Author: West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (Wanep)
Type of publication: Report
Date of publication: June 2019
Ghana has made tremendous progress in democratic governance over the last two decades. Manifestations of democratic dividend in the political landscape of Ghana is reflected in the conduct of periodic elections, peaceful power alternations between the two main political parties – the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), respect for human rights, free media and a modicum of rule of law. In addition to this, inclusive participation in governance has been a hallmark of Ghana’ democracy.
As part of the effort for decentralization of governance and development, six new regions – Bono East, Ahafo, Savannah, Oti, North East and Western North Regions – were also created through a referendum held in December 2018. While these have contributed to relative political stability and economic development, existing and emerging security challenges threaten national peace and human security.
Notable existing threats include chieftaincy and ethnic clashes, farmer-herder conflicts, violent demonstrations, armed robberies, proliferation of arms, drug trafficking as well as sexual and gender-based violence. Additionally, recent occurrences related to threats of terrorist and violent extremist attacks, agitation for succession, increased political tension, activities of vigilante groups, kidnappings and violent communication through social media, among others have heightened security concerns in the country.
Moreover, there are also threats to environmental security which include illegal fishing, logging, illegal mining, and pollution of water bodies. These existing and emerging threats undermine human security and stability in the country.
The above-mentioned threats are further compounded by the surging terrorist and violent extremist attacks in neighbouring Burkina Faso and its possible consequences on coastal West Africa, especially Ghana, Togo and Benin. Given the porous borders across the sub region, there are growing fears of the spread of extremist groups across West Africa including Ghana.
Emerging Threats and Implications for Security
Ghana faces varied peace and security challenges which require a holistic and coordinated preventive mechanism to mitigate threats to the stability of the country. As the country prepares for another round of election in December 2020, it is imperative to highlight critical emerging threats to security as a necessary measure to initiate efforts for response and mitigation.
The threat of terrorist and violent extremist attacks in Ghana has heightened discourse across the security circles in Ghana.
Given the southward spread of extremist groups in Burkina Faso and the porosity of the borders, there are concerns over cross border incursion into Ghana. Between 2017 to June 2019, Burkina Faso has recorded 288 violent incidents of terrorist attacks. This has led to a surge in the flow of migrants fleeing to neighbouring countries for security reasons. Available statistics indicates the influx of about 2000 migrants from Burkina Faso to Northern Ghana fleeing extremist attacks between January and June 2019.
Despite the ongoing efforts by the Ghana Immigration Service to record the movement of migrants, a number of them are not having proper documents to ensure regulation and effective monitoring of their activities. More importantly, a trend analysis also suggests that this gap could be exploited as an avenue for extremist groups to establish presence and launch possible attacks in the Country. This is justified by recent events which points to growing incidences of violence connected to Burkinabe immigrants in Ghana.
Given the southward spread of extremist groups in Burkina Faso and the porosity of the borders, there are concerns over cross border incursion into Ghana. Between 2017 to June 2019, Burkina Faso has recorded 288 violent incidents of terrorist attacks
The trend of kidnapping of foreign nationals also impeds on the perception of the country as a destination for tourism with the potentials of slowing down revenue from the industry in 2019 and beyond. Already, foreign diplomatic missions in Accra, particularly the High Commissions of Canada and the United Kingdom have issued travel advisories and terror alert in Ghana to their citizens both in the country and outside. Issuing of such alerts has heightened tension and fear among citizens and foreign nationals in the country.
Though the two kidnapped Canadians have been rescued by the security agencies, the arrest of eight suspects – five Ghanaians and three Nigerians – reveals dimensions of collaboration and alliances between and among criminal networks in the region. Furthermore, this has the potential to blight Ghana’s longstanding ethos in the international community as a bastion of stability and democratic governance on the African continent. Similarly, it has the likelihood of scaring away foreign investors and visitors to the country.
Here, it is important to note that Ghana has a thriving tourism and hospitality industry that continues to attract foreign and local tourists. In fact, the Hospitality and Tourism sector of the economy is the third foreign exchange earner for Ghana and contributes 3.7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In term of direct revenue, the tourism sector generates about GH 4.457 billion cedis which is expected to increase to GH 7.449 billion cedis by 2026. Closely related to the aforementioned threat is human trafficking. The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police rescued 285 victims of human trafficking with nearly half being children between the ages of 5 and 16 years in 2018.
Additionally, increased cases of drug abuse such as tramadol, codeine, opium and marijuana by the youths also constitutes another dimension of hazard in the country. Data from the Narcotic Control Board (NACOB) indicates that out of 50,000 drug users in the country, 35,000 are students while 15,000 are adults with 9,000 males and 6,000 females. The use of these drugs is prevalent among junior high, secondary and tertiary students between ages 12 and 35.
