The development of the roadmap for peace in Dagbon is brilliant news for all.
On Thursday 22nd November 2018, theAsantehene, OtumfuoOsei Tutu II, Nayiri, AbdulaiMahamiSheriga and Yagbonwura, TuntumbaBoresaSulemanaJakpa I laid out the Dagbon Roadmap for Peace. The launch has galvanised an admirable level of national interest and support.At no time have prospects for evolving and implementing a peace agreement appeared more propitious. In this piece, I reflect on the roadmap through a three part approach. First, I highlight how the chiefs displayed deep knowledge of mediation using a delicate combination of culture, tradition and formal law; second, I encourage Ghanaians to support the process and finally,I draw attention to a potential dangerwithin the roadmap and some observations after the launch.
The roadmap is the main national framework that provides a set of comprehensive activities designed to gradually find sustainable peace in Dagbon. In this vein, the Eminent Kings primarily drew on opportunities embedded in the (evolving) culture and tradition of Dagbon. Culture and tradition work in a context where the constitution is (suppose to be) supreme. It is apparent that the Kings are absolutely aware that Ghana has a complex plural legal system where different cultures and traditions compete and cooperate with formal law to govern different societies - and their appreciation and knowledge of this milieu proved important in crafting the roadmap.
All culture and tradition are dynamic, and keen observers of the roadmap would have noticed that some innovationshave been introduced into particular aspects of the culture and tradition of Dagbon- in pursuit of sustainable peace. To introduce innovations to certain aspects of some cultural and/or traditional practices in peace time is not always easy. This becomes more complicated during conflict or in post conflict setting - where mistrust is high. Therefore,for instance, the ability of the Kings to introduce some degree of innovation into the emotionally charged issue of funerals of the two YaaNa’s (plus others)is admirable! As a footnote to the last point though, the writer is not oblivious to the fact that dominant interest(s) can and often use innovations and changes within culture and tradition to enhance their interest - and this much be keenly watched!
To find sustainable peace, each person can support the process. First, the factions must live by their verbal and written commitments. Women and youth have a critical role to play and this is not entirely new in Dagbon. As Professor Awedoba notes, in Dagombaland,‘there are several chieftaincy positions that have been reserved for women – principally daughters of the king’.;(see, UN S/RES/ 1325). The government must stay neutral and avoid all temptation to meddle. CSOs and community based organisations that have been working at the sub national level on the issue must be fully supported. In the coming days, the legitimacy and credibility of the security agencies will be tested/key. They must treat people with respect and dignity, offer people the space to seek clarifications and avoid any semblance of bias. Corporate bodies can contribute financially too - for we all benefit from peace.
A caveat here is in order! The launch of the roadmap is just the beginning of a complicated journey.
About a week before the funerals and hopefully, the announcement of a new YaaNaa, Ghanaians should show open solidarity and support for the Dagbon peace process. We could wear Dagomba smock, hat or any other native Dagomba attire to openly demonstrate support for the peace process. Cars can fly Ghana flags too. I would love to see Members of Parliament, public and civil servants, staff of corporate bodies wearing Dagomba attire. In implementing the roadmap, the support of (social)media is vitally important. Media must give wide and positive coverage to the peace process.
Ghana has consistently demonstrated her ability to build resilience against national level instability and this is remarkable- although the picture is more complicated. With the possibility of new security threats looming large at humankind partly as a result of climate change – a hint for Ghana is the increasing conflict between herders and farmers over grazing land and water- we need to constantly evolve innovative and indigenous ways that can prevent, manage and resolve conflicts. The success of the Dagbon roadmap offers us an opportunity to demonstrate this resilience again.
Now the danger! It is about how the new YaaNaa will be elected by the four elders; and then installed.Does any of the elders have personal preference which means he has to recuse himself? What happens if there is no consensus on what the ‘oracle’is saying? Does the magico religious process make room for multiple and conflicting interpretations – and how can this dispute be addressed? Have the factions stated clearly that they trust the four elders equally and will therefore accept their verdict? Is the formula for rotation going to be suspended?
The above concerns, if not proactively addressed, can pose real threats to the roadmap. Moreover, in dealing with a verdict from the elders, does the Supreme Court have the legitimacy (and competence) to handle disputes of magico religious processes, interpretations, outcomes and so on - that have direct impact on national security? It is important to also note that having local knowledge alone is not always enough ground to gain legitimacy. The person speaking to an issue – at least in some cultural setting- is even more important than what they know and/or say- even if they know it all). This is why deep local knowledge of (the evolution of)specific cultural and traditional philosophies is needed to be able to navigate the complex terrain between on the one hand, (evolving) culture and tradition and on the other, the principles of formal law (in a liberal democracy like Ghana)..It is in this vein that the three Kings are well placed to continue to support the implementation of the agreement.
One more observation before I conclude these reflections. It seems to me that substantial part of the official rhetoric that has accompanied the preparation phase of the implementation of the roadmap (after the launch) has focussed too much attention on potential ‘spoilers’ (for instance, see, Daily Graphic, November 30, 2018, p.17. But we need to really highlight all the efforts being made by key players (CSOs, government, media and so on) to create an enabling environment for the implementation of the roadmap (for one heart warming example, see, Ghanaian Times, Monday, December 3, 2018- Dagbon youth march in support of roadmap).
Finally, we should not over militarise the implementation process. Heavy military presence in full combat readiness must be really thought through even in light of credible intelligence. In other words, the strategy of deterrence must be in sync with the entire process.We must avoid any impression of imposing an agreement – it will not be sustainable (financially, socially etc). Ultimately, the best weapon/tool for sustaining peace in Dagbon is to win the hearts and minds of ordinary to support the peace process - this is the linchpin for sustainable peace. Police is key in this light. Let us be clear on what police must do when, in what numbers, posture, and so on and what the military must do – when, and in what numbers, posture etc. Impressions are important. To conclude, we need a robust media strategy to combat the activities of for instance, agent provocateurs and other spoilers - who will attempt to use misinformation through various platforms to undermine the process.
Implementing any peace agreement is a complex process – nevertheless, we can all support it. I firmly believe we can! It’s a Ghana affair, not Dabgon alone. Let us all support it.
Emmanuel Addo Sowatey