Towards Lasting Peace In Northern Ghana
2006-01-05 13:00:57This article has been read 765 times.Another year has rolled by without much progress in finding lasting solutions to the many sources of conflict in Northern Ghana, in my view. Indeed, we were at the verge of another nasty incident at the Kaladan Park, but for the timely judgment of one of Ghana’s most influential footballers and Pride of the North, ‘Alhaji’ Hamza Mohammed. In Tamasco, we used to call him “Eshun”. How he got that name, I honestly cannot tell.
But the single most divisive issue and potentially most dangerous source of conflict in the North remains, without fear of contradiction, the unresolved status of the Ya-Na issue. Indeed it is such an emotive issue that even if you cough about it, you can be sure to attract an outpouring of comments, views and observations, both negative and positive. The fact that an appeal by the Northern Regional Minister for the two gates to create conditions for the burial of the Ya-Na attracted a whooping 110 comments on Ghanaweb, speaks volumes of people’s feelings on the matter.
No doubt, a combination of the Dagbon conflict and a gaping political divide stoked by greedy politicians has made Tamale and Yendi the hottest piece of cake for the National Security apparatus to handle. But, it is precisely the role of the National Security in engendering the lack of peace in the North that this article is all about.
This might seem a bit controversial, but one is tempted to believe that the national security apparatus is happy to give the north a bad name in order to hang it (I stand for correction).
Let’s take for an illustration, the latest Kaladan Park incident. As a nation we all know the kind of emotions football fans across the country attach to the game. For some, it is either a religion or next to it in importance. And we are told that medically, there is only a fine line between anger and madness. Consequently, all over the world it is standard practice for football authorities to separate the playing field from the fans by means of barricades or inner perimeter fences. There is absolutely no room for complacency in this regard. Even fans in the major football leagues of England, Spain, Germany and Italy have demonstrated a potential to inject liberal doses of violence into the game given the ‘right’ atmosphere.
In Ghana, May 9, 2001 happened even though the Accra Sports Stadium as it then was, had an inner perimeter fencing, and football fans in Accra are generally ‘not reputed’ for violence; at least, not to the level of the fans in Tamale.
Given the situation in Tamale at the time (It had just emerged from a state of emergency which had been in place for the best part of three years), and given the immense potential for conflict, whether sports-related, politics-related or chieftaincy-related, I find it incredible that the state security apparatus allowed such a tension-filled football deciding match to be played at a Park without an inner perimeter fencing. Perhaps, even more intriguing is the fact that, upon all the army of journalists who thronged the Kaladan Park to cover the match on the fateful day, I am yet to read or hear anyone blame the state of the stadium for the disturbances.
Tamale is the third largest city in Ghana after Accra and Kumasi. Why is it that when there are matches at the Accra and Kumasi Sports Stadia, with all their inner perimeter fences and ‘well behaved’ fans, the security is always armed to the teeth, but at the Kaladan Park, without an inner perimeter fencing, we are given only a handful of poorly armed policemen?
Perhaps, to get the bigger picture, one could consider the fact that until recently, the whole of the Tamale Metropolis had only one Police Station. i.e. the one located at the Regional Police Command. The last time I was in Tamale in 2003, a new Police Station was under construction at Lamakara, close to the Kaladan Park. But even so, two Police Stations for a Metropolis the size of Tamale is woefully inadequate, even if we did not have this perceived ‘immense potential’ for conflict.
Quite frankly, I do not believe that people in the North or Tamale or Dagbon for that matter are necessarily more violent than people in other parts of the Country. What is perceived as violence by northerners is usually a manifestation of neglect of responsibility by state security towards the north, which results in such violence. Almost every security threat in the north is allowed to get out of hands before action is taken, if at all. Do you remember the rebel incursions into Saru in the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba District and the kidnapping of the chief?
But all of us in Northern Region would need to do a lot to improve our image in the eyes of the public. Above all we need to find a common ground on very critical issues. For instance, I do not think that those who insist that we aught to find the perpetrators of the murder of the Ya-Na before his mortal remains are buried are doing the late King any Honour. At the same time I do not also believe that the burial of the King aught to be the ultimate goal, such that once he is buried, that closes the Chapter; or that while negotiations are taking place for his burial, the search for the perpetrators should be put on hold. The two activities are not mutually exclusive. In the mean time, let us keep in mind that the late King was a Muslim and the Holy Prophet of Allah (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Him) once said: “Hasten the burial of the dead ones amongst you. If he is a righteous person, then it will be good for him to hasten the burial. If it is the other way, then you will be free from an evil placed on your shoulders.”
Let us approach the New Year with a positive spirit of forgiveness, unity, focus and a determination to shed our perceived ‘cloaks of violence’; to shame those with an agenda to portray us as violent.
All shall be well in the New Year, “Insha Allah”
by: Mohammed Gausu
C/o Buipewura’s Palace