What You Must Know As Armed Burkinabe Bandits Cross Into Ghana
On Wednesday, June 16, the Ghana Police Service issued a communiqué that confirmed long-held fears that armed bandits from neighbouring Burkina Faso are already in the Upper East Region of Ghana.
The press release said the bandits are allegedly “planning to launch attacks within the Bolgatanga Townships and its Environs including areas in Tamale in the coming days”.
The bandits are said to be in possession of military-grade weapons and have already infiltrated the local population in the scarcely populated region.
Apart from the announcement itself by the police that has been relayed by media outlets, the issue has not received much media scrutiny even though for years, the security services and some analysts have said that Ghana is not far away from the consequences of the instability in the West African sub-region.
On Wednesday, the Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu, told Joy News Desk that the regional security coordinating council are “always on high alert” because of what is happening in Burkina Faso. The recent report has therefore only put the council “more on the alert”.
The minister also had a message for the general public. The public must help with identifying people who could be of interest to the security agencies.
“We are looking at people coming to visit families [in Ghana], people checking into the hotels, people who are crossing in with animals – like the Fulani. We are interested to know about them,” Yakubu said.
The police’s wireless message sent to commanders also asked for patrols along Ghana’s borders to “increase [in order] to quell planned attacks”. Police in the Northern and Upper East Regions are also expected to be “on high alert”.
Ghana among neighbours
Ghana is bordered on the north, east and west by countries battling various degrees of security concerns. This presents a challenge to the country that has been West Africa’s most stable polity, along with Senegal, in the last three decades.
The relative peace and security Ghana enjoys in West Africa have been attributed by experts to central forces and national symbols that pull the different ethnic and religious groupings to common grounds. Even with more than 30 ethnic groups, Ghana seems to find the balance necessary for order, according to a doctoral dissertation by Hippolyt Akow Saamwan Pul in 2015.
In comparison, Burkina Faso, Togo and Cote D’Ivoire, three neighbours with similar ethnic and religious divisions, have not been able to maintain stability to the level of Ghana’s.
While Cote D’Ivoire has only in the last decade found a peaceful rhythm, Burkina Faso cannot boast of a similar situation. In the wider sub-region, Mali, Niger and even Nigeria have given causes for concern.
The fear has been that when bandits and Islamic fundamentalists threaten the central governments in other countries, Ghana stands to suffer from the spillover effect.
Although all three of Ghana’s land entrepots are theoretically under threat, the three northern regions have been identified as the most vulnerable.
This is mainly due to the fact that that the insecurity in Burkina Faso is the most intense situation closest to Ghana and also because the northern part of the country poses the biggest security challenges.
Instability in the Sahel and Burkina Faso
The Sahel region is often thought to constitute the territorial stretch from northern Senegal in the east to northern Ethiopia in the west, and from northern Cameroon in the south to southern Algeria in the north.
A lot of the political instability in this part of the world has been attributed to the arid climate which makes crop farming difficult, thus giving room to famine that threatens national governments.
France and the United States have been militarily invested in this region to help fight Islamic fundamentalists and bandits who have presented serious difficulties to governments.
According to the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), some of the countries that have had it worse from the violence unleashed by fundamentalists and bandits include Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.
In the latter country, the Burkinabe government is not winning the war against the insurgency of Islamic fundamentalist rebels. Indeed, Burkina Faso has even been forced to arm civilians to help in the fight against the fundamentalists.
This measure to arm civilians also presents its own risk, according to security analysts. In a country as unstable as Burkina Faso, civilians with guns could be dangerous to the central government in Ouagadougou