Ghana is on high alert for acts of terrorism and violent extremism, especially in the country’s northern parts. This is because of the violent activities of Islamic militants in Burkina Faso, which has left residents living in the border towns of Zebilla, Bawku, Tumu, Hamile etc., on a knife’s edge.
Early this year, there was a reported violent attack in Zoaga, Bugri, in the Northern Province of Burkina Faso, which shares a border with Ghana. Scores were killed, the police station was burnt, and other properties were destroyed.
These attacks have left natives of Burkina Faso fleeing into neighbouring countries, especially Ghana, with other foreign governments and international organisations worried about the safety of their citizens.
Many foreign countries have issued travel alerts to warn citizens about the security situations in the country.
The attacks are taking a toll on Ghana, which shares its northern borders with Burkina Faso. DUBAWA has, therefore, decided to explore the issue of terrorism in Burkina Faso and how it impacts Ghana, especially residents in the north.
What are terrorism and violent extremism?
The United Nations Human Rights Office defines terrorism as “intimidation or coercion of populations or governments through the threat or perpetration of violence, causing death, serious injury or the taking of hostages.”
Even though terrorism has been a security issue for a long time, perhaps the September 11 World Trade Center terrorist attack by the Al-Qaeda group brought the issue onto the front burner of international politics. There have since been multiple attacks by different militant groups in Nigeria, the UK, and several other countries.
Even though this attack is in Burkina Faso, the impact is being felt in Ghana and other neighbouring countries. Even more precarious are fears the attacks may spill into Ghana, which has put the West African country on red alert.
See Something, Say Something campaign
As part of efforts to fight terrorism and extremist violence in Ghana, the government has announced a see something, say something campaign.
As part of the campaign, toll-free numbers have been provided to citizens to call authorities in the event they see something unusual which could likely breach the security within the country.
Some celebrities and high-profile media personalities, including Kofi Kinaata and Kwame Sefa Kayi, have all been appointed ambassadors to increase awareness about the potential threat to Ghana’s security.
Random text messages have also been shared with residents across the country to be wary of potential terrorist activities and to provide quick information.
The government and its security agencies have held several simulation exercises in the northern parts of the country to raise the security awareness of the residents and to keep the security officers battle ready.
Residents in Burkina Faso towns of Zourga and Abugri have been compelled to flee their homes to Ghana.
According to the District Nadmo boss for the Bawku West District, Daniel Anania Atampuba, his outfit has registered over 4,936 asylum seekers made up of 289 males, 2,557, 1,022 boys and 1,073 girls.
While accommodating these asylum seekers, the government has always charged them to be law-abiding so they can enjoy their stay during the difficult era.
Terror and ethnic supremacy
But the mere presence of jihadist groups along the northern borders of Ghana, in areas prone to ethnic conflict, portends a toxic security dilemma.
In an interview with Joy News, monitored by DUBAWA, Security expert Rtd Col Festus Aboagye said the increasing ethnic violence between Mamprusi and Kusasi in the Bawku Municipality in the Upper East Region of Ghana is worrying, especially so with the violent militant activities in Burkina Faso.
Ethnic violence has persisted for over six decades and has changed for the worse. At least ten people were killed in renewed clashes between the two factions this week, but some residents blamed the military for the killing.
According to Rtd Col Aboagye, if one side of the ethnic divide feels helpless and does not trust the country’s security forces to be fair and maintain peace and security for all, they may be forced to seek help from the extremist groups in Burkina Faso, and that could potentially create a war situation in the country.
District Police Commander for Zebilla, ASP Portiphor, tells DUBAWA his outfit is working hard to ensure peace and security along the border towns. He charged residents to swiftly report strange characters to the security forces as part of the See Something, Say Something campaign.
He also implored media houses to be circumspect in their reportage on terrorist activities, not to neutralise the security forces.
The District Chief Executive for Zebilla, Alhaji Ahmed Tahiru Issahaku, who is also the chair of the District Security Command, said the Police Command and the military in the District are very alert to make sure that lives and properties are adequately protected and safeguarded.
Ghana has primarily enjoyed peace and stability, notwithstanding ethnic violence in the country’s northern parts. However, the growing emergence of insurgents and militant activities along its borders, especially in Burkina Faso, appears to be a significant security concern that demands the attention of the government and residents.