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Processes of Escalation and De-Escalation in North Ghana

Duration: 2006 - 2007

Project leader: Dieter Neubert; Artur Bogner

Funding: Berghoff Foundation: 1.2.2006-31.01.2007

Project description

Ghana is among the countries south of the Sahara that have been spared larger-scale armed conflicts until today. Moreover, during the past 14 years, Ghana has achieved the transition to parliamentary democracy with apparent success and, after decades of economic decline, experienced a kind of modest economic miracle. This favourable view needs considerable qualification with regard to the Northern Region that saw many violent local conflicts since 1980 and was in 1994 the venue for a civil war that lasted several weeks. After the civil war in this province a consortium of Ghanaian and international NGOs attempted to mediate between the four ethno-political factions (from Dagomba, Konkomba, Nanumba and Gonja) involved in the war and initiated a peace process that led to an almost comprehensive peace treaty in 1996 and to its (on the whole) successful implementation. The themes of the project that is funded by the Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies are the history, explanation and consequences of this peace process. Which are the lessons to be learnt from it for the practice of constructive conflict management as well as for the theory of communal conflicts in Africa? Since 1994 the importance of NGOs for the local processes of de-escalation or violent escalation has greatly increased in Ghana. More and more the NGOs – last not least the churches and organisations connected to them – have become important partners in communication and mediators for the factions in local conflicts as well as for the government and local administrations. This success story leads to two important results that are usually not intended by peace-building activities. First, whereas interethnic conflict has been successfully de-escalated, intra-ethnic conflicts (most often chieftaincy conflicts) tend to become more pronounced and more violent. The NGOs active in peacebuilding are now again asked to mediate in these conflicts. This leads to the second point. The NGOs have established themselves as an important local actor that de facto interferes in a core activity of the state which is the guarantee of creating and maintaining public order.

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