It was on one cold evening in Bawku, a town in the Upper East region of north Ghana, when I lost my darling brother. If his untimely demise had been because of an accident, I’m sure I would have come to terms with it by now. It has been a decade since the incident and my heart is still in pain as though it took place just yesterday. Although I’m no expert in psychology nor emotional health, I think the reason I still feel affected is because the cause of my brother’s death was preventable. It was because of the Bawku conflict that dates as far back as 2007 that my innocent brother was murdered in cold blood. My brother who was found within the territory of the Kusasis during the conflict was mistaken to be an ally of the Mamprusis and was therefore set on fire alive to burn to ashes. This was a very heartbreaking moment for the entire family and still is.
Conflicts have always been the bedrock of instability, growth stagnation, poverty, abuse of fundamental human rights of people, forced migration and unemployment in nations, cities and towns. For instance, the chieftaincy dispute between the Kusasis and Mamprusis ethnic groups in Bawku, led to a gory massacre of innocent victims including my brother in 2007. Several Properties were destroyed with over 5000 people displaced. In effect, over 70% of its population were unemployed and illiterates.
As I listen to the late-night news and glance through the early morning newspapers, I realise that there are several people around the whole world who like me have lost loved ones and properties due to conflicts. Some of these individuals have been forced to live as strangers in other countries and are consequently experiencing low standard of living. Also, most of these victims of conflict have lost their reason to live and sense of direction. I get concerned and saddened every time I hear these stories.
While these horrific stories are disheartening, they serve as a strong call of action for me to cause a change in my community. I believe that although we may be different in many respects, when we communicate effectively and find common grounds, we can easily prevent our differences from getting in the way of progress and peace. This burning desire to see to it that peace prevails within my community saw me undertaking various peace and human rights activism campaigns in my hometown. During such campaigns, I helped ease the plight of several displaced refugees by providing relief items and educating the masses on the need to coexist peacefully with these refugees.
Although these campaigns yielded some results, it failed to tackle what I perceive to be the root cause of conflict in my community. The root cause, although emanates from the desire to will power (chieftaincy) I believe this is intertwined with ignorance of the dare consequences of conflict on human and socio-economic development. The reason my peace campaigns effort failed may possibly be because of my weak knowledge of the dynamics and mechanisms of conflict resolution in my community. I think a mentorship opportunity, or a training would have filled my knowledge gap regarding that, and my effort would have produced a more lasting impact.
Even though, local civil society organisations (CSOs) have contributed towards conflict resolution in communities, I believe that the urgency of the matter demands more actions from them since the repercussions of conflicts in our communities can be disastrous and the absence of peace will be a hindrance to development.
Therefore, practical training should be conducted in our various communities by using the structure of leadership in our communities. What I mean here is that most of our community leadership structure is based on chieftaincy and kingship which people refer to when there is an outbreak of conflict. Sadly, these leaders cannot solve these conflicts amicably because of their little knowledge in conflict resolution mechanisms. You cannot give what you do not have.
In this regard, CSOs in conflict prevention should focus more in building the capacity of leaders and influential individuals within communities on the various conflict resolution mechanisms. As a result, communities’ leaders will be more equipped to address conflict issues in their communities and be proactive and through this, they will be able to create a peaceful environment which is the only guarantee for social development and justice. This will also help prevent minor violence from escalating into mass conflicts as trained leaders can intervene even before CSOs steps in.
Samira holds a bachelor’s degree in law at Central University, Ghana. She is passionate about women and children empowerment and has over the years, undertaken various human rights activism campaigns in villages and streets. Samira has also gained a vast worth of experience working in both governmental and non-governmental organisations. Currently, she is working at WACSI as a program assistant for Capacity Development unit whilst awaiting confirmation of a scholarship to pursue her Master’s in human Rights Law at the University of Edinburgh, UK.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of WACSI or its members. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WACSI concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.