NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE NEED TO LAUNCH TERRORIST AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
In the past few days, there have been media reports that at least 4,000 citizens of neighbouring Burkina Faso are fleeing atrocities of armed men in some parts of the Upper East Region. The realities are that there have been severe terrorist attacks in some border communities in Burkina Faso which have forced these individuals, mainly women and children, to seek refuge in Ghana mainly in the Bawku West District. “The refugees moved to Ghana after some homes in Zoago, Bugri and Zabre, farming communities in Burkina Faso, including a police station, were attacked by terrorists believed to be jihadists, leading to loss of lives.”
The situation is not only causing financial stress on the small economy of Bawku Importantly it has created fear and panic among residents in the border communities, including Widnaba, Soogo, Sapeliga, Kansoogo and Googo in Bawku West District and also in Bansi in Bawku where most of the refugees are being hosted. More importantly, it has huge security implications not only for the people of the area but for the nation at large.
Conflict affects most of the regions in Burkina Faso, especially in border areas in the north and east of the country and intensifies in western and southern regions. 1.7 million people are reported to have been internally displaced due to violence, including almost 900,000 children as of September 2022, according to the government.
While Ghana has been spared for the moment, the attack on November 9, 2021 in the town of Sanloaga in Togo, seems to confirm that the north of the Gulf of Guinea countries is becoming the new front line in the fight against terrorism in West Africa. The porous nature of the borders and the existence of a cultural but also economic continuum with the Sahelian countries reinforces the fear of the installation of jihadist groups in the northern parts of Ghana and Togo.
In very recent times, the three top members of the hierarchy of governance have expressed grave concern regarding the safety and security of the country. In a meeting with the president of the United State of America, Joe Biden, The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, lamented on the attempt by some countries to destabilise the peace of the country. He revealed that “Russian mercenaries are on our northern border. Burkina Faso and has now entered into an arrangement to go along with Mali in employing the Wagner forces there.” In another development, Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia was reported to have called for effective collaboration between civilians and security agencies to combat crime and flush out criminal elements in the country.
A day after, the Speaker of Parliament Right Honourable Alban Bagbin urged the Ministers of Defence and Interior to work hard to fortify the security of the nation. He expressed worries about the inadequacies in the allocation of budget to these ministries which according to him would hamper the effective deployment of security facilities for the country. These are the topmost individuals from where they sit and have the utmost privy to all security within the country. Their expressions and concerns, therefore, are considered legitimate and genuine. This followed the widespread terrorist attacks in the sub-region in recent times. Neighbouring Togo suffered an attack when assailants stormed a security post in the northern border village of Sanloaga in November last year.
Terrorist groups associated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Islamic State of Libya and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) present a threat in the region. These groups have demonstrated capability and intent by mounting attacks against security forces and civilians in several countries, most recently in Burkina Faso and Mali.
Violent extremism has escalated into the West African sub-region. Government spokesperson on Security and Governance, Palgrave Boakye-Danquah, speaking on GTV on the matter, indicated that the activities of these terrorists are heading towards the south. This is terrifying and must be of concern to all citizens and indeed residents of this country. “Under the surface lies a covert network that ensures terrorism continues in the region. Evidence is emerging that jihadists’ activities within and through coastal states are enabling them to fund, staff and run the logistics they need to thrive.”
Terrorist attacks in Ghana therefore cannot be ruled out, especially when there are suggestions from Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah that some time passed that “intelligence reports suggest that some Ghanaians may have been involved in terrorist attacks in the Sahelian region.” Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Caution they say is not cowardice, even the ants march armed. Wise care keeps what it has gained; Launching a terrorist awareness campaign – is very important. Let us help to keep our safety and security intact.
By: Nana Sifa Twum, Media and Communications Consultant.