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Opinions of Saturday, 15 May 2010

Columnist: Akudugu, Alhassan

The Bawku peace agreement

It was reported in the six o’clock news bulletin of the GBC, on the 12 May 2010, that a peace deal has been stuck between the two main feuding factions in Bawku- the Kusasis and the Mamprusis.The West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP) under its executive director, Emmanuel Bombande, who happens to be a native of Bawku brokered the deal. Opinion leaders from both sides were heard affirming their support for the latest peace deal.
It should be noted however that similar peace deals had been entered in the past by both sides, which couldn’t stand the test of time. For instance, immediately after the 2000 clashes, a peace agreement was signed by both sides with the hope of finding lasting peace to the protracted conflict. Also in 2003, a comprehensive peace agreement was signed again by both sides at Damongo, something most of us thought would consign the conflict in our beloved town to history- but this was not to be.
It is interesting to note that even though the 2001 and 2003 peace agreement failed to end the conflict once and for all, they were able to prevent further escalation of the conflict as being witnessed since 2007.This simply means that there is going to be peace within the municipality for at least some years to come, judging from the previous experiences.
The recent peace process unfortunately still contains what everybody believes accounted for the failure of the previous ones; that is the non-involvement of the youth in the negotiation process. It is an open secret that no opinion leader in Bawku is interested in seeing the cycle of violence persisting. It is the youth who continue to cause the mayhem and the unimaginable destruction of property that we are all witnessing there. Therefore any peace efforts that do not actively engage the youth of the area will surely end up as a shaky one.
People should not lose sight of the fact that the 2002 conflict started when some disgruntled youth group went and barricaded themselves under a mango tree and ambushed and killed 5 people and wounded another 18. Also in 2007 it was started when another youth group had ambushed and killed 3 people and wounded another 9 who were taking part in festival celebration. This simply means that finding a lasting peace in Bawku will largely depend on the ability of the peace brokers to reach out to all the youth groups within the municipality. This important task should not be left only in the hands of the opinion leaders who now seem to have lost control of the youth. It should be the responsibility of all peace loving independent bodies such as WANEP.
The people of Bawku are not looking for a peace deal that will turn out to be a nine-day wonder. Rather, we are looking for that type of peace that will be durable and long lasting. The one that will end the killings and destruction; the type of peace that will give hope to the hopeless; the peace that will bring us together as one people; and the peace that will bring the needed security everybody is yearning for. This can only be achieved if the youth become the centrepiece of this peace searching efforts. After all, during the height of the tension it is usually among them that we get all the destructive elements such as weapon wielders, arsonists and the looters. The youth cannot be sidelined! Therefore, the peace deal that has already been struck should only be seen as the first step towards lasting peace. The next step should be more comprehensive. Various youth leaders from all the flashpoint suburbs and some of their influential followers should be present. It is true that such an engagement will drag the process long; but it is rather important to note that this will enable the various youth groups to express their feelings fully which can then be noted and dealt with appropriately. This process is likely to generate more agitations and scuffles, especially within the first meeting, but that is still the best way of confronting and dealing with the problem ones and for all.
Another issue that was included in the peace agreement is the pacification of the land. It was agreed that a date would be set for that to be done. It is worth noting that any talk of a peace in Bawku without this thing taking place is meaningless. This is because as a native of Bawku, I know that as part of our culture, any blood spilled through a conflict like this makes the land a cursed one and hence there is likely to be more bloodshed if the gods of the land are not pacified. This process is known in the local parlance as the ‘collection of blood’. Many elders of the town usually attribute the recurrent conflict of the area to the failure of both sides to do that and usually warn that if that is not done the conflict will never end. Traditionalists are unanimous that even if the conflict ends, without cleansing the land, we should still always expect calamities from time to time befalling the town.
Those who are leading in the peace efforts should endeavour to ensure that the gods are pacified-i.e. blood collected. Until this is done our hope of attaining a lasting peace there will be an elusion. This most important part of the peace process can either be done by the chief priest of the renowned Gbewaa shrine at Pusiga or anybody appointed by him. What makes this customary practice very important is that it will put any faction that disturbs the peace of the area in collision course with the Gbewaa shrine- our version of ‘Antoa’. It is therefore a possibility that one of the factions may dither when the time comes for that to be done. In the event of one faction trying to drag its feet in relation to that, those working to bring lasting peace should not relent in their efforts in ensuring that the right thing is done.
I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate Emmanuel Bombande on the efforts he has made so far towards bringing lasted peace in Bawku. Most people within the municipality are full of praise and admiration for him. I don’t know him personally, however, I personally admire him because his peace efforts in this country is legendary.
Let me also use this medium to appeal to both Kusasis and Mamprusis to stop killing ourselves and let reason prevail. It is a fact that people have lost their friends and loved ones through this senseless conflict. However, no amount of vengeance and vendetta will bring them back. Their deaths should be treated as the will of God- just like somebody who has died through road accident. Let us resolve to put the past behind us and live in unison.
By: Alhassan Akudugu 0244477639