When most people think of “hotspots” in Africa, they do not think of Ghana. However, over the past year in the remote northern region of Ghana, a power struggle has left approximately 60 people dead and tensions are rising. Violent protests, related both to the power struggle and to the overall depressed economic conditions, are escalating and are increasingly populated by unemployed youth. Some youth in the region are beginning to identify with the tenets of Boko Haram and, most recently there is evidence that ISIS has started recruiting in this region, including with a goal of recruiting recruiters who would operate in West Africa.
The prospects for extended and sustained violence and destruction are very real. Historically, unrest like this has led to prolonged conflicts with much heavier tolls in terms of casualties and refugees. In the mid-1990s, violence in this region left over 2,000 people dead, hundreds of villages destroyed, and an estimated 200,000 people displaced. In many ways, this current overall situation is the proverbial “perfect storm” that could easily send this region — at peace for more 15 years — into violent and bloody chaos. Obviously, these developments have greatly worried both local community leaders and the National Peace Council, especially in light of upcoming national elections in 2016. Either preemptive action can be taken to resolve the issues leading to conflict within this region before it escalates or we can ignore the problems, only to possibly deal with full-fledged violent extremism later.
72 Africa co-founder and President, Rev. Dr. Clement M. Aapengnuo, has been throughout the Northern Region working with community and local government leaders to help identify issues and areas of conflict.. Specifically in his interaction with the regional peace council, conversations around the need for dialogue involving various groups has been raised, including the need for interaction of both community and religious components in the region. Through these conversations, the idea of an inter-faith peace summit emerged. Due to the upcoming elections in December, the need for this summit was even more pressing.