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Ethnic violence and chieftaincy disputes continue to thwart progress in the north


violenceSomebody has to say it: for years, I have disdainfully dismissed any criticism of the north, however honest, as quixotic and tinged with tribal bias. But times have changed, and so have my hitherto unsophisticated views. Grudgingly, I have accepted the critics’ constant refrain; the north is a lumbering drag on the rest of the nation; we are and that is the absolute truth.

There is an urgent need for those who have caused the region so much pain with their penchant for violence to be relentlessly assailed and told the truth; “You are keeping the north from meaningful progress with your violence.”

No longer should any progressive northerner keep quiet when, in fact, they be speaking up about the ethnic and chieftaincy conflicts that continue to scar the region. It was therefore gratifying, and indeed heartwarming to see influential and powerful Muslim groups come out last week and boldly state their position on the protracted conflicts in the area.

The leaders of the Central Mosque and Ambariyya Muslim communities did not mince words when they implored the warring factions in the region’s flash-points, Nanung, Bukprungu and Dagbon to consider carefully the impact on the entire of the violence they perpetrated. Simultaneously, the leaders also appealed to the government to create a peace committee that should strive to build cordial relations between the factions.

That the two major religious entities in the north would shed their pettiness and biases to serve notice to the conflict prone areas of the region was remarkable. It was a great day for the northern region and the leaders deserve tons of praise for demonstrating to the rest of the nation a sense of unity and a driven determination to curb the violence and find a permanent solution to the problem.

Long overdue, the reaction of the religious groups did not come as a surprise to keen followers of the region’s history; there has, in fact, been an increasing uneasiness about the conflicts among residents and the religious leaders’s bold and trenchant statement clearly demonstrated the weariness and fatigue that have set in.

In addition, the action of the Muslim leaders spoke volumes about the changing attitude of the region’s inhabitants towards the frequent flareups of violence, violence that cast the region in bad light and made it the object of crude jokes and scorn.

An example has been set by the Muslim leaders for us to emulate. We must, as a matter of urgency, entreat our brothers who choose to settle their differences through violence,  to desist and put a screeching halt to the hostility. This kind of madness and stubborn refusal to engage in meaningful discussion of issues that divide them should be discarded for the common good.

We must tell our brothers that embracing the concepts of conflict resolution and dialogue does not in anyway amount to capitulation to the other side. Instead, it should be stressed that those who engage in conflict resolution and dialogue are selfless and resolute in finding answers to troubling questions. They are, in fact, putting the interests of their communities above theirs.

There is no denying the fact the conflicts have taken a devastating toll on the residents of the region; lives were cut short, many people displaced from their homes, and commercial and agricultural activities brought to a halt. All told, poverty became more severe. This situation was untenable.

As the region continues to struggle with the issue of poverty and related development problems, chieftaincy disputes and ethnic conflicts should not be the impediments to the its progress.

Efforts have to be made to address these problems as they have shown over the years to be detrimental to the region’s desire to move forward. And our Muslim leaders have taken the first step in this direction. Other voices have to be raised and those who revel in these conflicts are told in uncertain terms that they cannot hold the region hostage to their parochial interests.

We play into the hands of our detractors when conflicts and disputes continue to play out on our landscape. Our critics love to point to the various times our region has exploded in fraternal conflagration to make the absurd claim that our region is profoundly backward and hopelessly irredeemable. Let us prove them wrong and keep them at arm’s length by learning to sort out our differences in amicable ways.

Hopefully, the warring factions in Nanung, Bukprungu and Dagbon are listening to the wise words of our Muslim leaders. We northerners have to confront our demons and lay to rest any lingering doubts that we are pawns in the hands of unscrupulous politicians and devious local leaders. And our checkered past notwithstanding, we can forge ahead; if only for our children and grandchildren to who we owe a future that must be hopeful and optimistic, one that is far removed from the dark and gloomy days of yester-years.







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