Low self-esteem, peer pressure, depression, enhanced experience and performance are among the drivers of increased cases of drug abuse among the youth. Furthermore, 70 per cent of the reported incidents of substance abuse results in mental health illness and majority of these cases involves the youth. The increased patronage of these drugs among students and drivers indicates a growing demand which encourages illegal drug trade and cultivation of marijuana. Abuse of drugs, besides its health implications on the youth, is also increases the risk of the youth population in violence. It is one of the sources of crimes and violence in schools and communities.
Moreover, the activities of vigilante groups associated with political parties and land guards also pose significant threatsto Ghana’s democratic stability. On one hand, vigilante groups have often been used by political parties to provide personal security, protect ballot boxes and perpetrate violence against political opponents. On the other, land guards serve as a source of recruitment for vigilantism as well as protection of private properties.
While these phenomena are not new in the pollical space of Ghana, recent surge and proliferation of these groups with arms and security training portend significant threats to the security of the country. Currently, there are over 24-armed vigilante groups affiliated with political parties operating in the country. Key among them are the Azorka Boys and Hawks associated with the NDC and Delta and Invisible Forces associated with the NPP.
The recent violence at the Ayawaso West-Wuogon Constituency Parliamentary Bye-election in January 2019 linked to vigilante groups, suggests the gravity of the threats it poses to Ghana’s democracy. The ability of these vigilante groups to cease public assets and interfere in court proceedings to free their colleagues from prosecution are also manifestations of the threat they pose. It indicates an attempt by the groups to entrench themselves as a semi-autonomous institution that threatens the legitimacy of the State.
As the country prepares for the general elections of 2020, this political violence poses the likelihood of discrediting the democratic process and spiraling into widespread insecurity. It is an indication that these groups are capitalizing on their influence to exploit the political weaknesses in the country.
Related to the above, is the challenge of the exigencies of power contestation and its associated threats to Ghana’s 2020 elections. While electoral contests remain a source of tensions and violence in hotspots constituencies in the country, the dynamics of the 2020 elections are likely to intensify these threats.
A critical dynamic is that for the first time in the political history of Ghana, an incumbent President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the NPP may likely be contesting against a former President, John Dramani Mahamah of the NDC, who lost the 2016 election. The tensions ahead of the elections are already evident in the current inter-party rancor, mutual accusations, use of hostile language and physical violence, as manifested in the Ayawaso West-Wuogon Constituency Parliamentary Bye-election in January 2019.
In addition, the opposition NDC mistrust and suspicion of the Electoral Commission (EC) are also manifesting in the use of political polemics and accusations. This is a potential driver of conflict that could heighten tension and violence in the lead up to the 2020 elections.
Ghana has also witnessed cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) especially against women and girls. Between January and May 2019, the country recorded 18 suspected rape cases in the Volta, Ashanti, Central, Brong, Ahafo, Greater Accra and Upper West regions
Protracted chieftaincy disputes and ethnic clashes also remain prevalent in the north of Ghana. Recent cases of ethnic clashes between the Chokosi and Konkombas in Chereponi in the NorthEast Region since 2017 have resulted in deaths of nearly 20 people and over 15,000 forced to flee their homes. Similarly, protracted chieftaincy dispute in Bole Bamboi in the Savanna Region resulted in three people sustaining gunshot wounds during the Eid-ul Fitr celebration on June 5, 2019. The proximity of the affected regions to Burkina Faso’s border with Ghana also portends security challenges in the face of heightened terrorist and extremist threats as well as the influx and use of arms in these conflicts.
Terrorists and extremists could also exploit such local conflicts to reinforce their presence and mobilize for conflicting communities for the establishment and spread of violent extremism in northern Ghana. The use and exploitation of the social media as a mobilization and propaganda tool for violent communication has also been flagged as a security threat to the country ahead of 2020 presidential elections.
It has become a conduit for the spread of hate speeches, intemperate and inflammatory political statements and an avenue for inciting physical violence and mobilizing groups to public disorder. In this regard, the security implications of social media discourse are critical to social cohesion before, during and beyond the 2020 elections.
Ghana has also witnessed cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) especially against women and girls. Between January and May 2019, the country recorded 18 suspected rape cases in the Volta, Ashanti, Central, Brong, Ahafo, Greater Accra and Upper West regions. The trend emerging in rape cases suggests increasing vulnerability of women and girls to SGBV. This has implications on health, economic empowerment, education and other social consequences which undermine development of women and children.
Environmental security is also a critical challenge to biodiversity and human livelihoods. Dumping of toxic waste by foreign vessels at high sea and disposal of plastic waste in the country are worrying trends. Recently, ten 40-footer containers loaded with toxic waste shipped into the country were discovered at the Tema Habour.
