The year 2012 has seen several low intensity but fatal ethnic, religious, chieftaincy and communal clashes in several parts of Ghana including between Kokombas and Bemobas in the Northern Region; Fantes and Ewes in Ekumfi Narkwah in Central Region; Muslims and Ewes in Hoehoe in the Volta Region; between Tijaniya and the Al-Sunnah religious sects in Tamale; Namoligo and Shea-Tindongo and Dorungo and Sokabisi communities in the Upper East Region; and between Fulani herdsmen and farming communities in Ashanti and Eastern Regions.
These developments have had impact on human security, local economic development, migration, and security in the regions and in the districts. For example the clash between Muslims and Ewes in Hoehoe resulted in several properties being destroyed and led to an estimated 6000 people fleeing their homes. Similarly the communal violence between Namoligo and Shea-Tindongo communities claimed four lives. Also the gun battle between the Kokombas and Bemobas claimed one life, and severely injured six people while more than hundred houses were burnt down.
The question many are asking is: what is driving the clashes and violence in the country. Though the causes of the clashes and violence are many there is no doubt that underdevelopment, economic insecurity, poverty and inequality; social and economic exclusion of some social groups are suspect. Also implicated are the uneven development between the regions in the north and those in the south and the competition for resources such as land, minerals and water by different interest groups. Additionally, the failure of the state to honour its social contract with the people, to provide them with economic and social goods, has a critical role in driving the conflicts. A more important factor is the naked greed and the penchant of politicians, their politically connected allies, traditional rulers, and state bureaucrats to accumulate the nation's wealth and to appropriate the benefits of economic growth to themselves.
Undoubtedly Ghana has made progress economically relative to its West African neighbours (see the table below). Politically Ghana continues to be an island of peace in a neighbourhood full of political and social turbulence. However, there are a lot of questions about the quality and character of the progress Ghana has made, particularly that of socio-economic development. Ghana for example is no where near its contemporaries in Asia regarding industrialisation, economic development, poverty reduction and social advancement.
The huge mismatch between housing demand and supply; the perennial water and gas shortages; frequent electricity disruptions; the non-collection of garbage from the streets and the associated frequent cholera outbreaks; and the slow pace of infrastructural development including the non-functioning of the railway sector are examples of how Ghana has stagnated since the mid-1960s. The lack of efficient utilisation of human capital and labour particularly the unemployment and underemployment of tertiary graduates amply illustrate the state of development in the country.
Besides, the long period it takes for citizens to receive services such as passports, birth certificates and pension benefits and the corruption associated with them is a reflection of the state of development of the country. Last week the Ghana News Agency quoted Mrs. Esi Amoaful of Ghana Health Service as saying that about 12,000 children die of food and nutritional related diseases every year. Besides it has now become ritual that every year 150,000 Junior High School graduates (the size of the population of Cape Coast) join the wagon of semi-literate, low-skilled, unemployed force in the country.
In fact as evidenced from the table above, socio-economic development, which are the most worrying problems facing Ghana have not been prioritised and courageously confronted with clear and unambiguous policies and programmes. More dangerous is the indifference of policymakers and lack of political vision to formulate a comprehensive national economic policy and effective strategy to turn the fortunes of the country around and to positively impact its people.
As a result socio-economic development and the associated opportunities such as job security, food security, water security, health security, energy security, and access to high quality education, medicines and housing are far removed from majority of the people. The existence of these problems together with poverty, illiteracy, social inequality, urbanisation, chieftaincy disputes, ethnic, religious, and communal rivalries are undermining security at the local, regional and even at the national level.
By ignoring economic and social development of the people especially the youth, Ghana is slowly setting itself on the path of insecurity. The evidence of this is not only the ethnic and communal clashes that have become rampant this year, but the daily report of armed robberies taking place in cities, towns, communities, and on the country's highways. Over the past two weeks the following armed robbery headlines have appeared on www.myjoyonline.com: “Chairman of Public Accounts Committee of Parliament robbed”; “Armed robbers in mass highway robbery, close to 20 vehicles involved”; “Abelenkpe, Dzowulu residents terrorised by armed gangs”; “Armed attacks: Dansoman residents worried over police inertia”. These armed robberies have direct relationship with lack of economic security and employment opportunities for the people. They show that the lack of economic security is slowly opening the doors for crimes to the extent that even public officials are not safe.
In other words there is a strong correlation between lack of development and the armed robberies and recent ethnic, religious, chieftaincy and communal clashes in the country. The development-induced clashes are in line with the notion that equitable, just and inclusive development not only increase a country's security, but also lead to lasting peace and stability. As we have seen increasingly in Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Mali, countries that take care of all their people not only tend to be stable, but they also tend to enjoy long periods of peace and stability and are not characterised by conflict and civil strife. Put differently the long term security of any country (Ghana included) is linked to the safety, dignity, welfare and wellbeing of all her citizens. In other words the absence of development (job security, income security, food security, water security, energy security, health security, education) acts as a trigger for armed robberies, conflicts, instability, social turmoil and general insecurity.
President Obama echoed these issues in December 2009, during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway noting that: “It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It [security] does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within”.
Thus politicians and policymakers who understand the inextricable relationship between development and security always aspire to meet the immediate and long term physical and material needs of the people. They create opportunities for all the citizens, providing them with capabilities, assets and the enabling environment that allow them as Frances Stewart of Oxford University puts it, 'to lead longer, healthier and fuller lives' free from financial poverty, economic misery and from every kind of want, fear and threats including joblessness, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, diseases, crimes, danger, food, water, health and energy insecurity.
In the case of Ghana the presence of socio-economic problems are acting as points of frustrations, depleting the tolerance and patience of the people. The collective effects are the armed robberies and the fatal ethnic, religious, chieftaincy and communal clashes that surfaced in several parts of the country this year.
It indicates that if nothing is done to aggressively address them not only will our MPs and public officials not be safe, but the long term stability, peace and security of the country may be compromised. Put differently while investing in the latest military and police hardware could contribute to insuring security and safety of Ghanaians, the cheapest way to avoid armed robberies, ethnic, communal and religious conflicts and instability is through genuine and inclusive development i.e. development that provides economic security for all Ghanaians and bridges inequality between regions, districts, and all the social classes.
This therefore calls for inclusive economic growth where the benefits of economic growth as well as revenues from resources such as oil, gold, timber and other resources are equitably distributed to ensure that the material welfare of all Ghanaians is improved. Thus we need to prioritise the security of the people, not only their safety but also their dignity, welfare and well-being. The task however should not be left to the politicians alone. Closer collaboration between politicians, bureaucrats, universities, the private sector and civil society is importantly needed.
By Lord Aikins Adusei, firstname.lastname@example.org
5 October, 2012
5 October, 2012