Developmental Psychology / Peace and Conflict Studies
In a region described as the most dangerous place to live in Africa (Edi, 2006), Ghana continues to establish itself as an oasis of peace. Yet, the country still battles with series of protracted conflicts some of which sporadically flare up with resultant damages to lives and properties (Tsikata & Seini, 2004). As Bar-Tal (2013, p. 1) notes, these ‘intractable conflicts that are viciously violent and prolonged constitute a special threat to the societies involved’ and they often emanate from disagreements over issues such as natural resource, power, and religion among others. The conflict between the Abudus and Andanis, Nkonyas and Alavanyos, Konkombas and Nanumbas, the Mamprusis and Kusaases are but a few examples of such communal conflicts that have bedevilled the country (Tonah 2007, Tsikata & Seini, 2004). What is characteristic of all these conflicts is that they have defied various attempts at resolving them.
The centuries of peaceful coexistence between the Nkonyas (ethnic Guans) and Alavanyos (ethnic Ewes) for example, has since 1923, been marred by a protracted land dispute. Although a new peace accord has recently been signed (Ghanaian Times, 2015), the Assembly member of the Nkonyas has described the accord as ‘fragile’, arguing that several acts of violence, trespassing and lack of good faith on the part of the Alavanyos have been recorded even after the accord1. This study is therefore an attempt at producing knowledge that will aim at finding answers to the reasons behind the intractability of the conflict between the Nkonyas and Alavanyos.
2. Objective of the Study
This study presents itself as a sequel to my master’s thesis, Understanding the Persistence of the Nkonya-Alavanyo Conflict: An Nkonya Perspective, which focused primarily on the reasons behind the intractability of the conflict from the angle of the Nkonyas. Using the masters’ thesis as a foundation study, the main objective of this current study is to find out why the conflict has remain insoluble in spite of all the attempts at solving it. This will be ascertained from the perspective of the Nkonyas, Alavanyos and the mediators.
1 A phone interview with Ben Kumi, the Assembly member at Nkonya-Tayi, on January 6th, 2016.
3. Literature Review
The Nkonya-Alavanyo conflict remains vastly under-researched. To date, only few studies have concentrated on the case study. Tsikata and Seini (2004) take a look at the conflict from its roots and dynamics through to the various attempts at solving it. Midodzi and Imoro (2011) articulate the significance of ADR as a mechanism in dealing with the case under study. On her part, Yakohene (2012), narrows her work to the contributions made by the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) in providing a possible solution to the conflict while my masters’ thesis, touched on the area of its persistence from the angle of the Nkonyas (Agyei, 2015).
Even from a broader perspective, most studies on the continent have focused on armed and civil conflicts among nations (see, Kieh and Mukenge, 2002; Williams, 2011), natural resource and ethnic conflicts (see, Alao, 2007; Rothchild, 1997). Others have also focused on the role third party mediators have to play when confronted with intractable conflicts (Crocker, Hampson, and Aall, 2004) with very little concentration on the persistence of local communal conflicts.
4. Theoretical Perspective
The study will delve into the rich theoretical literature in conflict and conflict resolution with particular emphasis on Human Needs Theory and Ontological (In)security.
Human needs theory as advanced by Burton embraces the notion that, there are certain ontological needs that are important to human development as they mirror our universal aspirations. He argues that ‘these needs will be pursued by all means available’ regardless of the consequences (Burton, 1990a, p. 36). Accordingly, Burton posits that, needs do not produce conflict, rather, social conflicts are by-products of unmet human needs and are best resolved if these needs are satisfied (Burton, 1990a, 1990b, 1997, see also Azar, 1990). To this end, Burton (1998) contends that the problem of need satisfaction remains a critical justification of the practice of conflict resolution. Burton proposed the use of problem solving workshops which Väyrynen (2001, p. 6) calls ‘cooperative conflict resolution’ as an antidote for these conflicts rising out of unmet needs. For Azar (1990), the problem solving agenda is grounded on the assumption that communication deficits hinder shared interests among conflicting parties. This is mostly facilitated by a mediator on whose ability to deal fairly with the issues and
parties to the conflict, Abu-Nimer (2013, p. 182) argues, rest ‘the success and effectiveness of conflict resolution’. Scholars have reviewed both the need theory and its associate, problem solving workshops and have established some shortcomings in them. These include Burton’s seeming neglect of culture, the problem of power disproportion among many others (Avruch, 2013; Väyrynen, 2001, 2013). This notwithstanding, I argue that, the human need theory is particularly important as the Nkonyas have explained the persistence of the conflict in human needs terms (Agyei, 2015).
Related to human needs which Burton argues as being ontological and therefore non- negotiable is the notion of Ontological Security as advanced by Giddens (1991). It refers to a logic of order and continuity relative to people’s experiences which as Giddens (1991, p. 37) writes, help them to ‘bracket out questions about themselves, others and the object world which have to be taken for granted in order to keep on with everyday activity’. Beyond this framework of ontological security is the fear of anxiety which when uncontained, produces ontological insecurity which derails peace processes (Rumelili, 2015). Celik (2015) argues that ontological (in)security among conflicting parties can affect communication efforts among them and eventually collapse any conflict resolution effort. Accordingly, Mitzen’s (2006) posits that, ontological security can offer an explanation of a sort to persistent conflicts. She further contends that where intractable conflicts follow identity lines, getting a break though can result in ontological insecurity.
By combining these two approaches, the study will attempt to produce new knowledge on the conflict that otherwise cannot be produced by looking at the conflict exclusively through human needs theory or ontological security terms.
5. Research Questions
a. From the perspective of both the Nkonyas and Alavanyos, why has the conflict remained insoluble?
i. What are the causes of the conflict?
ii. How has the conflict affected citizens of both Nkonya and Alavanyo in particular and in Ghana in general?
iii. What attempts have been made at solving the conflict and why have they proven ineffective?
b. i. According to the mediators, what reasons account for the insoluble nature of the conflict?
nal surveys including censuses in Ghana.
4 The identification of households and structures, will be based on the definition of the Ghana Statistical Service.
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