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19.02.2005 Regional News

Workshop strategises on peace capacity building

By GNA

Ho, Feb 19, GNA-Indications are that the curtain would soon fall on the frequent bloody clashes between the people of Nkonya and Alavanyo over their 83-year old land dispute.

This follows the adoption of strategies at a weeklong peace building capacity workshop for members of Consultative Committees of the two traditional areas and the Volta Region Mediation and Settlement Committee to deal with rumours, and related activities, which often sparked off bloody clashes in the area.

The Workshop under the theme; "peace building for socio-economic development", was sponsored by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Volta Regional Co-ordinating Council (VRCC) in collaboration with the Ho Diocese of the Catholic Church, with Mr Emmanuel Bombade, Executive Director of the West Africa Network for Peace (WANEP) as the resource person.

The Joint Consultative Committees from both sides are made up of five members each selected on the basis of their traditional offices and influences in their respective traditional areas.

Answering questions from the Press on behalf of their respective Consultative Committees, Mr William Kpende for Alavanyo and Nana Kofi Kodia II, Adontehene of Nkoya-Wurupong for Nkonya, said the rumour mongers both in and outside both traditional areas had held the people to ransom for a long time and that proper structures have been created in both traditional areas to deal with the canker collectively.

Nana Kodia said because of the strained relations and suspicions between the two traditional areas those who benefited from the continuation of the conflict used the instrument of rumours to maintain the status quo by confusing the people who could not differentiate between rumours and facts.

"This realisation has persuaded us to work for peace, we say enough is enough," Nana Kodia said.

On rumours, Mr. Kpende said both sides have agreed to crosscheck rumours in the area with each other through the structures instituted at the local level so as to unmask before the people the intention of those who peddle such rumours.

On the extent to which the Consultative Committees could influence events in their respective traditional areas, Nana Kodia said, "it is only we who can declare war, if we go back and they do not accept us then they have finished, I can tell you that they will listen to us". "We will demonstrate our commitment", he emphasised.

On his part Mr. Kpende said members of the Consultative Committee from Alavanyo were carefully selected, based on their influence in traditional matters.

"We are the ones they know and trust and have been at the forefront of peace and trust that it is only the best that we can secure for them", he said.

"We were carefully selected based on our positions," Mr Kpende said. Mr Kpende added that peace has become the only viable option available to the two sides because they have both not gotten what they wanted from the conflict, otherwise they would not have availed themselves of the opportunity to sue for peace.

He told Newsmen later in an interview that he was optimistic about the restoration of peace when the strategies adopted were applied and the right level of support forthcoming from the authorities.

Mr Kpende said already Alavanyo has made it clear to the families of illegal chain saw operators that the community would not go to their support if they should encounter any problems, while engaged in their illegal activities on the disputed land.

That, he said, has so far led to positive results.

Similarly, Mr. Kpende said, recently he followed up on rumour that Alavanyo was arming against Nkonya by contacting an opinion leader at Nkonya to assure him that the information was incorrect.

He said as soon as he announced his presence the opinion leader at Nkonya was elated at his presence since he (opinion leader) was similarly worried about the information, eventually, he, the opinion leader and the Chief got the people round to assure them that the information was untrue thus averting a potential clash.

Mr Kpende observed that gunshots which were usually heard on the disputed land were fired by people hired by illegal chain saw operators from Alavanyo and Nkonya to scare off any attempts at curtailing their nefarious activities and not were not communally planned attacks. The Chairman of the Regional Mediation and Peace Settlement Committee, Right Reverend Dr Livingstone Buama, Moderator of the E.P. Church said, " the Mediation Committee is highly encouraged by the changes in attitudes, the entrenched positions, perceptions and expressions both in gestures and verbal communication of the Consultative Committee Members".

"The two parties now show by words and deeds at this workshop that they have a firm resolve to end the conflict, establish peace and reconcile", he said.

In his comments, Right Reverend Francis Lodonu, Bishop of Ho Diocese of the Catholic Church said the present initiative was to set in motion a process of peaceful co-existence in the area but not a determination of the ownership of the disputed land.

On his part, Mr Bombade said the government should be forthcoming with adequate logistic and financial support to the current peace initiatives because it is more cost-effective to do so than to maintain peacekeeping troops in the area.

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