Deteriorating security situation, the collapse of two important bridges and the deepening threat of terrorism combined, are the driving force behind a self-initiated police station project by the chief and people of Manyoro, a border community in the Kassena-Nankana municipality of the Upper East Region.
Manyoro, one of the populated zones in the Kassena-Nankana area with an estimated 25,129 habitats, according to data from the Kassena-Nankana municipal assembly, borders Burkina Faso to the north. The community, with a growing market, just like other border communities in the region, is challenged with numerous unapproved entry routes dotted along the border and exposing the community to sprawling cross border crimes.
Although Ghana’s border security agencies in the wake of the growing threats of terrorism have taken several interventions including the deployment of armed personnel to guard her territory against infiltration by criminal elements, the lack of adequate resources has weakened the effectiveness of the efforts, necessitating self-initiated interventions by border communities to keep safe.
Aside from the frequent killings by bandits, mostly suspected to have crossed into Ghana, recent reported movements of suspected displaced terrorist elements running to take cover in Ghana’s territory near the border, have triggered fear among border communities including Manyoro. Also, with rife gold mining activities in Kolo-Tebele, a Burkinabe community some 7-km away, Manyoro residents continue to suffer spillovers of crime from the mining sites.
Between August 2022 and August 2023, there have been several reported incidents of armed robbery attacks within the Kassena-Nankana area, with three recorded deaths. Properties running into thousands of cedis have also been lost to the robbers who mostly target major roads such as the Paga-Manyoro, Manyoro- Natugnia- Sirigu, Pungu- Natugnia- Gumongo- Manyoro stretches, among others, sometimes carrying out the attacks in broad daylight.
“Just two days ago, a commercial tricycle driver who had dropped off a passenger at Manyoro, was shot dead on the Pungu-Manyoro road near Gumongo. There was also another attack on the Navio-Tazika road. We are living in fear now,” said Adiyire Achengdala, a resident of Manyoro.
Police station project
To tackle the insecurity in Manyoro, the chief of the community, Pe Dr Pwakweah Atudiwe Atudipaare Manchi III and his people began an initiative two years ago to build a police station. The community was pushed to begin the project, following several failed appeals to governments for the provision of a police station in the community.
So, with contributions – cash or expertise – from residents of Manyoro, the community kick started the project. Support also came from well-meaning corporate entities to help build the facility.
After long months of efforts, the project is completed. Pe Atudipaare and his people hope its timely operationalisation would help deal with insecurity and land disputes which have rocked Manyoro and neighbouring communities in the past.
“The opening of the police station would help fight crime and protect us against activities of terrorists since we are a border community. It will also greatly help to deal with land boundary disputes which are common in this area,” said a resident.
But before the people of Manyoro can begin to enjoy the benefits of their police station initiative, the Ghana Police Service must first heed to their several calls for the swift deployment of personnel to the new facility.
Daniel Besugu, an opinion leader in the community and coordinator for the project, said although the police administration in the region have inspected the facility and expressed satisfaction with the amenities of the facility, personnel were yet to be deployed.
Besugu noted that the delay by the police administration was robbing the area of the needed police protection, stating the recent robbery in which a life was lost could have been averted if the police station was operating. He, therefore, made a passionate appeal to the Ghana Police Service to work expedite processes towards the full running of the facility.
“We have done all that needs to be done and even provided accommodation for the personnel. But we don’t know why the police have still not sent men here. We appeal to the government and again to the police to send some of their men to the area,” said Besugu.
Aside from the delay in the operationalisation of the police station, another challenge stifling the fight against crime and generally making life difficult in Manyoro, is the collapse of two out of three important bridges linking the community to other parts of the region. The collapse of the bridges has cut off Manyoro and turned it into an island. The movement of people, essential goods and services has become near impossible.
The Manyoro- Gumongo bridge, which was constructed in the late 70s to facilitate movement between the two communities, collapsed long ago and has since not been reconstructed. The river tides have washed portions of the broken bridge away. Another important steel bridge on the Paga-Manyoro road near Navio, collapsed in 2022, after an overweight cargo truck used it. That bridge too has yet to be reconstructed despite several calls by residents. Since the fall of that steel bridge, at least four people have died trying to cross the Gugura river.
Education, health and economic activities have been affected by the collapse of the bridges. The situation is particularly dire during the rainy seasons when the rivers overflow their banks, making it impossible to move in and out of the community. The fight against crime and the threat of terrorism has also been dealt a blow as Manyoro has become inaccessible to border security forces for patrols.
The remaining steel bridge on the Manyoro-Natugnia road allowing accessibility to the area is also in a bad state due to lack of maintenance. One of its metal beams has broken from the impact of a collision. Bolts, nuts and other fasters have also fallen out, leaving a weak structure waiting to collapse. To avert disaster, the Kassena-Nankana Municipal Assembly has partly blocked passage on the bridge with rubble. A narrow way allows for the passage of bicycles, motorcycles and motor tricycles. What this means is that, vehicles carrying essential goods and services such as security, are not able to access the area.
