PEACE AND UNITY CENTER
The main hub of CECOTAPS, the Unity Center in Damongo, has grown into an institution recognized in Ghana as a peacebuilding center. The Center has trained over six thousand people and intervened in five major chieftaincy conflicts in northern Ghana. In addition to hosting mediations and conflict transformation workshops, the Center also includes a peace resource and research library.
peacebuilding and conflict transformation workshops
In collaboration with the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), a total of 337 development workers were trained in conflict analysis and peacebuilding. These workshops focused on practical strategies and skills such as conciliation, mediation and active non-violence. Participants developed action plans for peacebuilding in their respective communities. In each workshop, the participants left with a program of action involving further training and similar workshops for their communities.
A total of twelve workshops were organized for about 591 opinion leaders (chiefs, youth association leaders, and women’s groups). The rationale behind training opinion leaders is that development workers alone cannot bring about sustainable peace in the Northern Region. Opinion leaders are influential in their communities and often work closely with the development workers. They are also potential sources of conflict. These trainings focused on early warning and early response. This program explored the historical and cultural dimensions of conflicts. The training elicited from participants ways of integrating conflict transformation activities into community development programming, cross-cultural decision-making, and cross-boundary dialogue and cooperation.
CECOTAPS has organized, hosted, and co-facilitated numerous mediations between different conflicting groups in northern Ghana. These are just a couple examples.
- The Bawku Peace Process: The project brought together two ethnic groups who have been in conflict for over 40 years. A series of meetings, trainings and workshops were organized and facilitated by the Peace Center in collaboration with other NGOs. The Bawku Peace Initiative emerged from this process.
- The Puli and Tamung clans of Binbago Mediation: At the invitation of the Northern Regional Minister, CECOTAPS and WANEP co-facilitated a mediation between the Puli and Tamung Clans of the Bimoba village, Binbago. The two groups were engulfed in a violent clash that led to the destruction of homes and the loss of two lives. The whole process was supported by The Regional Co-ordinating Council (RCC), NORYDA and the Inter-NGO Consortium. At the end of the mediation, the two clans resolved to work together in cooperation and mutual respect through dialogue so that they could find lasting solutions to the issues that brought about the violence. They agreed to mainstream dialogue through established traditional mechanisms to resolve all outstanding issues related to land and Chieftaincy.
youth training and education
Conflict resolution education teaches values, life skills and knowledge in a spirit of equality, respect, empathy, understanding and mutual appreciation among individuals, groups and nations. By learning the universal values of peace, non-violence, tolerance and respect for human rights, students develop competencies, perspectives, attitudes, values, and behavioral patterns that will enable them to build and maintain peace.
The youth workshops consisted of a series of activities and training sessions for young people designed to increase their awareness of the issues that have sparked violent conflicts in the past and how these conflicts have evolved over the years. Through debates, drama and song sessions, youth were encouraged to explore constructive ways of dealing with issues and to find solutions for building sustainable peace in their communities.
CECOTAPS is also working on establishing conflict resolution education programs in schools. The Center will design curricula for peacebuilding education and will then train teachers to teach the curriculum.
satellite peace centers (SPCs)
Prior to the establishment of SPCs, there was no community-based organization that engaged in conflict analysis and conflict resolution in Ghana. The SPCs are the very core of the community-based approach. Through the SPCs, some communities are preempting potential escalation of conflicts by taking steps to mediate or by inviting the SPCs to intervene.
- In Wa and Yendi, some disputes have been withdrawn from the law court and brought to the SPCs for resolution.
- Chiefs and community leaders are inviting the SPCs to give them training and/ or mediate their conflicts in Wa, Tamale and Yendi.
- The chief in Kaleo asked the SPC to do a follow up training for the chiefs. This invitation is significant because there was a time the chiefs in that area did not want to hear of the SPC.
- Many of the Community Peace Facilitators (CPFs) are actively engaged in mediating and resolving domestic disputes. They are usually invited by the community members to settle family disputes.
- The Yendi SPC is very much involved in containing chieftaincy disputes through dialogue and mediation.
- Most of the Justice and Peace Commissions in the dioceses have been revived because of the peacebuilding activities of the SPCs and CPFs.
In conjunction with 72 Africa, CECOTAPS has identified several projects aimed at investing in the economy at the grassroots level, thereby supporting economic stability in the region.
Honey is abundant in this area, but many young people use fire to harvest the honey from the bush. This mode of harvesting kills the bees and sets the trees on fire, killing the trees in the process. Once harvested, the honey is processed under very unhygienic conditions, sometimes leaving behind the smell of smoke in the honey. This method of harvesting and processing of the honey (referred to as “bush honey”) reduces the market value by half.
We will support enhancements for the Damongo Beekeepers Association (DABA) that will train youth in honey and beeswax processing, increase safe breeding areas and honey production (by providing loans so that youth can procure their own beehives), teach viable harvesting techniques, and establish safer, more effective techniques for the production of honey. In the process, we plan to train young people in basic business management and computer skills so that DABA can create beekeeper cooperatives to sell its honey (and potentially other honey-based products) more efficiently and potentially to a broader customer set beyond its region.
A local woman creates beautiful cloth for tablecloths, napkins, and other products using a technique called batik. Her dream is to take young women off the streets and teach them this craft, giving them not only the skill, but also the opportunity, to be part of a growing business. The growth of this business could help the local economy as well as the families of these young women.
With funding, we will help her acquire a facility for a business, buy supplies and materials in enough quantity for small-scale production of this fabric, and set up a distribution mechanism for sales and delivery of the products.
Internet Infrastructure and Computer Literacy
One of the growing needs of youth and of the local economy in the Northern Region of Ghana is access to computers and the Internet. CECOTAPS and 72 Africa are interested in assisting in this endeavor. We are setting up an Internet Café adjacent to the Dining Hall of the Peace Center.
We have also identified a local CISCO-certified network engineer who desires to set-up a business in which he provides Internet services to communities in rural areas. We have already worked with him to wire our peace center and offer computer training programs to local youth.
He envisions his business as having four aspects: 1) supplying Internet as a service; 2) teaching people how to effectively use computers and Internet; 3) providing training to young people who want to go into the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) field, but cannot afford the expensive training in the big cities; 4) offering hardware and software support for the many computers in the area in need of repair. This business approach will not only supply a critical need, but will also increase the job prospects of local youth, create much-needed jobs at the local level, and promote overall economic growth.