In a united front, several prominent associations from the Upper East Region, including BONABOTO (The Association of the Citizens of Bolgatanga, Nangode, Bongo and Tongo), the Bisa Development Association, the Buluk Bisa Club and the United Kassena Nankana East Association, involving people from (Kandiga, Manyoro, Mirigu, Natugunia, Nabango, Sirigu Yua), have convened a joint press conference in Accra to address the ongoing chieftaincy conflict in Bawku, which has plagued the region for nearly three years.
The associations, in their address to the media and read by the National President of Bonaboto, Prof. Samuel Atintono, emphasized the urgent need for peace in Bawku and the wider Upper East Region, calling on all stakeholders to work towards a resolution that would bring an end to the devastating ethnic and chieftaincy disputes.
The conflict in Bawku, which rekindled in 2021, has resulted in a distressing number of casualties, with countless reports of killings and maiming, primarily targeting the youth. While official reports indicate a death toll exceeding 200 individuals, the associations believe the actual number is much higher due to unreported cases as it has been the case in conflicts.
The associations questioned the motives behind these killings, urging the youth to reconsider their participation in the conflict and the interests they serve. They emphasized that the ongoing violence has had a devastating impact on the region’s economy, transforming the once vibrant commercial town of Bawku into a ghost town.
Businesses have shuttered, and residents have fled in fear for their lives, with many seeking refuge in nearby towns like Bolgatanga, Navrongo, and Sandema among others.
Loss of access to critical services is a growing concern, with healthcare, education, and public services severely affected. Hospitals and healthcare facilities have been forced to close or reduce their operations, with dire consequences, including a reported 27 pregnant women losing their lives due to the lack of medical care. The associations stressed the urgency of restoring peace to prevent further unnecessary deaths.
Moreover, the conflict’s consequences have not been limited to Bawku alone. Nearby towns like Bolgatanga and Navrongo are experiencing increased pressure and stress on public and private institutions. The associations affirmed their commitment to working proactively with security agencies to contain the conflict and ensure the peace and stability of the broader Upper East Region.
The associations put forth several appeals to stakeholders in the Bawku conflict resolution including; an appeal to the Mamprugu Overlord Nayiri and Mamprusi youth to cease actions that may escalate the conflict and prioritize peace, the Bawku Naba, Naba Azoka Abugdago the II, and Kusasi youth to also exercise caution to avoid escalating tensions in the area, emphasizing the importance of adhering to security agencies’ directives.
The unions called on the eminent Asantehene Committee, led by Otumfo Osei Tutu II, to expedite the conflict resolution process for sustainable peace and urged the media commission take steps to close media outlets that fuel the conflict through their channels without bias and stand firm on its feet to ensure that the media reports accurately on conflicts to avoid conflict escalation in the future.
Equally, the security agencies were urged to constantly monitor social media and apprehend individuals inciting violence in the communities as well as appealing to government to deal decisively with troublemakers from both sides and take legal action against those who promote the conflict.
The military and police should use their intelligence to prevent small arms and ammunitions from entering the conflict zone and also conduct regular swoops and searches to uncover and appropriately punish those in possession of sophisticated weapons.
The associations further affirmed their commitment to be part of the solution to the Bawku Conflict and expressed their readiness to engage with the youth from both sides to chart a path towards peace. They commended the efforts of security agencies, REGSEC, and all those working to restore peace in Bawku.
“The call for peace in Bawku has gained momentum and aims to address the urgent need for a resolution that will not only bring peace to the region but also promote the economic and social well-being of its people” Prof. Atintono emphasized.
He gave the assurance the associations stressed that it is in the collective interest of all parties to silence the guns and work towards a lasting and peaceful solution for the benefit of the people.