Accepted Paper:

Changing conflicts and conflict resolution in the northern region of Ghana  
Giulia Casentini (University of Pavia)

Paper short abstract:

Northern Ghana is affected by numerous ethnic conflicts. I focus on this situation, in order to widen the relation between the traditional political system and the 'European-born' political institutions, the manipulation of the ethnic identity and the possibilities for a peaceful future.

Paper long abstract:

My paper focuses on my experience in Ghana, Northern Region, between October 2005 and January 2006.

During that period of fieldwork I tried to understand on one hand how people live the chronic inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic conflicts which deeply affects the social and political life of the region, and on the other hand the reasons they themselves give to explain such situation, and the possible solutions they foresee for a peaceful future.

From 1980 to 2002, the Northern Region has been struck by numerous ethnic conflicts, principally caused by disputes over land ownership among the different groups, and chieftaincy problems.

I concentrated on the current perceptions of the Guinea Fowl War of 1994, which broke out in Nanun and then spread out all over the Northern Region (especially in Dagbon), but also on the 1981 clashes between Nanumba and Konkomba in Nanun.

These have been inter-ethnic conflicts, which have seen on one hand Nanumba and Dagomba, population politically and socially organized in a hierarchic way structured on chieftaincy institution, and on the other the Konkomba people, a so-called "acephalous" society, which doesn't have any political representation at local level.

A land ownership problem has broken out among these groups, who live in the same region, which is strictly connected with a process of reassessment and reconstruction of the concept of autochthony.

This process is done in order to establish the ones deserving the "right" to be considered "indigenous" in that territory.

The process of legitimation passes through the possibility of being politically represented at village, district and regional level, and create in the "acephalous" groups the will to have a paramount chief, in such a way rebuilding the social structure.

In this situation of strong tension, I couldn't release myself from considering the opinions and the worries about the inner conflict which tear the largest ethnic group of the region, the Dagomba people, and which broke out in march 2002, after the murder of the Ya Naa (ruler of Dagbon).

This fact is the expression of complex Yendi skin (symbol of power) succession problems, that have been shaking and destabilizing Dagbon for a long time.

The complex relation between the traditional political system and the "European-born" political institutions, after the colonization, comes out in a very clear and unequivocal way working on this field.

After the independence, indeed, an unavoidable interconnection between the two different powers took place and caused an escalation in the succession crisis in Dagbon.

The reaction of the people to these two problematic themes that inflame the region is on one hand, to give the responsibility to the government for not being able to face the situation and for leaving the Northern Region in an economic and political marginal position, and on the other, to self-organize, somehow, in order to try to face the difficulties and the domestic conflicts, that are constantly present in everyday life, among families and neighbourhs.

To this purpose I've lived directly the experience of peace-building workshops organized in the Damongo diocese, with the purpose of containing violence at grass-roots level.

The workshops prepare chiefs, imam, teachers, priest and nuns of any ethnical group to work on their own villages and community encouraging a non violent training.

Panel W004
Europe in Africa – Africa in Europe: Borut Brumen Memorial