STAKEHOLDERS SAY POVERTY IS NOT CAUSE OF CONFLICTS
Participants at this year’s Harmattan School organised in Tamale, the Northern Regional capital, have said that poverty per se is not the cause of the numerous conflicts occurring in many parts of Northern Ghana, because the focus of the poor on survival and daily needs leaves no time to engage in conflict.
Rather, they attributed the causes of these conflicts to people feeling deprived and perceive their poverty status to be the result of deliberate actions by others (greed) and the only way out is to fight.
The Director of the Centre for Continuing Education and Interdisciplinary Research (CCEIR) of the University for Development Studies (UDS), Professor Stephen B. Kendie who presented a communiqué at a press conference in Tamale on behalf of fellow participants, said “if the benefits of economic growth are monopolised by a few people, protests are the likely result”.
He observed that, in spite of its reputation as a relatively peaceful country and an example of good governance, Ghana has been witnessing a series of ethnic conflicts some of which have resulted in violent confrontations leading to loss of lives and properties. Adding, in more recent times, religious and political conflicts litter the landscape and although their effects are localised, they however leave scars that fester and have the potential for future escalation if not well managed.
The Harmattan School series was initiated by the Graduate School in collaboration with the CCEIR both of the UDS as a Policy Think-Tank on Northern Ghana. The school provides a platform for constructive engagement on issues relating to the development of Northern Ghana in particular and the country at large. The 2010 Harmattan School was held from the 26th to 27th of February in Tamale under the theme: “Peace building and conflict management for poverty reduction”.
The main objective of this year’s Harmattan School was to bring together actors in the academia, formulators and implementers of policies, state authourities, civil society organisations and practitioners working in the field of development to discuss the current theoretical and practical internal and external transformations taking place in the field of peace-building and conflict management with the ultimate objective of securing enduring peace for development.
The communiqué urged all stakeholders to appreciate the fact that the processes of change evoke conflict in diverse forms and that these conflicts cannot be prevented but they could be managed so as not to escalate into violence.
It said a holistic approach to conflict management and peace building needs to be adopted involving all stakeholders including youth and women, instead of the current ‘fire-fighting’ approach whereby peacekeepers (military and police) are rushed to conflict spots. The latter can only prevent further violence but does not bring lasting peace, it stated.
The communiqué also advised government to pursue balanced national development as stipulated by the country’s constitution to help provide the infrastructure that would enable economic growth to create jobs, saying “this is necessary to reduce the availability of idle youth who can be recruited by conflict entrepreneurs”.
It emphasised the need for government to ensure that the Savannah Accelerated Development Authourity (SADA) was pursued vigorously as a development programme and strategy to speed the development of the savannah regions (Upper West, Upper East, Northern Regions), which also have a unequal share of violent conflicts in the country.
The communiqué also acknowledged that the issue of ‘foot soldiers’ was fast becoming fertile grounds of conflicts and cuts across the political divide. “It said it is not only a threat to national unity and cohesion but also a critical challenge to sustainable democratic governance, development and peace building in the country, stressing that, the perpetrators should be seen similar to common criminals and prosecuted as such, without political interference”.
Ghana has several Faith-Based Organisations spanning the Christian, Islamic and African religions, the communiqué noted and urged the leaders of the churches and mosques, to openly condemn inter and intra ethnic or religious violence in any form. Priests and Islamic leaders have roles to place when new chiefs are being installed it said, stressing that when non-royals circumvent the customary rules and ascend to the throne, priests and mallams ought to refuse to perform the prayers during the investiture.
It asked chiefs to respect traditional rules regarding succession to the thrones and pretenders ought not to be entertained. Adding, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies could easily, as part of the local development agenda, provide the resources for the codification of succession to the thrones in their areas of jurisdiction.