Residents say the situation has made Manyoro an island, fearing that in the event of an attack, security agencies may not be able to swiftly intervene.
“The collapsed bridges have made our lives miserable. We cannot move as we used to move and our children cannot go to school. Teachers cannot come to school to teach. The security agencies cannot patrol to Manyoro or Saforo. So, we are living in constant fear,” said Kwokwaga Mathew, a resident of Manyoro.
The Assemblyman for Saforo-Gumongo, Adekima Francis, noted that the collapsed bridges were negatively affecting trade activities in the enclave. He said traders in the area were neither able to bring in important goods or commute to other areas to engage in trade.
“In the rainy season, people have to suffer to cross the bridge. Traders going to Manyoro market cannot get to Manyoro and traders in Manyoro cannot also go and do business because they cannot cross the river. Also, education, and health care delivery have all been negatively affected,” said Adekima.
Since the collapse of the bridges, members of communities such as Manyoro, Gumongo, Tazika and Navio, have pressed the government to as a matter of urgency take steps to reconstruct them. In the Navio community for instance, the Chief, Pe Kwarase Asongojem Parejie ll led his people in a peaceful protest against the government for its failure to yield to the concerns of the people. In that protest march, the community threatened to abstain from all government activities including general elections if the bridges are not rebuilt to allow easy movement of people, essential goods and services.
“This is a major road in the district. From here, you get to Manyoro, Natugnia, Sirigu, Mirigu and Kandiga. Businesses are totally off. People cannot go and people cannot come. Even teachers and nurses cannot cross especially when it rains. The traders cannot go to the markets and farmers also cannot go to the farms”.
“Assuming that there’s an attack in Manyoro because of this terrorism, the military and other security agencies cannot move to the scene. If there’s a fire outbreak, Fire Service cannot move,” Pe Kwarase lamented.
“So, we are here seriously to say that when it gets to election, we don’t want any politician to come to our community. We are not ready to listen to them. As a chief, I’m here for development but we can’t see any development,” he added.
Despite the pressers and protests, the government was yet to be seen putting any serious efforts into rebuilding the bridges. Clement Atudipaare, a resident of Manyoro said the community had become tired of demanding for the right thing to be done. He said the government was simply refusing to listen to the cries of the community.
“We have become tired of always speaking on this issue. For years, we have appealed to governments who have not been able to do anything about the bridges. I, for instance, suffered a fire outbreak in my house and lost everything because nothing could be done by the fire service department who could not access my house.”
Municipal chief executive’s reaction
The Chief Executive of the Kassena-Nankana Municipal Assembly, Joseph Adongo, when contacted by Asaase News admitted that the Manyoro community had virtually become isolated due to the collapse of the bridges. He said he was aware of the challenging situation where pedestrians and vehicles are unable to access the area to deliver important goods and services.
He, however, stated that the Assembly has escalated the worrying situation the community was faced with to the national level where plans were currently underway to dispatch contractors to begin the reconstruction work. Adongo did not give further details and timelines.
Adongo agreed that the collapse of the bridge had particularly become worrying considering that Manyoro sits on the border with a country that has been battling widespread activities of terrorists.
‘‘We know about the situation in Manyoro concerning the two bridges and have reported the situation to Accra and they have come to take estimates of the two bridges. We understand it [reconstruction] is going to be on contract and hope very soon the bridge will be worked on.
“We are also very much concerned because Manyoro is a community near the border and we all know what is happening to our neighbours in Burkina Faso in terms of the insecurity there. They whole municipality is not secured if Manyoro is not secured,” Adongo stressed.
Adongo also admitted the worrying insecurity in the Manyoro zone where, he said, he had heard about the frequent robbery attacks visited on residents and road users resulting in loss of lives. He noted that while the Municipal Security Council (MUSEC) was making efforts to deploy police personnel to the zone, it was commendable to see that the Chief of Manyoro and his people have self-initiated a police station project.
He noted that, just like the success story of Naaga where a similar community-driven police station project was erected to check increasing crime, he was hopeful Manyoro’s story would not be different. Adongo admitted that the positioning of Manyoro near the border, makes it prudent for increase security presence there.
“Naaga also self-initiated a police station project and if it is also done by the chief and people of Manyoro, they must be commended. I must commend the chiefs and his people and I think that will help address the insecurity in the area since it is a border community,” he said.
The MCE said he was not aware the facility had been completed and needing the deployment of police personnel. He said the last time he was updated on the progress of the facility; he had been briefed that accommodation for the police had not been made ready. He, nonetheless, said he would make serious efforts to ensure that the facility is operationalised.
Reporting by Castro Senyalah in the Upper East Region
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