By William N-lanjerborr Jalulah
THE RECENT disturbances in Bawku last Wednesday, following the release of Abdul Sulemana Rahaman Folli after he was arrested and put before court for circulating a document challenging the legitimacy of the Overlord of the Bawku Traditional Area, Naba Asigri Abugrago Azoka II, should not discourage the Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee (BIEPC) from continuing with its good work.
Established in May 2009, with the understanding that it was the people of Bawku who can solve their own problem, the peace committee has gradually gained the confidence of both feuding factions – the Kusasi and Mamprusi.
Though the BIEPC suffered a setback when the Mamprusi faction withdrew from it in September 2009, it was re-invigorated when they returned to it in June 2010.
The committee, with the close collaboration and appreciable cooperation from the Regional Security Council (REGSEC), support from the Peace Advisory Council, as well as the people of Bawku, has succeeded in bringing the two antagonists together.
Until the last Wednesday’s disturbances, the current peace that was being enjoyed in Bawku and its environs has been largely attributed to the work of the peace committee, with relative cooperation from the inhabitants, because it had brought, and still brings, people in the area, the government, the security agencies, the media, the regional peace council, individuals, and group of individuals, together to find a lasting solution to the conflict.
It is worth noting that over the past seven months; if not for the recent disturbances, no significant incident had occurred to derail the peace in the area.
Even with this unpleasant occurrence, the Upper East File will still urge the Co-Chairmen of the BIEPC, Mr. Thomas Abilla and Alhaji Ibrahim Kolbilla, as well as all the committee members, not to be discouraged, but encouraged by the fact that they knew of the daunting task before accepting to work on the committee. Nothing good comes easy. Thus, if they endure, the sky will be their limit.
Meanwhile, one cannot praise the peace committee without recognising the role of the leaders, women, and the youth of both factions – Kusasi and Mamprusi. More so, every dweller in the area should be commended for one role or the other towards peace building.
The Bible and the Quran, tell us that God or Allah helps those who help themselves. This is exactly what this File thinks has happened in Bawku.
The people have recognised the fact that no one can let them enjoy peace, except they themselves decide to do so. Successive governments have done their parts with huge resources being pumped into searching for peace. Now, it is the turn of the people.
While security officers have had sleepless nights and restless days to maintain law and order, journalists have also risked their lives to report on the situation. Some have been commended for reporting responsibly, while others have been vilified for negative reportage.
Religious bodies and even some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have organised prayer meetings in and outside Bawku to seek God’s intervention. More of such interventions are still needed until the search for lasting peace is rewarded.
It is against this background that this file welcomes the idea of establishing Inter-Ethnic Peace Committees in the entire seven districts and two municipal assemblies in the region, to assist the regional and district and Municipal Security Councils in resolving all the conflicts in the region.
Mr. Mark Woyongo, Upper East Regional Minister, who announced this a week-and-a-half ago, during the climax of the region’s Golden Jubilee celebration, said such committees would comprise representatives of ethnic groups, traditional organisations and all other key groupings in the area, and would reflect a true representation of the districts and municipalities.
The Minister and other stakeholders’ suggestion to establish the peace committees in the various assemblies is based on the fact that the Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee has done so well in contributing significantly to peace in Bawku.
So, it is their belief that similar committees in the districts and municipalities would help stop potential conflicts before they erupt.
According to Mr. Woyongo, there was every indication that the peace in Bawku would be sustained.
He commended the Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee, the security agencies, and the people of Bawku for the respective roles they played in bringing peace to the area.
It is obvious, and as former president Kufuor and sitting President Mills said, there can be no development without peace, because no investors would invest in an area where there is no peace.
Knowing this very well, Mr. Woyongo called on the people to eschew tribalism, sectarianism, factionalism, the ‘pull him down’ syndrome, and undermining each other, and rather direct their resources and efforts at rebuilding the one-time economic hub of the North.
On this note, the Upper East File thinks successive governments have done their parts in the road map to rebuilding Bawku. They have all shown interests in ensuring that peace returns to Bawku. Some of them did this through committees they set up, and also by sending high-powered delegations to mediate on the conflict.
It was refreshing to hear from the Secretary of the BIEPC, Mr. Joseph Abugre, that though last Wednesday’s disturbances would delay some of the major activities earmarked by the committee, including the ground prayer and pacification programme, the committee would continue to ensure that its carries out its mandate.
The provision of a bus to the Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee to facilitate its work is a clear demonstration of the government’s commitment towards the search for peace. Bawku is not only part of Ghana, but a significant town with unique business potentials because of its closeness to neighbouring Togo, Mali and Burkina Faso.
And, all the government’s programmes and interventions towards closing the North-South inequities can only materialise if the people of the town continue to heal the wounds and overlook the scars left by the conflict.
The ban on motorbikes, since its imposition, seems to have made a significant impact. But the question is, how long can the people of a business town like Bawku continue to make a living without the use of motorbikes?
The ban has raised the price of bicycles in the area, because of high demand for it. The imposer of the ban, the National Security Council, did not do so for pleasure, but for the interest of the whole country, and this has yielded positive results.
But, again, how long should we continue to live with this ban? The answer, obviously, will depend on whether the people in Bawku will give peace a chance for their own businesses to flourish or not.
The pain and loss people have gone through, and continue to go through, as a result of the curfew and the ban on the use of motorbikes by men in the area, the stalling of education, as some teachers have gone on transfer, and many still seeking to go, restricted movement of inhabitants, and loss of lives and property are not the kind of things that peace-loving people in Bawku will want.
It is regretful to recall that recently, businesses, including banks, were relocating and people of Bawku had to travel to Bolgatanga and other parts of the region to transact business with these financial institutions.
It is very disheartening to note that there are many peace-loving people in Bawku, but unfortunately, a few who do not want to enjoy the peace, for whatever reason best known to them, have made people outside brand everybody in Bawku as a warmonger, which is not the case.
While this File does not side with those who continue to disturb the peace, we also want to state that people should not jump to the conclusion that everyone from Bawku is a warmonger. Instead of harbouring this, let us rather think of how to contribute, in our own little ways, to help find a lasting solution to the conflict.
All is not lost.
Having recognised the good work of the security officers on the ground in performing their constitutionally mandated duties to protect lives and property, and maintain law and order, we wish to appeal to the government to resource them very well, especially, with patrol vehicles, bullet-proof and armoured vehicles. Their allowances should also be paid promptly to motivate them continue their good work.
Meanwhile, these security officers must also live above reproach, by bringing professionalism to play in their daily operational duties.
To religious bodies, NGOs, individuals and all stakeholders who have contributed in diverse ways to sustaining the peace for the past several months, we say kudos! But, they should not relent in their efforts until lasting peace is achieved.
To those of us who love peace and want it sustained, let us prove it by not supporting a few trouble fomenters. When you identify them, give them up to the security agencies, as they have given the assurance that whoever gives information leading to the arrest of trouble makers would have their identities protected.
Finally, do not give up, Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee, until the ‘battle’ is over. Let the recent disturbances be a challenge that will move you to prove your worth.