The Words of the Osei Family
Tamale, Ghana - In the conflict zone of northern Ghana, the Universal Peace Federation and Religious Youth Service are organizing a youth seminar on July 6 and peace rally on July 8 in coordination with the Community Partnership for Youth and Women Development.
The northern region of Ghana is a conflict zone, and Tamale, the largest city in the north, has always been a base for peace agencies such as ours that have roles to play in conflict intervention. For more than a year, we sought to offer peace education in the area, but our vision did not materialize because of a lack of permanent volunteers. This year, with a new outbreak of conflict and curfew imposed in parts of the North, we wanted to make another attempt.
On April 11, 15 European youth with Youth Service Initiative arrived at the UPF headquarters in Accra on their way back to Europe after a two-week service project in the Katariga community of northern Ghana in coordination with the Community Partnership.
The Director and the Founder of this NGO, Mr. Jacob Yakubu Iddrisu, accompanied the youth. While the Europeans were spending time with local youth, we discussed our shared concerns for conflict resolution and peace education. We arrived at a consensus to partner in educating youth in northern Ghana. On that note, we scheduled my trip to Tamale.
Another notable point was that the West Africa Coordinator of Religious Youth Service in Ghana, Alhaji Kareem Tseney, visited Tamale about two years back and was able to launch Religious Youth Service in three high schools. Shortly after that, three young (Haafiz, Banbebu, and Ayisha) were selected and brought to Accra for a ten-day training program and encouraged to develop Religious Youth Service in Tamale. They worked hard to develop a program, but because of lack of logistics, not much impact was made.
In this respect, coming in contact with Mr. Iddrisu at this time served as a call in the right direction. UPF-Ghana will be able to work in the North in collaboration with the Community Partnership and Religious Youth Service.
After a 16-hour trip, we arrived in Tamale at 1:05 am on May 13 and were received by Mr. Iddrisu, who lodged us in the apartment where his NGO has an office. At 10:00 am, we met with the staff of Community Partnership for Youth and Women Development and Religious Youth Service. Mr. Iddrisu gave an introduction and I explained the purpose of the visit. We discussed plans for organizing a youth seminar and peace rally in Tamale. The idea was well received, and we developed a list of officials to visit.
Between May 13 and 15, a team drawn from UPF, RYS and the Community Partnership met with key leaders:
Coordinator of the Regional Youth Council
President of the Northern Youth League
The Northern Regional Minister
The Representative Chief Overlord of Dagbon in Tamale, the tribe where the King and 40 members of the royal family were massacred in a conflict five years ago.
The Chief of Tamale -- Dakpema. He has contributed so much to the education of the youth in that zone and has played a major role in the peace process to the extent that the boys go to him secretly at night to surrender their guns.
Rev. Fr. Thadeus Kuusah, Chairman of the Northern Regional Peace Council and a member of UN Association for Religious Tolerance. He listened with interest to an explanation of UPF's work related to the UN and especially to the proposal for an inter-religious council at the UN. He sincerely requested that a branch be set up in northern Ghana.
Hon. Alhassan H. Baba, an Assembly member in charge of Katariga Constituency. He is also the Headmaster of the Katariga primary and secondary school where the Youth Service Initiative project took place. Each person contacted expressed deep interest and welcomed UPF's intervention in the zone. They pledged their fervent moral support and looked forward to the program days.
To conclude the rounds, we made a visit to the project site at Katariga where the European youth had done construction work. The two summer huts were completed, and the Resource Centre was ready except for the roof. People in the community will work together to add the finishing touches and bring it to a final completion.
Returning to the office, we met to plan a youth seminar on July 6 and peace rally on July 8. UPF is preparing the educational materials while RYS and Community Partnership are to making contacts and arranging the venues. On May 18, we left Tamale to return to Accra with a feeling of mission having been fulfilled.
Note: Northern Ghana is different from the politically and economically dominant southern and central regions in climate, language, culture, and religion. The local languages are from a different linguistic group than the rest of the country. More than half the people are Muslim, whereas in the rest of the country, the majority of people are Christians. Being closer to the Sahara and Sahel, the climate is much drier. It is one of the least-developed areas, and conflict smolders between the Dagomba, the majority group, who are farmers, and the Konkomba, who are more nomadic. In 1994 the worst ethnic conflicts ever took place in Ghana; several thousand people died and many others moved away.