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Opinions Wed, 11 Mar 2009

Peace, Necessary Ingredient for Bridging North-South Gap

A GNA Feature by Samuel Adadi Akapule

Bolgatanga, March 10, GNA - There is no doubt that the desire by the Government and its partners to bridge the developmental gap between the North and the South would be a mirage if the people in the area continued to engage in conflicts and violence.

This is because development no matter what form it takes cannot thrive in an atmosphere of conflict and violence. It must be emphasized that peace is a pre-requisite for development and without it, forget about development.

No wonder in his peace tour to Bawku, the conflict zone, Vice President John Dramani Mahama, pointed out that the constant violence in Bawku would not only rob the area of meaningful development, but would also scare potential investors and deny the people employment opportunities.

Ironically, the very people who are clamouring for development are the very people, who in one way or the other, continue to contribute to the fuelling of the conflicts in the area.

Unless those, who are causing the conflict, changed their attitudes and rallied behind the Government and other development partners to help to push the developmental agenda of the area forward to catch up with that of the Southern Ghana, the place would continue to lapse behind. In the first place, people cannot work in an atmosphere where there is constant violence and conflicts and that is why most workers had to take to their heels whenever there is conflict to save their lives. Developmental projects are usually abandoned; Government Departments close down and business activities come to a stand still in conflict situations.

Lives and property are also lost during conflict situations and monies that could otherwise have been channelled into development are rather used for peace keeping. So far, monies used in the past and still being used for peace-keeping in the conflict zones in the country, especially Bawku and Tamale, could have been used to develop those areas.

If the Northern Regions were peaceful, they would have attracted a lot of investors to open up the area for economic development. No investor would like to operate in an atmosphere of conflict. It is, therefore, imperative for the people of Northern descent to marshal all plans they could to curtail the recurring of conflicts in the area especially, in Bawku and Tamale.

There should be a roundtable conference involving influential Northerners across the country to brainstorm and to develop strategies to deal with the conflicts in the area. Few selfish people should not be allowed to destroy the area at the expense of the majority of the people.

Well-to-do Businessmen, who are alleged to be buying sophisticated weapons at huge prices for people to engage in the conflict, should desist from that and rather use such monies to invest in the education of the youth. They could do this by instituting scholarship schemes to sponsor the needy but brilliant children.

There should be a rigorous monitoring of the proliferation of weapons in towns bordering Bawku and other conflict-prone areas. A thorough search should be mounted by the security agencies to seize all weapons from the warring factions.

Vice President Mahama during his visit to the conflict zones warned that the Government was committed to ensuring peace and would not shield weapon wielders in Tamale and Bawku and that people caught would be dealt with irrespective of their political linage. This is welcoming news and needs to be put into practice.

Peace building initiatives on the conflict in Bawku should be strengthened to involve all the factions in the conflict. The practice of allowing suspected murderers to roam freely while investigations are being conducted; breeds impunity so the courts would be doing the country a great deal of good if they remanded such people in custody. These are not normal days and as William Shakespeare said "abnormal diseases are cured with abnormal remedies", human rights advocates notwithstanding.

There is also the need for the Government to come out with a white paper on the Bawku chieftaincy issue as demanded by Naba Asigri Abugrago Azoka, Paramount Chief of the Bawku Traditional Area.

In fact, the notion that the three Northern Regions are poor is not true as the area abounds with potentials that could be tapped to salvage the people from their plight and to help to bridge the gap between the North and the South.

The area abound in resources including gold deposits; rocks for quarry; sheanuts; rice and other cereal crop and tourist sites among other things, which could be tapped for the development of the area. But without peace these potentials could not be tapped.

In the Independence Day Celebration in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region, the Vice President told the people from the area that the present Government had plans, including the extension of the road network, investment in health and education, improvement of the agriculture sector, the creation of sheanut industry through the Northern Savannah Development Fund all geared towards bridging the gap between the North and the South.

But could these laudable dreams be realised without peace? There is the need for Northerners to listen to the Vice President and work for peace in the area to pave the way for development. Northerners should bear in mind that without peace the gap between the North and the South cannot be bridged as promised by the present Government but would even continue to widen.

It should be borne in mind that posterity would judge this generation. There is nothing to gain in conflict. It rather creates wanton destruction of properties, loss of lives and needless suffering, especially among children and women, who are the most vulnerable.

Columnist: GNA