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Dec. Polls: Bawku in Retrospective

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At the heart of the Kusasi-Mamprusi conflict is an agglomeration of issues about litigations over allodial rights and chieftaincy. Both the Kusasi and the Mamprusi claim allodial ownership of Bawku, claims which are shrouded in their narrative histories of origin and derived from claims of autochthony. This is according to Project MUSE/Ghana Studies: 2014.

The history of litigation over the Bawku conflict dates back to the 1950s. But the last conflict that devastated the north-easternmost corner town of Ghana which was one-time an economic hub of the West African country occurred in December 2007 during the celebration of the Samapiid festival celebrated by the Kusais.

Gun shots boomed through the town, lives lost, properties destroyed and many residents displaced. The insurgence continued with retaliatory attacks through the use of sophisticated weapons. Women, children and the youth were not spared. In fact, some of the youth took active participation in the conflict from either side.

The brutalities intermittently continued until the latter part of 2010 when the perilous situation started paving way for peace process to take place. In the heat of the conflict, the state spent hugely to calm down the situation as it deployed heavy security officers and apparatus mainly from the Military and the Police.
Target killings
Some known persons were targeted, fished out and killed. Some of those victims were either killed in their homes or ambushed.

Curfews
Several hours of curfews were imposed on the town as temporally measures to curtail movements of residents. As temporally measures, the curfew hours varied from time to time as the state of peace was reviewed on monthly basis and appropriate security advice given.

Ban on the use of motorbikes
Being a business town, the use of motorbikes in Bawku was and still of immense help to the people. However, security watchers and personnel identified the use of motorbikes as a threat to the search for peace. According to them, most criminals used motorbikes to perpetrate sporadic shootings and burning down of houses. Even to the extent that unscrupulous persons could ride motorbikes, wield weapons in broad day light and fire either at their targets or aimlessly just to cause commotion.
Subsequently, a ban was placed on the use of motorbikes for a long period. This affected negatively, those who traded in motorbikes, those who repaired them and those who used them to run their businesses as well as workers who used them to and from their offices.

Education and Healthcare
The conflict affected the standards of education in the area because teachers and students could not predict when, where and how sporadic gunshots would be unleashed. Thus, they often avoided teaching and learning to save their lives whenever the situation was precarious. Healthcare providers also flew the town because some of them were targeted and killed while others left because they sensed danger.

Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee
Subsequently, a peace committee – Bawku Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee (BIEPC) was formed and inaugurated in May 2009 to work towards the restoration of lasting peace in the area. The 10-Member Committee was also charged with the responsibility to open up genuine, constructive and effective dialogue among all people of Bawku, especially the major protagonists in the conflict.
Though the committee attained some appreciable level of achievements, misunderstanding later ensued and the Mamprusis withdrew from it. They however returned later for peace talks to continue.

Fleeing for their lives
In the heat of the conflict, many residents, in their hundreds, flew Bawku to neighbouring towns in Ghana including Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper East Region, Zebilla, Nalerigu and some as far as to Tamale, Kumasi, Accra and some other major cities in Ghana. As if that was not enough, some also, mainly the youth, took refuge in neighbouring countries like Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali and anywhere in the world they thought they could find refuge.

Visiting some youth base in the Bawku municipality, some recount their lose as their prominent leaders like Mohamed Bukari, Tanko, Gordon Anaaka, Emanuel Akatame and many others who were deeply involved have withered into the thin air due to the threat they received those days and fear for their lives. Meanwhile, relative of those who lost their lives declined to comment for fear of their safety.
Even though there is a military base in Bazua a deep throat source from the two gates insisted that the lasting solution to the fragile peace is to establish a permanent military base in Bawku town.
Government also did indicate that plans are far advance to resource this military base which has been in the same town since 2008.

As I walked through the main streets of Bawku, interacted with some of indigenes it was clear that some of their colleagues who fled the town have not returned. Maybe, just maybe, some may return and maybe too, they will not.

A 29-year old mobile phone credit vendor at Natinga, a suburb of Bawku, Alebna Victor said; “Two of my brothers had to run away from Bawku because they felt unsafe. One is in Kumasi now but the other one; we don’t know where he is.”

“Though we don’t longer feel threatened like we used to do during the shooting time, I’m not convinced that this conflict won’t happen again. In fact, because of this conflict, my very good friend called Anaka ran away almost four years now I don’t know where he is. Even if I can locate him, I will tell him to be where he is if only that place is safe for him,” Awini Ahmed said.

Naba Asigri Abugrago Azoka II, the Overlord of the Bawku Traditional Area corroborated the fleeing of some residents from the town during the conflict. According to him, the effects of the conflict are retardation of development, loss of lives and destruction of properties.

Not oblivious of the unpredictability of the area, the Overlord advised politicians campaigning for votes ahead of the 2016 polls to desist from the use of provocative language so as to avoid any disturbances.
Meanwhile, Bawku Central constituency has been identified as one of the flash-points ahead of the December. In Ghana, flash-points are electoral areas that are prone to violent during elections. It is often identified by the Ghana Police service in conjunction areas yet the Electoral Commission.

It is therefore incumbent on all security agencies to remain resolute, neutral and impartial to anything to chance as far as peace in Bawku.

Source: TopNewsGhana.ocm/William Nlanjerbor Jalulah

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