Fragile Peace in Ghana
While Ghana is generally considered one of the most stable countries in West Africa, it is still plagued by a significant number of recurring conflicts, which have at times erupted into violent clashes with fatal consequences. Ghana’s Northern Region is noted for having the most violent conflicts in the country. The fragile peace in Northern Ghana, largely maintained by military peacekeeping forces, will be tested with the approach of Presidential and Parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for December 2016.
The importance of youth
Youth can be easily manipulated by politicians and community leaders to engage in conflict for the gain of a particular group. However, these youth could instead be trained to contribute to the peacebuilding process. There is an urgent need to engage and train youth in peacebuilding and active nonviolence if we are to counteract the continued socialization of youth into violent behavior. They can be agents of peace and help create an environment for the promotion of peaceful and violence-free elections.
The need for funding
The problem is that there just isn’t enough money to address the issue in a way that could have significant and lasting impact, even though the youth themselves are clamoring for such options. In our recent training effort, three-to-five times as many youth within each of the three regions of northern Ghana applied for positions in the summer peace camp as could be accepted based on available funding.
72 AFRICA’S WORK WITH LOCAL INITIATIVES
Through our work with the locally-created Center for Conflict Transformation and Peace Studies (CECOTAPS), we are implementing a comprehensive project of youth peacebuilding education, sensitization, and capacity building.
We are actively engaged on a daily basis in training Youth Peace Promoters from throughout the northern region of Ghana, giving them the knowledge and skills to work within their own communities to increase knowledge about the election process, to work with community leaders to engage in peaceful processes, and especially to promote the values and ideals of resolving conflicts peacefully among their peers.
Youth Peace Ambassadors YPAs are attending week-long camps where they are given the tools and training to identify root causes of violent conflicts, develop strategies based on conflict analysis, create action plans, and evaluate the implementation of their plans. After the YPAs return to their respective communities, they promote peacebuilding within their communities by planning activities around key youth and peace international holidays, participating in election monitoring through their respective Satellite Peace Centers, and facilitating trainings of Youth Peace Promoters in their schools and communities.
Youth Election Observers Youth who participated in a Youth Peace Promoter or Youth Peace Ambassador training will be eligible to serve as election observers during the 2016 elections. They will receive further training on electoral laws and procedures and how this monitoring information feeds into the regional and national electoral monitoring systems. Youth will utilize ICT to promote peaceful elections and youth activities through the use of an Early Warning System and access to peacebuilding and election messages in local languages for free. An ICT organization is working on the arrangements with the various cell phone networks for free access to peace messages.
When youth are actively engaged in positive peacebuilding activities, regional and local peacebuilding institutions are strengthened. Community members increasingly value peace and commit to creating a culture of nonviolence. Consequently, individuals in Northern Ghana will use peaceful pathways to resolve their conflicts.