Bawku (UE/R), Dec 31, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Thursday urged the people of Bawku to use their annual "samanpiid" festival as a rallying point for the consolidation of peace and unity in the area.
President Kufuor made the call in a speech read for him by a Special Assistant, Prince Imoro Andani, at the 18th Annual Samanpiid Festival of the chiefs and people of the Bawku Traditional Area at Bawku.
He observed that as a neighbouring town to the Republic of Togo and Burkina Faso, Bawku is an important commercial centre and a vital trade route for the transportation of goods to landlocked countries, including Mali and Niger.
He said although the violence of 2001 had sought to dent the image of the town, the peaceful atmosphere that had characterised the area in the past three years showed that the people are willing to put the past behind them.
President Kufuor urged residents of the area not to resort to any action that would turn back the clock of progress.
"When there is peace, it obviously serves as a catalyst for socio-economic progress. On the other hand, violence and instability disrupts economic activity, scares away investors and compels the Municipal Assembly to divert development revenue into peace-keeping operations," he said.
President Kufuor indicated that the issue of security was of great concern to Government, adding that as Ghana is regarded internationally as an island of peace in the sub-region, it would be bad if some parts of the country degenerate into violence from time to time. He commended the chiefs, the Municipal Assembly and the security agencies for their role in restoring peace in the area, and urged them to continue to step up vigilance.
President Kufuor reiterated Government's determination to achieve sustainable equitable growth, accelerated poverty reduction and the protection of the vulnerable within the framework of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy, and within a decentralized democratic environment. He cited works on the Bawku-Mognori road, Pulimakom-Widana road, Kaadi-Agariga road, the Zabugu Asikiri road, as well as the construction of culverts and drains throughout the district, as part of government's efforts to develop the area's infrastructure.
President Kufuor mentioned the provision of a one billion-cedi irrigation facility at Tampizua, near Mognori, the rehabilitation of the Zong-Natinga Dam at 1.04 billion cedis, the provision of a 1.58 billion-cedi dam at Tambalungu, and the rehabilitation of the Sarabogo dam at a cost of 86.7 million cedis, as a mark of commitment by his government to agricultural development through water resource improvement.
He expressed concern about the indiscriminate bush burning and wanton felling of trees in the northern part of the country, particularly in the Bawku area, and urged chiefs and the District Assemblies to check the practice.
The Bawku Naba, Asigri Abugrago Azoka II, said the area witnessed an improved crop yield during the just-ended farming season, resulting in a drastic fall in the market prices of staples such as maize, groundnuts, millet and beans.
He, however, cautioned the people against wasteful lifestyles and unnecessary sale of farm produce, saying the weather pattern was unpredictable.
Naba Azoka expressed concern about the incessant migration of the youth from the area to the south as a result of poverty and unemployment, and called for increased public education on the modalities for accessing various credit facilities available at the Municipal Assembly, to enable the people to benefit from those funds. The Regional Minister, Mr Boniface Gambila, announced that Government had brought 1,000 new tractors into the region to boost agricultural production.
These, he said, had been heavily subsidised from 300 million cedis to 160 million cedis each, and were being sold to interested farmers in all the eight districts on instalment basis. Mr Gambila indicated that within the past four years, the government had constructed more than 4,000 schools throughout the region, to bring education to children in the remotest communities. He said the road network in the region would witness a greater improvement following the arrival of new equipment at the Upper Quarry Limited for the production of road chippings on a massive scale for road construction.
In a welcoming address, the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), Mr Abdul-Rahman Gumah, spoke of atrocities by Fulani herdsmen, whom he said, had moved up from degrading the environment and harassing women, to forming armed robbery gangs.
He said chiefs and assembly members in the district were having consultations as to how to remedy the situation.
The MCE urged residents of the area to heed the advice of agricultural extension officers to preserve the fertility of the soil, which was becoming impoverished and incapable of sustaining crop and animal production.
Mr Roy Ayariga, Regional Director of Agriculture and Presiding Member of the Zebilla District Assembly who chaired the function, noted that the heavy attendance at the durbar was an indication that peace and unity had indeed returned to Bawku and urged the people to sustain the peace.
"Samanpiid" is a yearly thanksgiving festival at which the chiefs and people of the Bawku Traditional Area express gratitude to God and their ancestors for a successful farming season. The theme for this year's celebration was: "Poverty Alleviation in the Bawku Traditional Area: The Way Forward."