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Opinions of Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Columnist: Asigri, D. Z.

Tranquil moments are emerging in Bawku Municipality

Tranquil moments are emerging in Bawku Municipality and environ what next then?

For some time now I have been fraught with happiness about the comforting developments in Bawku as reported by Ghanaweb through the directives of our Minister of Interior Hon. Martin A. B. K. Amidu as, “...It said Government was very much encouraged by the relative peace with both communities and continued to urge the people to work together towards ensuring the return of sustainable and lasting peace to their communities”. This is a truism which I believe would have generated much exuberance in all the inhabitants of Bawku Municipality, especially in the noted conflict prone zones and indeed the country generally. The much felt exuberance has equally been well felt by most of us in Diaspora who naturally hail from Bawku and the neighbouring towns/villages. Many thanks to the government peace force, all the chiefs and people of the entire districts involved. From the bottom of my heart, I share the same platform with the Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee (BIEPC) in creating awareness in our people that it is absolutely important for us to collectively claim ‘ownership’ of the problems in order to adopt a meaningful approach that would wholly provide permanency in combating the conflict thus giving peace a chance to prevail. My thanks also go to the inhabitants of the conflict areas, the Upper East Regional Minister Hon. Mark Woyongo and indeed to the Hon. Minister of Interior Martin Amidu for their unyielding efforts in continuing with the search for a permanent resolution and solution for this ongoing dastardly conflict. May God/Allah always remain our permanent guard in this context!
One cannot deny the reality that a ‘tranquil’ community generates tranquil environment which in turn is an essential fertilising ingredient for human endeavours and fulfilment such as in education, health, agriculture, and the economy. Indeed, these essential human needs have been obviously lacking in Northern Ghana in its entirety post-independently and Bawku and her environ is no exception. Furthermore, the current instability has worsened the situation in my view. We must therefore find a special place in our hearts and give tranquillity the opportunity to mature and flourish in place of ‘self-inflicted’ human distraction which we have endured for so long. Let us attempt to embody the principles of peace now being demonstrated by some of the inhabitants within the conflict zones of Bawku Municipality, Pusiga, Binduri, Zabugu, and Gushegu Township. There is a call from the domain of common sense informing us to understand the fears and anxiety felt by all the citizens in the protracted areas such that, rumours abound shows some distasteful ‘name calling’ given to the conflict zones as ‘Kpimnam teng’! This literally means in English, ‘Land of the dead/ghosts, believed to be enmeshed with Satanic ideals and therefore unsuitable for human facilitation’! To be honest, who, within our cultural/ethnic mixed settings would love to live with his family under the ambralla of ghosts together with Satanic ideas-would you? More so, the view that ghost laden zones have the affinity to trigger ‘delusional’ or ‘hallucinatory’ persecutions’ of some kind makes one especially children, feeling scary say, during the night. Others reporting of hearing voices directing them to kill their immediate neighbours, and this is difficult if not impossible to discount within a multi-ethnic/tribal community such as ours. Let us argue that within a multi-ethnic community, differences do exist in the understanding, formation and interpretation of cultural belief systems as shown above as a result of the continuing outbursts of ammunitions leading to ‘human carnage’ which have been periodically meted on innocent the people, women, children, men and the aged simply because of their ethnic background - Kusasi, Mamprusi, Bisa, Moshie in Bawku Township and environ. These fatuous beliefs and values held ethnically and culturally tend to be strongly felt within the individual inhabitant and cannot easily be eradicated by simple logic! There is a need for the peace keepers - police and soldiers alike to recognise and respect these culturally held belief systems shown by some of the natives within the turbulent zones for, it is assumed that traditional pacifications’ are of value in the provision of tranquillity within a given conflict community. For the sake of argument one cannot deny the fact that the various tribal make up in Bawku Township and her environ constitutes Bimobas, Bisas, Mohies, Kusasis, Dagombas, Mamprusis, Frafras, Grunshies, Yansis, Zambramahs ect, ect, and they do possess different belief and value systems. Without any statistical data at my disposal at this point in time to substantiate some of the points shown, I can only be argued that, that the intensity of the tribal enmity that has erupted in Bawku Municipality over the years has been enormously felt and reported in the news worldwide with its implication for the morale of most of us especially in Diaspora, feeling of ‘self worthlessness’ which is dehumanising. It has been shown that many citizens in Bawku Municipality and environ lost their loved ones with some injured or badly maimed irrespective of their tribal or religious orientation. Together, let us agree that every living being is precious and irreplaceable and the death of a child be he a Kusasi, Bisa or Mamprusi for example, is an unbearable sorrow that one should ever have to endure! We have to be extra mindful also that politics in my view consists of series of chapters in which one might never successfully complete reading or talking about it and that sometimes can divide us diabolically! But there is a common human bond that unites us in sympathy and compassion at times of trial, and in support for each other at times of grief. The notion of ‘Kpimnam teng’ (Land of the dead/ghosts) as