This week, Moslems all around the world will begin a period of fasting and prayer to mark Ramadan, when the Quran was first revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him). During this period, we reflect on Allah’s mercies, our fragility as human beings and our deep connection to Allah. It is a time for charity and goodwill, as Allah himself extends mercy toward us and answers our prayers.
Even as we seek to be closer to our maker, we also reflect on our association with our fellow man; and where we can, we must seek to make it better. As human beings, we are fallible and prone to causing and taking offence but we must always seek to mend, rather than weaken the ties that bind us.
Ghana is made up of many different groups that owe historical allegiance to different creeds, ancestors and ideologies. However, since 1957 when we gained our independence and became a sovereign state this nation has stood as one, bound by a common destiny.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, of course. There have been – and indeed, there continues to be – threats to the peace and stability we have become renowned for. It is for this reason that even as we enter the month of Ramadan, I find myself reflecting on and troubled by a conflict that has beset my beloved Chereponi.
For months, our brothers and sisters in the community have been torn apart by conflict that has manifested in intermittent clashes leading to loss of property, displacement of individuals and even the loss of life. The effects of this on life and well-being have been incalculable. Economic activity has suffered; education has been affected; and people that have lived as one for many years are now realising divisions which they had once ignored and did not ever need to resurrect.
There is little that can be gained by going into the causes and grievances which have led to this latest conflict. What we can all agree on is that Chokosis and Kokombas have much more to gain by living together in peace, friendship and brotherhood. Our elders have noted that unity is the source of all strength. From them we also learn that there is no problem, no disagreement, no conflict that cannot be resolved if we sit down and engage in good faith. It is time to let go of hurt, forgive transgressions and embrace healing and peace for the sake of our future and our children.
Further conflict will only hold us back at a time that the rest of the country is beginning to see and feel the effects from some of government’s major policies. Development and conflict cannot and have never co-existed. Throughout history, societies that have given way to conflict have struggled while those that have found ways to peacefully co-exist have thrived and grown. We know to which group we want to belong. Chereponi must not be left behind as other communities enjoy the fruits of development that are beginning to sprout around the country.
Without peace, how will our schools remain open in order to enjoy the Free Senior High School policy? Our kids will have to remain at home, in hiding, while others around the country gain the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare them for a future in which education will be as essential as the air we breathe. Do we want our children to be among the ones that will lead this country in various professional fields, or do we want them to be casualties in a conflict they do not even understand?
Around this country, factories are springing up under the One District, One Factory initiative. How can we take advantage of this if we cannot assure investors of their basic, long-term security? Money goes where there is peace. If we want sustainable jobs in our community, stemming out of factories and other investments, then we have to lay down the weapons so the sound of production can replace the sound of gunshots.
Can we plant and rear for food and jobs, as government is assisting many to do around the country, if we cannot attend to our farms without fear of attack? We must allow this to pass us by. We must ensure that our young people are able to take full advantage of these opportunities so they can live in comfort and dignity as much as anyone else in the country.
All of us must begin to work for peace. We must reach out and extend hands of friendship and reconciliation to everyone around us. This goes as much for the youth as it does for the traditional and political leaders in the community. It goes for men and women from Chereponi who have moved away and live abroad to make a name and a living. We may have left Chereponi but Chereponi will never leave us. Let us all take a keen interest in and contribute to the quest for lasting peace. This must be the last time we have to endure the heartbreak of conflict and loss in our beloved Chereponi.
As a proud daughter of Chereponi, I am placing myself and all I have into this search for peace. I will talk to any and every one. I will never stop talking, advocating and engaging others for peace in Chereponi. And I know we can do it, because in our family we have learnt to live together in spite of our differences.
Myself and my late sister (Hon. Doris of blessed memory) are of the New Patriotic Party while my mother and father belong to the National Democratic Party. Indeed, my late sister represented the constituency in parliament on the ticket of the NPP while my mother served as District Chief Executive for the NDC. Throughout all of this, we managed to remain firmly committed to our respective parties without ever threatening the peace at home.
Peace is possible if we commit to it recognise that we are all one people; that Allah intended for all of us to live together regardless of our differences and forgive each other as Allah does for us. In this month of peace, Allah is surely asking us to heed his urgent command to extend goodwill to each other, to seek peace and to forgive.
Let us be inspired by the example of our brothers and sisters in Yendi, who with the leadership of His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Otumfour Osei Tutu II and the group of eminent chiefs finally drew a welcome line under the years of conflict that tore them apart. In Chereponi, we must show that we have what it takes to also resolve our differences and play our part in the task of nation building.
I wish you blessings, clemency and the enlightenment that comes with Ramadan. Ramadan Mubarak.
Long live Chereponi!
Long live Ghana!
The writer is a native of Chereponi, a Senior Physician Assistant and social activist