Internally, Ghana produced 5,700 tonnes of polyethylene terephthalate (about 70,000 plastic bottles) every month. Only 2 percent of this is recycled while the remaining 98 percent finds its way in the hands of waste management companies, streets, drain pipes and water bodies. The effect of this is evident in pollution of urban areas and clogging drainage systems which also contribute to the phenomenon of flooding in the country.
It further has negative implications to the ‘blue economy’. There are also growing concerns among local fish farmers about depletion of sea resources due to the activities of illegal fishing vessels and climate variabilities. In addition to environmental security, farmer-herder conflict and illegal mining continue to threaten human security in the country. In 2018, the country recorded nine incidents of violent farmer-herder conflicts in the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern and Eastern Regions leading to the 10 fatalities including two security personnel, 27 cattle, destruction of many crops and properties.
In a similar vein, between January – June 2019, seven incidents recorded have also resulted in the deaths of four people, killing of hundreds of cattle and destruction of food crops and properties mostly in the Ashanti and Eastern Regions38. Access and utilization of small arms and light weapons in these conflicts is contributing to their proliferation in the country. Given the current security threats, farmer-herder conflicts have the potential to exacerbate the risks of violence and criminalities in the country. Besides, the experiences of farmer-herder conflicts in Mali, Nigeria and Burkina Faso have shown exploitation of these conflicts by terrorists and organized criminal groups to unleash violence in communities. As such, farmer-herder conflict in Ghana is a critical flash point that requires attention in the face of growing security concerns. Another source of security concern is the activities of illegal mining in the country.
Though the emerging security threats are imminent and have varied implications on Ghana’s stability, there are existing mechanisms that could be strengthened for mitigation. These mechanisms include:
- Ghana’s chieftaincy institution continues to play a role in conflict prevention, resolution and management at the community, regional and national levels. For example, the intervention of the Eminent Chiefs headed by the Asantehene in the protracted Dagbon chieftaincy crisis is a manifestation of the capacity of traditional institutions to respond to security threats. It is a further attestation of the relevance of state partnership with traditional institutions in conflict prevention. Additionally, the National House of Chiefs could be utilized in responding to threats to peace and security in the country. As custodians of lands, traditions and customs of people, chiefs and queen mothers are in a position to serve as the nerve centre of social cohesion and community resilience;
- The National Peace Council (NPC) remains a good example of peace infrastructure not only in Ghana but in West Africa. Since its establishment, it has been decentralized to support community and regional peacebuilding efforts. At the national level, it contributed to the mitigation of election violence, inter and intra-party disputes before, during and after the 2012 and 2016 elections. Currently, the NPC is engaging both the NPP and NDC in resolving the phenomenon of political vigilantism;
- The Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) was set up by the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) as a platform to engage political parties, civil society and the media in deliberation and sharing of ideas and advice on electoral matters. This mechanism helps in facilitating dialogue and participation in electoral processes as well as mitigating disagreements among stakeholders of elections in Ghana;
- The Government of Ghana should strengthen multi-lateral cooperation and intelligence sharing with Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire to counter and prevent the threats of terrorism and violent extremism in the countries;
- The Government of Ghana should align its counter terrorism strategy with that of ECOWAS to enhance harmonization and synergy in prevention and mitigation of terrorist and violent extremist threats;
- The Government of Ghana should increase support to strengthen the capacity of the security agencies through trainings, provision of equipment, increased presence of security, enhanced community-security relationship, especially in border areas in response to emerging threats to peace and security in country;
- The Government should foster partnership with local communities through restructuring and strengthening community policing structures to enhance resilience against growing threats to security;
- The Government of Ghana should strengthen collaboration with countries within the Gulf of Guinea and international partners on intelligence sharing, improve sea patrols, security of sea vessels and counter activities of illegal fishing illegal fishing at high sea;
National Peace Council (NPC) and National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE):
- National Peace Council (NPC), National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) should strengthen collaboration with the Ministry of Education, civil society organizations, the media, religious groups and traditional authorities to engage citizens through peace and civic education to enhance social cohesion and community resilience, especially in countering hate speeches, fake news and inciting of violence against individuals, groups and the state;
- The NPC, as part of its engagement with the NPP and NDC in the ongoing dialogue and mediation process on political vigilantisms, should develop a media engagement strategy to ensure a sustainable dialogue and mediation process;
- The NPC should consolidate its mandate of institutionalizing dialogue and mediation to respond to conflicts in Ghana;
- There is the need for national dialogue and sustained conversation on emerging security threats in the country with stakeholders including the Government, political parties, security agencies, religious institutions, traditional leaders, women and youth groups, labour unions, the media, civil society and other interest groups.
Civil Society Organisations and the Media:
- Civil Society Organizations and the media should intensify collaboration with the citizenry and facilitate national dialogue to enhance social cohesion through peace and civic education; • CSOs should form colborative fronts ahead of the 2020 election and already start designing activities that will respond to emerging threats.
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