I have attempted to show above does pose continuing concern for traditional rulers and people of the Bawku Municipality and the other conflict zones. It can be construed that the individual tribe is embedded within different socio-cultural belief system which guard them in seeking to identify and provide a permanent solution to the ‘self-belief frightening nightmares’ that have engulfed some of the conflict towns and villages alike; whilst others are frantically in search of traditional remedies capable of combating this problem. Interestingly, this vein of thinking is reminiscent to research conducted by a British born anthropologist VictorTurner (1968/69) as, in “ Drums of Affliction: A Study of Religious Processes among the Ndembu of Zambia” and as well as in “The Ritual Process” in which Turner identified similar cultural belief systems in Zambia referring to them scientifically as ‘social causation theory’. This, according to Victor Turner, guides the orientation of traditional healers in time of ‘crisis of unknown origin’, and in tribal wars, similar to ours, unfortunately! These are social-causal explanations of the offending crisis which get into the hands of traditional healers. It can be argued that the traditional intervention by a spiritual agency through collective ideas and efforts from the individual tribe that binds Bawku Municipality and environ together with regards to how, for example, this ongoing conflict may be curtailed by resort to an appropriate socio-religious formula and advice. To the chiefs and people of these troubled zones the assumption is that ‘tradition’ is important and that it has a vital place to be in the search for a permanent resolution of the conflict! Further, the view that I hold additionally is that, it would provide some form of tranquillity for some of the people psychologically to reflect over the dreadful role that he/she might have undertaken during the process of ‘human destruction’ within Bawku Municipality and the other conflict areas. This in my view is similar to the ‘Truth Committee’ which was chaired by retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the early post - independent era in South Africa. The idea was to find some meaningful methods in solving some alternatives in solving racism within Black and White citizens in order to make life humanly acceptable to all. The social causation theory concept is therefore an acceptable perspective to our ethnic conflict for it is assumes that it provides an explanation and comfort to the people as to what is actually happening out there! There is no harm in my view to suggest that triangulating or combining remedies that would enable us to cure our tribal/political ‘cancer’ from the core and into the core of the individual in the troubled community might after all prove worthwhile! Let us however be wary about this though, for as a Ghanaian born social scientist Twumasi (1975) has shown, the pattern of traditional authority structure has been gradually invaded in certain cultures in Ghana which is tantamount to what might be some impediments’ somewhere down the tunnel to the approach envisaged in an attempt to resolving the frightening experiences realised, by the people within the conflict towns and villages referred to as ‘Kpim-nam teng’ (Land of the dead). For instance, the old man according to Twumasi (1975) who used to be a “moral entrepreneur”, the custodian of the lineage traditions, now finds himself in a powerless role which in turn might affect the traditional support system for this conflict resolution in some way.
In an attempt to restoring hope within our broken communities, the Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee (BIEPC) co-chaired by Mr Thomas Abilla and Alhaji Ibrahim Kobilla is aimed at doing just that! Indeed psychologists like Bruner 1972; and Lindsey 1976 describe ‘Hope’ as ‘the anchor stabilising our lives in the present and giving life meaning, direction and optimism’. In my view hope cannot exist in vacuum - relationships are central to fostering and maintaining a belief in the possibility of positive future. If anyone around you have nothing to offer – you will never amount to nothing very much – then it is difficult (if not impossible) to retain a belief in your own worth. Having people to believe in you, and support you in pursuing these, is critical in fostering hope. I for one relish the ideals underpinning in principles of the Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee (BIEPC) and I wish the co-chairmen and staff the best of luck in their endeavours. It is interesting to note the measures advocated by Mr Thomas Abilla and Alhaji Ibrahim Kobilla on the notion of ‘pacification rites’ by the inhabitants within the deadly conflict areas as a recipe for the conflict resolution. My understanding is that ‘pacification rites’ in this context, is borne from the concept of ‘Ziim Va-ar’ as coined by our tribal ‘gurus’ many years ago and remain a valuable approach to conflict resolution as currently observed within Bawku Municipality and environ. ‘Ziim Va-ar’, which literally means in English, cleansing of human blood that was lost to the ground during the tribal upheaval leading to multiple deaths in the conflict areas. The cultural and tribal belief system demands that by observing the rules underpinning ‘Ziim Va-ar’ (cleansing of human blood) thus render hope to the conflict resolution. Indeed through the ‘pacification of rites’ it is viewed that inhabitants within the conflict zones would live together in harmony and in peace, as before. I pray that the measures identified above would provide solace to the entire inhabitants of Bawku Municipality and the noted conflict areas in general. We must not be complacent but to remain focused in our determination to live and work together for a better future for the next generation to thrive without any barriers. Indeed, ‘rebuilding’ life generally ought to be seen as a marathon not a sprint! May Allah/God always direct us rightly-Amen!

By: ASIGRI, Daniel Zanyeya (EdD; Med; MA; Bsc Psy; DipEd; RN; Cert Ed; RNT.
Researcher in Health Care Studies,
London.