Projects in Ghana
For decades, Tuobodom, Ghana, has lived in conflict, resulting in many deaths and injuries, as well as contributing to a general state of fear in the community and a lack of development. Due to a deep-seated chieftaincy dispute affecting both perceptions of land ownership and local politics, the town of Tuobodom is literally divided in half between the two chiefs.
To aid in the resolution of this crisis, the PPP supported local efforts to bring the two factions together in August of 2016. Following initial meetings with chiefs, elders, religious leaders, politicians, youth, and other community members, the PPP team in collaboration with the Concerned Youth of Tuobodom (CYT), a self-organized youth group engaged in promoting peace in the area, facilitated an actor meeting with representatives of each of these actor groups. More than 44 people who attended the meeting took an active part in discussing the causes and effects of this conflict as well as strategizing ways in which they can bring peace to Tuobodom. At the end of this actor meeting, participants formed a local peace committee named the Tuobodom Peacemakers Committee (TPMC), consisting of 11 community members who represent each faction and various actor groups. In the coming months, the committee plans to build on and implement the strategies for peace identified at the meeting ranging from community outreach programs and shared activities to reconciliation processes and steps toward resolving the chieftaincy dispute.
On September 9, 2013, the city of Berekum in the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana in the central part of the country celebrated with joy and welcomed its new, legitimized chief. After 13 years of tension, hopelessness, multiple failed attempts at resolution, judicial delays, and the looming threat of violence over who should be chief of Berekum, the Regional House of Chiefs had finally pronounced a verdict and named a Paramount Chief of Berekum. As Berekum celebrated, so did eight of its valiant sons and daughters, all citizens of Berekum who came together in 2012 to form the Berekum Peace Committee (BPC). With assistance and encouragement from the Purdue Peace Project, and in the face of considerable odds, the BPC helped make the much-delayed judgment a reality. This representative and inclusive group of Berekum citizens was relentless in its advocacy efforts, not just with the royal families and supporters in the community, imploring them to maintain peace and shun violence, but also with the Judicial Committee of the Regional House of Chiefs, and urged this adjudicating body to hear the case and deliver a verdict in it. Their efforts certainly paid off, for within a year of their commencing their advocacy, the Judicial Committee did indeed deliver a verdict, and, arguably, thanks to their efforts the verdict was received by the royal families without any violence.
When competing parties in a dispute are brought together to discuss their differences, the situation is bound to be fraught with tension. Such was the case of a meeting convened by the PPP to discuss ways to prevent violence over a simmering chieftaincy dispute in Kato, Ghana. At the meeting, attended by both disputing factions, as well as everyday citizens of Kato, the atmosphere was tense, as if a single wrong word might lead to a fistfight. And yet the attendees persevered. All was calm until the last half hour of the meeting, when a suggestion from one citizen to revisit the history of chieftaincy in Kato devolved into a shouting match between the two warring factions, and promised to turn physical. Within minutes, however, the citizens attending the meeting found their voices amidst the clamor, and prevailed upon each faction to calm down and restore decorum to the meeting. This incident marked the everyday citizens’ first attempt to collectively prevent violence between the two factions, a goal toward which they continue to work through a peace committee they named the Odo Na 3y3 Committee (meaning "love is good”) or LIGC.
In a region known for lack of rain and occasional drought, locals are hopeful for a fruitful harvest if only once per year. Yet in Nandom, Ghana, tension surrounding land disputes - marked by threats of violent behavior, destroyed crops, beatings, and even death - further complicates the hope of feeding one’s family. Such has been the case for years as the people of Nandom struggled to peacefully resolve conflicts surrounding farmland ownership which has a strong ethnic dimension. In 2013, the PPP worked with local citizens to organize a three-day community dialogue in Nandom to discuss the land disputes as well as strategies to promote and sustain peace. As a result, the Dagara-Sisaala Peace Committee (DASIPEC) emerged to enact the strategies discussed at the meeting ranging from community outreach and advocacy to an inter-community football tournament. In many situations since that time, DASIPEC intervened to help resolve tensions by appealing for peace, and advising disputing parties to stay calm and dialogue instead of resorting to violence. In 2015, DASIPEC members indicated there were no incidents of violence during the farming season, despite early indications that there might be. Interventions by peace committee members and youth leaders also helped head off one of the land conflicts from boiling over early in the 2015 farming season.
In March 2015, during worship and prayer at a local mosque, pepper spray and gunshots tore through the holy space causing panic among the Muslim community in Nandom, Ghana. Although no one was killed during this attack, this event triggered further threats of riots and bloody conflict among the seven ethnic groups comprising Nandom’s Muslim community, calling for police protection at the mosque for Friday prayers. To address this inter-ethnic conflict the PPP convened a meeting in July 2015 with representatives of the seven ethnic groups to engage in dialogue and to identify non-violent ways forward. With the help of Nandom Youth for Peace and Development (NYPAD), a group of local youth engaged in peacebuilding efforts that developed from another PPP initiative in the Nandom area, a peace committee emerged from this meeting, comprised of members of the various ethnic groups. Since this time, the Nandom paramount chief appointed new Muslim leadership which is accepted among the various ethnic groups and contributes to keeping violence at bay.
Fraught with tension and bad blood, two neighboring communities in the Upper West Region of Ghana for years have faced disagreements over land boundaries and ownership, discriminatory practices, and language barriers. The distressed inter-ethnic relations between the Dagara people of Nandom and the Sisaala people of Lambussie continue to haunt them today. In November 2015, the PPP worked with the Nandom Youth for Peace and Development (NYPAD), a group of youth that came together to organize a football tournament, to convene two meetings in the communities of Nandom and Lambussies to address these inter-ethnic relations. More than 150 people from the two communities attended these meetings, resulting in agreements to engage in peaceful relations and participate in each other’s local festivals and sporting events. As of May 2016, local efforts have contributed to increased and improved relations between the ethnic groups and specifically between leaders and the youth of the two districts.
On June 4, 2016, a date historically significant in Ghana for a violent and bloody political revolution in 1979, a group of youth led a march of hundreds down the streets of one district in the Upper West Region in Ghana to call for peace in the upcoming November elections. Watchdog organizations and media reports have warned of the potential for violence surrounding Ghana’s 2016 elections, and this group of youth, who once got together to play football (soccer), were taking matters into their own hands and organizing to prevent violence before, during, and after the election within and beyond their own district. With assistance and encouragement from PPP, these youth, who call themselves the Nandom Youth for Peace and Development (NYPAD), have, to date, hosted weekly radio programs, engaged in community outreach, and visited schools to advocate for peace during the election season in addition to their march which aimed to publicly call on traditional and political leaders as well as the community to maintain peace during the election. Leading up to and following the election, they plan for additional outreach which will also include town hall meetings, film shows, and a friendly football tournament, all with the aim of preventing violence in their communities.