Former President Jerry John Rawlings has urged all military personnel deployed to patrol Ghana’s borders to be sensitive to the mood of the locals there.
In a statement dated 1 July 2020 in which the former military leader warned that there was a “real threat” of terrorist attacks on Ghana and her neighbours, Mr Rawlings said: “While we, undoubtedly, are nervous about the deployment of the military and other security agencies across our border areas, ordinary civilians can better guarantee their safety when we keep our ears and eyes open for suspicious movement and activities across our vast borders”.
“In the same vein, I once again urge the military and other agencies deployed in the border regions to perform their roles above reproach and be sensitive to the mood of the people of the border areas who are already reeling under the pressures of COVID-19”, he said.
Mr Rawlings noted that “any unease and mistrust between the military and communities along the border areas will only create an opening for those engaging in terrorist activity to slip through, increasing the threats to our country”.
“Cooperation and sharing of intelligence is key to confronting the challenge”, Mr Rawlings noted, adding: “The military’s role is to defend the territorial integrity of the country and protect the people of Ghana”.
Early last month, several soldiers and gendarmes were killed in multi-terrorist attacks in Cote d’Ivoire. Burkina Faso has become a hub of terrorist activity over the past few years with hundreds killed in recurring attacks across the country, Mr Rawlings pointed out in his statement.
He said travel advices and credible intelligence reports from several sources have warned of potential terrorist attacks in countries like Ghana and Togo, warning: “Our country faces a real threat of terrorism with the heightened attacks in neighbouring countries”.
“As Ghanaians, we can no longer procrastinate on the matter of terrorism and assume we are insulated from the reality”, Mr Rawlings noted.
He said “the time has come for heightened vigilance by every Ghanaian, as we enter a vulnerable period leading up to the December presidential and parliamentary elections”.
“Inhabitants of, especially the border communities, need to remain extra vigilant and observant if we are to avoid any such terrorist attacks on our territory”, he noted.
Over the past few days, there have been accusations and counter-accusation between the government and the biggest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) over the deployment of army personnel to the border towns.
Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul, during the exchanges, said the NDC and its Minority in Parliament must bow their heads in shame for playing propaganda with the deployment, which, he explained, was aimed at stopping citizens of Ghana’s neighbours from smuggling themselves into her territory with more COVID-19 cases.
The Bimbilla MP’s comments came after the Volta Caucus of Ghana’s Minority in Parliament, on Monday, 29 June 2020, gave the government a 24-hour ultimatum to immediately withdraw the army personnel, particularly from its electoral stronghold, Volta Region.
The Chairman of the Caucus, Mr Emmanuel Bedzrah, told journalists at the NDC’s bi-weekly press briefing that: “The fire has been lit and we the Voltarians are ready”.
“We are not cowards and I want to repeat that we are not cowards”, he said.
The Ho West MP said: “We don’t fear people, we only respect people and, therefore, whoever had deployed the military personnel to our borders should call them back immediately”, adding: “We are giving them up to the end of tomorrow, Tuesday; the military personnel must be called back”.
Responding to the NDC Minority at a press briefing organised by the Minister of Information, Mr Nitiwul said: “I believe that if they are watching this press conference, they will revise their notes and they should be bowing their heads in shame because they lied to the people of Ghana”, adding: “As we have all been told now, the numbers in the Volta Region are some of the lowest of the deployment, so, when you are giving the ultimatum, are you giving the ultimatum for those in the North-East Region to also be withdrawn, those in the Northern Region to also be withdrawn?”
“Are you speaking for those people as well? What about Upper West? They should also withdraw as well when Tumu people are happy that the soldiers are there and they have been there for a year-and-a-half? It’s not like yesterday that security personnel have been deployed. Other people have been with them for a year-and-a-half”, Mr Nitiwul said.
Mr Nitiwul explained that the soldiers and officers of the Ghana Armed Forces have been deployed to border areas across the entire country and not just to the Volta and Oti Regions as claimed by the Minority and former President John Mahama.
The ‘Enhanced Calm Life’ operation, he noted, will last for as long as the President keeps Ghana’s borders closed.
Mr Nitiwul gave the breakdown of the deployment as follows: Volta Region – three officers, 95 soldiers; Oti Region – two officers, 70 soldiers; Northern Region – five officers, 105 soldiers; North-East Region – three officers, 99 soldiers; Upper East – eight officers, 199 soldiers; Upper West – three operational areas – Wa (One officer, 15 soldiers), Tumu (One officer, 35 soldiers), Hamile (four officers, 15 soldiers); Savanna (Damongo and Bole) – no officers, 21 soldiers; Bono Region – 64 soldiers.
“I am giving you these statistics for you to know that there’s no agenda against a particular tribe”, Mr Nitiwul said, adding: “In fact, if you add the numbers, the Konkonbas, which is my tribe, have the most soldiers stationed [with them] than any other tribe in Ghana. I have an agenda against my own tribe?”
According to him, the Konkombas are the majority tribe in the North-East and Oti Regions, insisting: “There’s no agenda of the government of Ghana against any particular tribe”.
“I want to urge the people who are going on that particular tangent to drop it. It doesn’t help us”, the minister noted.
He said the Volta Region has the fourth-highest number of military personnel deployed there (98) relative to the Upper East – 207, Northern Region – 110 and North-East Region – 102.
“So, I want the chiefs and the people of the Volta Region to know that the information the NDC Minority and former President John Mahama are feeding them is pure propaganda”, Mr Nitiwul said, adding: “It should be ignored, it’s pure mischief, it’s pure propaganda”.
He said: “We have deployed across the entire country and the purpose is to aid and support the Ghana Immigration Service to stop people from crossing [into Ghana] because we have too many unapproved routes and the COVID numbers are getting higher and higher and higher and we will not sit aloof and allow our people to die because people have crossed into our country”.
Mr Nitiwul said: “If people have any reason – whether NDC, NPP, CPP or any other party – of bringing in anybody for whatever purpose, the protocol is very clear: Bring them in through the approved channels. Let them be quarantined for 14 days, then they can do whatever they want to do. But for the people of Ghana, I’m concerned about their health. It’s my duty to make sure that the people of Ghana are safe, and, at this particular time, we are all in danger”.
“For anybody to suggest that we just deployed only to Aflao or Volta Region, it’s misplaced, its misinformation and the person is just seeking mischief”, he stressed.
The Defence Minister urged eligible Ghanaians in the Volta Region to go about their electoral processes without fear or favour since the army personnel are not there to intimidate but rather protect them.
“The people of the Volta Region, particularly the chiefs and people will register and register well. The people of Ghana will register and register well. The soldiers are not coming to any polling station, the soldiers will be at the border to stop people from coming in or going out across the whole border – Volta, Oti, Northern, North-East, Upper East, Upper West, Bono, Western-North and Savanna – … and the soldiers are to help the Immigration [Service] to stop anybody from crossing into Ghana or leaving Ghana because our borders are locked to human traffic. What we’ll accept is cargo but for human traffic, we’ll not accept”.
“If you want to bring any human being in, go to the Ghana Embassy, register and that person will come in and spend time at his own cost for a quarantine period of 14 days and once we are OK that that person is not a COVID-19 patient, that person can go. But to think that a responsible government, when the numbers [of COVID-19] are going up, will sit and fold our arms to allow people just to come in because a particular party wants people to come in, that one will not happen”.