Communal attacks: Disah community bounces back in five years

Ghana in recent times experienced the growing phenomenon of communal violence, with most of them taking a toll on many ethnic communities.

Communal attacks?

The continuous violent conflicts have led to community divisions, migration, internal displacements and above all abuse of human rights in communities.

Ghana is described as one of the peaceful countries in the West Africa sub-Saharan region, however threats of Human security challenges caused by communal attacks and abuses continue to be reported in many communities, thus affecting the gains the country has made.

The mention of these violent conflicts sends shivers down the spine of people who have gone through them.

The Disah example

For the people of Disah community, a suburb of Daboya, North Gonja, in the Savannah Region, the remnants of January 2018 communal violence can still be seen in the roofs and windows of houses that were burnt as a result of attacks on them as they are yet to be renovated.

However, five years down memory lane, life has gone back to normal and the current atmosphere of peace for the Disah people and ongoing businesses as usual comes from the resilience of the people and support from government and friends.

Mr Asafu Salifu Bavu, one of the oldest men (in his 80s) from the community, who is still counting his losses told a team of media actors on a working tour of the community what transpired.

'I heard the sound of motor bikes passing, then one of the riders suddenly fell off and residents came out that night to ascertain what happened.

'Suddenly noise of shooting of guns started , 'paw', 'paw', 'paw', 'paw' around midnight, and the attackers started burning our houses, which made me and everyone else with our children run to the bush for safety', he added.

This is one incidence of the many communal violence occurring in many communities in Ghana, and the growing phenomenon has taken a toll on many ethnic communities, especially in the Northern sector. Most of the conflicts are all related to chieftaincy, land or economic issues.

The minority Tampulmas at Disah in the Daboya -Mankarigu Constituency, are mainly farmers in the North Gonja District in the Savannah region with a population of about 1000. The violent attack on them, according to the people, took place in January 2018.

Impact of the attacks

The attack on the Tampulma people has been described by many, including the Daboya Chief, as an unfortunate one, and even though no deaths were recorded, the victims continue to count their losses.

Some of the youth suffered gunshot wounds and loss of personal belongings such as mats, mattresses, motor bikes, food produce and livestock, while the women lost their cooking utensils in the fire.

Some community members lost their solar lights that powered their TV sets, laptops, and sewing machines to the fire, and others lost livestock, while economic activities were completely shut because of the fire.

However, Mr Ibrahim Mohammed, from Daboya, speaking of the shooting incident at Disah said it was an unfortunate one. Giving an explanation to the attack, which was also affirmed by some Tampulmas, he said the act was expected to have been executed at Salugu, a community near Disah where it is alleged a Tampulma Chief had been enskined.

News about that enskinment had not gone down well with the Wasipe paramount Chief of Daboya, who already had in place a sub-chief for the Tampulmas in Daboya.

The communal conflicts do not only deplete the scarce resources, but force a diversion of incoming funds meant for development to deal with security issues thereby stalling socio economic and infrastructural development.

How did the people cope?

A community member said in response to how the community coped, 'if your motor motorbike, the only means of transport for the family, food barn and personal property got burnt and you still have not been able to replace them, you cannot say you have fully recovered.'

However community members were thankful for the timely interventions by government, NADMO family and friends living in other towns who offered support in the form of food, cooking utensils and mattresses, to help bring life back to them even after five years.

Madam Akala Benhe, also speaking with the media, said she suffered a lot because her elderly son, who is a farmer tried to resist the burning of their house and was shot, luckily he did not die and still had to carry his sick father into safety.

She said plans to roof her store where she carried out her economic activities was disrupted as a result of the attacks, however she urged her people to forgive and leave everything to the past and advised other women to stay quiet and comport themselves.

'If you do not have the strength to fight back, comport yourself and help rebuild the community for a better future', she said.

Reverend Joseph Manga, a Pastor of the Ghana Baptist Church, said on the same midnight the event occurred, he had taken his spouse for surgery at Damongo hospital and on return saw that his house and motor bike including all the property in the house were burnt beyond salvage.

'Some men of God supported us and we have since rebuilt my house. We the people of Disah have managed to put ourselves together, gathered thatch to reroof our houses with support from friends and families, we are back to normal life.

'We are Tampulmas and we are free with the Gonja people and we love one another, however we understand that the enskinment of a chief from Tampulma extraction in another village caused the attack on Disah community though we are under the Gonjas, Reverend Manga reiterated.

Mr Mathew Tika, a Tampulma from Disah, urged all to remain calm, 'what you have lost you can still have it through the same hard work, what we need in this area is development and we hope that the right channels will be followed to solve conflicts instead of resorting to destruction', he cautioned.

'There will always be chieftaincy issues, but using attacks and burning to solve grievances derail the progress made in the development of the area, my advice to the rest of the communities and the world is, we all need to have patience, let us remain calm and think ahead, we want peace.

'Though we did not lose human life, our worry is that we still have people riding their motor bikes around and carrying guns which we think is a threat to us', he said.

Mr Yakubu Adam, the Mambul Wura, sub chief of Wasipe Traditional Area and spokesperson to the Overlord of Wasipe Wura, Mumuni Anyame Kabasa , said the attack was unfortunate, 'what happened will not happen again.

'All the settlers here are one and we pray against any such future occurrence, we are not tribalistic here and we have ensured that all the tribes in the area , all settlers, we see ourselves as one, hence even in the political terrain we give equal opportunity to all the tribes', the Chief said.

The visit by the media actors to Disah was based on the return of peace in the area, the team in moving forward also wanted to find out how people coped with the challenges and how long it took the community to get back to normalcy. Also get the assurance from the chiefs that such attacks would not reoccur in the area.

The team's visit is part of an ongoing 'Engaging Media and Minorities to Act for Peace building (EMMAP)' project, a two-year intervention project, from 2022 to 2024 ,funded by the European Union (EU),

As part of the objectives of the project, EMMAP is to strengthen the capacity of journalism actors from Ghana, Senegal, and Sierra Leone to sensitively investigate and report about issues concerning conflict and peace building, addressing minorities and migration issues.

The Media Platform on Environment and Climate Change (MPEC), the lead team of journalists with support from officials of the Minority Rights Group International and Minority Rights Group Africa (MRGA) and head of the Media Reform Coordination Group (MRCG) of Sierra Leone and Networks for Social Justice Rights (FAHAMU) in Senegal are jointly raising awareness of interconnections between conflict, migration and minority exclusion , to help build and consolidate sustainable peace in Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Source: Ghana News Agency