Nandom, Ghana, April 2017
Promoting Violence-Free Elections in the Upper West Region of Ghana
Purdue Peace Project graduate research assistant Jasmine Linabary and graduate student volunteer Meghana Rawat recently returned from a trip to Ghana, during which they visited a local youth peace committee working in Nandom, Ghana.
For local peacebuilders in the Nandom district of Ghana, the 2016 national elections meant the potential for violence in their communities.
The Nandom Youth for Peace and Development (NYPAD), a local youth peace committee in the district convened by the PPP, indicated Nandom was considered a “flashpoint” for Ghana’s 2016 elections, given existing land disputes and inter-ethnic conflict in the area, as well as lack of knowledge about the election process (e.g., registration, voting),high rates of illiteracy and poverty. They were concerned that youth in particular could be incited and mobilized for violence by politicians and others seeking to influence election outcomes.
In response, NYPAD actively sought over the past year to prevent violence before, during and after Ghana’s elections. With support and encouragement from the PPP, NYPAD engaged in a variety of activities as part of their Violence-Free Election Campaign, including community outreach, school visits, radio programs, a town hall meeting, a peace walk, and an inter-community football tournament, among others.
The election was held in December 2016 without incident. As one NYPAD member shared:
“I think one significant impact I felt NYPAD made on this year’s election that our message of a violence-free election went down well to the youth especially, because that was our target group. Why am I saying that? Because the first time in Nandom here, campaigns were held without our normal rough riding of motorbikes, accidents, insults and clash of factions here and there.”
In April 2016, during the PPP’s visit to Nandom, we observed NYPAD engage in post-election community outreach, talk with four communities in the Nandom district about the election and the impact of their campaign. In two days, we covered the communities of Dondometang, Dabagteng, Naimwin and Naapaal. These outreach meetings were each attended by between 25 to more than 70 people, including chiefs and queen mothers, elders, men, women and youth from each community.
At each outreach meeting, NYPAD members shared messages of peace and facilitated a conversation about the election. The community members participated with enthusiasm in NYPAD’s evaluation of the election process and shared the impacts of a peaceful election for their communities. NYPAD had developed its own evaluation questionnaire to understand how the community members perceived the 2016 elections. The community members narrated heartwarming examples of how NYPAD’s cumulative effort to spread messages of peace had made an impact on the election process, which some described as the “most peaceful election in Nandom ever.”
In focus groups with the PPP following the community outreach, community members told us that listening to messages of peace on the radio, in churches, and in community meetings led by NYPAD had made them more tolerant as a community and more respectful of each other’s political views. As one woman shared, “Before the 2016 elections, we are from different parties and would see a group of people which party those people belong to and you are afraid to go and sit with them as you might feel that they will attack them. You were fearful to even talk to each other. But this time that disappeared.”
Community members attributed this change to NYPAD. They shared that before NYPAD engaged in community outreach efforts, they used to be fearful but that afterward they “became relaxed and did not fear one another.”
Community members also spoke about how the inter-community football tournament has helped unite the youth so that they are less likely to be incited to violence. In Dondometang, there was a specific example of how knowledge about the election process had helped a local man intervene to help his children avoid voter fraud. There were also unintended outcomes reported such as a reduction in marital conflicts since peace messages had been initiated by NYPAD.
In all the outreach meetings, NYPAD encouraged the local youth and elders to come together and document the history of their respective communities. This is part of ongoing efforts by NYPAD to understand the underlying causes of conflict in Nandom and to prevent violence in the area.
Following their successful Violence-Free Election Campaign, NYPAD remains committed to continuing to build peace in the district.
-Author Jasmine Linabary is a graduate research asssistant and author Meghana Rawat is a volunteer with the PPP.