per cent of the nation's direct output of cocoa and leading producer of all other major cash crop including oil palm, coconut and rubber.
The region also has the richest mineral resource base in the country. It is second in the production of gold and the only region producing bauxite and manganese.
The Vice President said the situation of "poverty and deprivation in the midst of plenty", was unacceptable and urged both political and traditional leaders of the region to evolve programmes to reverse it. He said the Government was committed to its promise to develop the country into a middle-income economy by promoting infrastructure development and enhance social services delivery.
On the upcoming general elections, Alhaji Mahama gave the assurance that the government was doing "everything possible to ensure the most peaceful, free and fair elections".
He appealed to the people, especially the youth not to allow themselves to be used by unscrupulous politicians to cause trouble before, during and after the elections.
Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, Western Regional Minister, welcoming the people, said the summit would be an annual affair to become the greatest festival to be celebrated in the region.
He said the Homecoming Summit or "Nkabon Afahye" was designed to serve as the "trigger" for rallying a broad spectrum of the populace to accelerate the social and economic development of the region.
"We want to use the "Nkabon Afahye" to deepen the sense of unity of the people of the region for peace, progress and prosperity."
Mr Aidoo hoped the summit would promote and market the investment potentials of each area in the region, create platforms for building business acquaintances, business networking and partnerships and also to showcase the region's immense cultural heritage.
Odeneho Gyapong Ababio II, President of the National House of Chiefs and Omanhene of Sefwi-Bekwai Traditional Area who presided, urged the people to take the initiative to develop the region, since nobody would do it for them.
He said for the region to move forward, priority should be given to quality education for the youth and expressed the hope that the summit would serve as a "beacon of hope" for the well being of the people. The theme for the one-week summit, which would bring together illustrious sons and daughters of the region to discuss common cause for accelerated development, is "Education - the Key to Development".
Activities planned include investment and education forums, exhibition, launching of education fund, forum on land administration and development, investment tours and awards night, quiz competition and sporting activities among others.