In Northern Ghana, inter-tribal conflicts are an ever-present possibility. With long histories behind them, tensions between tribes (or even within tribes) can escalate and lead to violent conflict. When that happens, years of development work are undone in a matter of hours. Residents flee their homes, and abandon their farms and businesses. Young men are killed in warfare, leaving their widows and families grieving and without income.
Conflict prevention and peace building are therefore critical if poverty alleviation is going to work and be sustainable. That is why NEA and GRID incorporate peace building activities into our programs.
NEA (Northern Empowerment Association) is a Ghanaian organization, started by Ghanaians who had experienced extreme poverty themselves. As a result, NEA has a deep understanding of local customs, traditions, and histories that is irreplacable.
This local knowledge is vital for all of NEA’s programming, but it is particularly crucial for peace building.
NEA works within local systems of power to prevent conflict and to negotiate peaceful conflict resolution. In the Deg area, NEA has convened regular meetings with chiefs to discuss priority needs, provide education about development topics, and to identify solutions to areas of potential tension among them. These meetings have been taking place since 1996, and the group has grown in both the number of chiefs involved and in their commitment to working together for the betterment of their communities.
Our Director, Dr. David Mensah, has earned a reputation as a skilled mediator for conflicts. He has been called upon to assist in a number of conflict situations, including the very difficult 1994/95 conflicts in the eastern corridor of the Northern Region. More recently, Dr. Mensah has been selected to act as a senior chief in the Deg area. In this capacity, he has been able to deepen many of NEA’s peace building efforts.