Ghana peace architecture to get boost from lawmakers

21 Dec 2010

Local chiefs convene in Accra to discuss Ghana's Peace Architecture (Photo: UNDP)
Accra - Lawmakers in Ghana are this month due to consider backing an independent peace-building body that has helped to solve disputes between some of the country’s many distinct ethnic and tribal groups and that could be replicated in other countries.

A government-sponsored bill - expected to be tabled in Parliament during the coming days – would strengthen Ghana’s National Peace Council, an institution originating in 2003 with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Bill would guarantee non-partisan membership of the council which helped to defuse tensions around the country’s 2008 elections and whose members are currently appointed directly by the President of Ghana.

“The council’s role in peacemaking has already made a great contribution to reducing inter-communal tensions across Ghana,” said Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, UNDP Resident Representative and Resident Coordinator. “The legal recognition this Bill would bring is an excellent step in helping to meet our development goals.”

The council is the backbone of a US$4 million initiative, the National Architecture for Peace - supported by UNDP - that has promoted community dialogue and raised early warning alerts on potential conflict since 2005.

Over the past five years, UNDP’s support for the peace programme has consisted of: financial contributions; dispatch of a senior governance adviser that has worked with the government to develop and implement the programme; and technical training for all institutions involved.

Although Ghana is commonly seen as an example of stability in the region, the country’s security has at times been under threat, due to rivalries among local chiefs, conflicts over natural resources and political practices based on local allegiances and patronage networks.

In 2002, in the country’s north, these tensions slid into an intra-clan dispute that led to the death of the king of the Dagombas, an ethnic group living in the Sahel belt, and 40 of his followers. The peace programme was the extension of a 2003 pilot project to reduce tensions in the region.

Under the programme, national, regional and district-level peace councils were established, directly mediating disputes between rival political and ethnic factions and acting as early warning systems for potential conflict.

In addition, councils provided training on peace-related issues for government officials and civil society representatives, promoted the role of women in peace-building, and developed codes of conduct and guidelines for candidates, election officials and the media and civic education for voters. It also collected data and devised a syllabus for schools and universities.

“We nearly came to catastrophic elections in 2008,” said Ghana’s Interior Minister, Hon. Martin A. B. K. Amidu during a recent visit to UNDP in New York. “Members of the Council sat down with the presidential candidates and persuaded them to accept the election results, regardless of the outcome,” he said.

Throughout the country, the councils have conducted outreach activities with a broad range of youth activists, women’s groups and local officials, successfully settling community grievances and campaigning for peace in areas including the Northern, Upper West and Volta Regions.

The success of Ghana’s initiative has been used as a model for other countries, including Kenya where a peace infrastructure was put in place following post-election violence in 2008.

A UNDP forum in February this year to share best practices on such peace-building initiatives included representatives from Benin, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.