Politics

Ghana must take terrorism threats seriously

We are a nation that is not security conscious at all, among other areas of ignorance, and that is one very fertile ground for terrorists to succeed

Evidence abounds that terrorist activities that our neighbouring countries are experiencing is a real threat to Ghana. The fact that our National Security and other security experts have acknowledged this publicly means the threat is real and present. Unfortunately, the approach being discussed in the public space to this threat falls woefully short of what is expected to be done to address the threat.

The headline action that has been suggested by the Ministry of National Security to deal with this threat is a directive headed “ENHANCING SECURITY AT VARIOUS PLACES OF WORSHIP”. With all respect due to our National Security Ministry this directive to religious organisations to heighten their security is not a sufficient step to a threat that confronts the general population of Ghana, even though it is necessary.

It is surprising that even though the directive itself identifies the broad scope of the threat posed by terrorist actions, it does not extend its recommendation to cover the necessary actions to be taken to deal with it.

For instance, the directive refers to the 2013 Al-shabab attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. It further goes on to advise religious organisations that “your outfit is urged to enhance security, particularly in areas where mass gatherings are conducted”. These two points admit to the fact that terrorists target places where there are mass gatherings, and places of religious gatherings are only one of such targets.

In this respect we must not lose sight of the fact that on 13 March 2016, terrorists opened fire at a beach resort in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast, killing at least 19 people and injuring others. That incident, if my memory serves me right, triggered precautionary security measures to be announced and put in place in Ghana at religious gatherings but also to hotels and other places of mass gatherings. Of course, shortly after that we fell into a sense of security and abandoned all those security measures and it became “business as usual”. This time, however surprisingly, we seem to be limiting our public security advice to churches and mosques.

A few days later another release came out headed PRESS RELEASE, ENHANCING SECURITY AT PUBLIC PLACES. This one essentially urges “everyone to be vigilant and extra careful about their personal and communal security”. Again, these are meaningless and unprofitable words.

The Ministry of National Security must have taken measures, outside the public’s collective eyes, to strengthen our security and they hinted that much in the said directive. However, the absence of a plan to clearly and purposefully educate and involve the public in security consciousness is what baffles me, even when it is an accepted fact that citizens’ participation makes nations more secure.

What is more baffling is that those who have voices on security issues, including Security analysts and experts, have so far not proposed the urgent need for the sensitisation and education of the public to enhance the fight against terrorist threats to our nation. They appear to be content with discussing the threat as an academic matter.

Some are satisfied with the Ministry of National Security’s directive to Faith-based Organisations and telling us that they are moving from church to mosque educating them, to the neglect of the weightier matter of educating the public. Others are actively telling us that “all is not well” so we must “shine our eyes” without telling us what to look for.

We are a nation that is not security conscious at all, among other areas of ignorance, and that is one very fertile ground for terrorists to succeed. On Wednesday 11th May 2022 I was coming out of the West Hill Mall when I overhead a man seeking permission from the security guard stationed at that entrance to leave a parcel in a large black polythene bag with him. The man asked to leave the bag and dash in the mall for a brief moment.

As soon as I heard the conversation I stopped to see how it was going to end. The guard hesitated and the man begged him. The guard then said “ok, you may leave it, but don’t stay too long”. When the man left I confronted the guard and asked him if he knew the man. He initially said “no” but changed his answer when he realised he had made a mistake

I further asked him what the content of the bag was. He answered, “the man said they are clothes”.
So if we have even a security guard who sees nothing wrong with taking custody of parcels of unknown contents from people, whether he knows them or not, and we see citizens sitting or walking by unattended bags without concern as is common in our country then we have a problem. If the terrorist threat to Ghana is real as is being alleged we have to aggressively educate the citizenry to be security conscious.

Our security experts and anyone who has native common sense ought to know this, but who will lead the charge to put it into effect remains a Ghanaian deficit? We wait anxiously while “shining our eyes”.

Captain Michael Yao Foli

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