The wake of terrorism in the Sub-Region: Is Ghana ready?

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By Harriet Ofori


Everyone looked confused. It was just a film festival after all. They searched all bags before allowing anyone an entry pass. The bag search over, they scanned everybody – yes, everyone in the queue which snaked around two blocks! The Burkinabe security officers at the gate wore no smile; in their eyes, everyone was a suspect and they did their job thoroughly with no partiality.

Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso has in recent times been attacked by Islamic insurgents, causing the loss of many lives, leading to the shutting down of over 300 schools in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

On January 15 2016, the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al-Mourabitoun terrorists armed with heavy weapons attacked the Cappuccino restaurant and the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, causing about 86 casualties.

On August 13 and 14, 2017, suspected jihadists opened fire which killed 19 people, and injured 25 others when they attacked the Istanbul Hotel and Hotel Bravia – a Turkish Hotel in Ouagadougou.

More recently, on March 2 2018, at least eight heavily armed militants launched an assault on key locations throughout Ouagadougou. Targets included the French Embassy and the headquarters of Burkina Faso’s military.

Unsurprisingly, there is a heavy security presence in major parts of the city to deter possible attacks, especially on foreigners. That was why during this year’s Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO), such items as makeup and combs were not allowed on any of the event grounds.

Mr. Kwaku Osei, an officer with a Security Agency in Ghana said that under the circumstances, the Burkina government was right in tightening security in the capital during FESPACO.

According to Mr. Osei, terrorists do not carry already assembled bombs into target locations. They disassemble various parts of the bombs and distribute among themselves. At the targeted bombing site, they reassemble the parts to wreak havoc on innocent people.

“People do not carry already assembled bombs to targeted places. We have what we call improvised explosive weapons. This is what most terrorists use,” Mr. Osei said.

Burkina Faso is not Ghana’s only neighboring country to have suffered terrorist attacks in recent times.

On March 3, 2016, there was a jihadist attack on Côte d’Ivoire, where three gunmen opened fire at a beach resort in Grand-Bassam, killing at least 19 people and injuring 33 others.

In 2018, a military base in Metele, a village in the North-Eastern Borno State in Nigeria also suffered attacks from the ‘Boko Haram’, an extremist Islamist group whose mission is to “purify Islam” in Northern Nigeria by violently resisting all forms of westernization.

According to the ‘Defense Post’, on March 17, 2019, unidentified gunmen, under the command of Ba Ag Moussa – a deserter army colonel – attacked the Malian camp in Dioura, located in the Mopti Region, killing 23 Malian soldiers.

Dr. Ken Ahorsu, a Senior Research Fellow who specializes in Peace, Conflict and Security at the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) says terrorist attacks are universal now and no country is insulated from them, hence, the Ghanaian government needs to take precautions against any such attacks on the State.

“We can’t say Ghana is not under threat. Universally, there are reasons why countries are attacked, and some of the reasons are here in Ghana, so equally, we are threatened.”

Mr. Christopher Effah, an officer with the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) also expresses worry, as he fears there would be a spillover from neighboring victimized countries into Ghana and its accompanying effects on the country.

“Terrorists can also attack Ghana and if the situation gets worse in Burkina, there could be cases of refugees who may flood the country,” Mr. Effah said. “There will be an outbreak of diseases that may arise from the influx of refugees.”

According to Mr. Effah, in the event that terrorists penetrate the country, there is the possibility that some Ghanaians may be indoctrinated.

Not all hope is lost however.  Mr. Effah believes that Ghana still stands a chance of averting terrorist attacks.

“Ports of entry into Ghana, such as the airports, and the borders are being monitored to fish out any suspicious activities related to terrorism,” Mr. Effah said. “In fact, during the period of attack on Burkina Faso, the military was vigilantly monitoring the border for any information or activity that could be related to terrorism.”

Dr. Ahorsu of LECIAD also says that if the State takes precaution by sensitizing the public on terrorist attacks, the ways in which they are manifested as well as the type of people who are involved in carrying them out, Ghana will stand a better chance of preventing similar attacks.

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