Ending the armed conflict in Ghana (Northern Region)


The Guinea Fowl War in the Northern Region of Ghana was ended by the deployment of troops and the mediation of a peace agreement.

The Northern Region is a large and relatively poor administrative region of Ghana that is home to a diverse population. Some groups live within chiefly communities (with chiefs, paramount chiefs, and sometimes kings), while others live an acephalous lifestyle without such hierarchies. During the colonial period, the British invested a range of decentralised “indirect rule” powers to the chiefs.1 This resulted in an imbalance in political influence and land access which, after Ghanaian independence in 1957, increasingly became a source of conflict. Beginning in 1981, the Northern Region was wracked by a series of increasingly severe armed clashes between militia mobilised by the various communities in the area. It was in this context that a dispute on 3 February 1994, supposedly over the price of a guinea fowl in the village of Nakpachei, rapidly escalated into an armed conflict between three chiefly groups – the Dagomba, Gonja, and Nanumba – and four traditionally acephalus groups – the Nawuri, Nchumburu, Bassare, and Konkomba.2 Within three days, the fighting had spread across 7 districts. Armed with bows, shotguns, and some assault rifles, armed groups pillaged and destroyed at least 442 villages, displacing 160,000 people, and killing up to 15,000.3 In response to the crisis, the Government of Ghana issued a state of emergency on 10 February and deployed troops across the region to deter further violence. While the immediate fighting was ended by this operation, allowing peace talks to commence and the state of emergency to be lifted, another eruption of violence in March 1995 highlighted the need for a more lasting solution.4

The effort to end the conflict was multi-faceted. Initially, a government agency established in response to the conflict (the Permanent Peace Negotiation Team) mediated talks between the belligerents. This team succeeded in negotiating a ceasefire in June 1994, but it was not until a consortium of Ghanaian NGOs supported by a team from the Nairobi Peace Initiative began hosting talks in May 1995 that meaningful progress was made. At a series of meetings held in the city of Kumasi, these organisations painstakingly mediated negotiations for nearly a year that culminated on 30 March 1996 with the signing of the Kumasi Accord for Peace and Reconciliation Between the Ethnic Groups of Northern Ghana.5 Several organisations were established to oversee peace in the area, with a focus on equitable development. In December 1995 and May 1996, leaders involved in the conflict attended reconciliation ceremonies witnessed by the President of Ghana.6

1 Hizkias Assefa. “Coexistence and Reconciliation in the Northern Region of Ghana.” In Muhammed Abu-Nimer, ed. Reconciliation, Justice, and Coexistence: Theory and Practice. (Lexington Books: Lanham, 2001) p.165

2 Julie Kaye. “Ethno-Politicization in the 1994-1995 Case of Conflict in Northern Ghana: The Role of You Associations and Faith-Based Organizations.” Chieftain: The Journal of Traditional Governance, Vol. 1, No. 1. (2004) p.5

3 Ada van der Linde & Rachel Naylor. Building Sustainable Peace: Conflict, Conciliation, and Civil Society in Northern Ghana. (Oxfam: London, 1999) pp.27-8

4 Ibid. p.30

5 Assefa. “Coexistence and Reconciliation in the Northern Region of Ghana.” p.177-8

6 Linde & Naylor. Building Sustainable Peace. p.34

Start Year


End Year



Northern Region, Ghana

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Horizontal (non-state) intrastate conflict

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement, Military intervention

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Government of Ghana, local people and organisations




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