‘Terrorist Attack on Ghana, a Myth or Reality’

Terrorism is the new word on the block taking the world by surprise and creating panic particularly on the African Continent. 

The recent one is the EgyptAir Flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo which disappeared over the Meditterean Sea. Though some reports suggest the crash could have occurred as a result of Terrorist act, others believe it was a technical failure. This shows how Terrorism is taking over the world and keeps bringing more panic to our world. 

In actual fact, there has never been a time in life where security has become a pressing issue than our generation. Our generation is under eminent security threat and this is the time for us to take security more seriously. Everyone has a role to play from the Government, the security agencies, the media and the citizenry in fighting Terrorism. Our life is under threat and it is obvious no one is safe, crime and terrorism are on the ascendancy and curbing it is becoming more of a challenge than finding solutions. 

Life has really changed over the years. I remember when we were growing up in the 80s, your next door neighbor’s house was opened to you 24 hours a day and there were no sophisticated security systems protecting homes. Life was good and we were each other’s keeper. Fast forwarded to the 21st century and our lives are more at risk than ever before. Hence security today is more of a pressing issue such that going through bus and train stations, airports and other border controls which was without stress in the past are compounded with so many restrictions and regulations governing the use of such public places. 

Therefore considering all the Terrorist acts happening around the neigbours of Ghana, is Terrorist attack to Ghana a myth or reality? We have two options as a Nation, to shy away from the truth or to face it and find solutions to it. It has become obvious that we are at risk of a terrorist attack in Ghana. The evidence are there for all to see from TB Joshua’s prophesy which some sect of the population sees it as a myth to what is happening around the neighbor’s of Ghana in relation to terrorist activities becoming rampant. There is no doubt about Ghana being the next target for any terrorist activity considering Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Nigeria all attacked. The threat to Nigeria is an ongoing experience and Boko Haram is also devising new ways of creating havoc in Nigeria. Ghana sharing its western border with Ivory Coast where Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) recently dispatched three gun men leading to death of 15 civilians and three Ivorian security forces is an indication Ghana needs to be on the alert. Burkina Faso which is also our neigbours has been attacked. 

There is an African proverb that says, “if you see your friends beard on fire, then you need to get your water ready in case it happens to you”. The fact is what intelligence systems are we putting in place to stop these terrorists? How prepared are we if the worse happens? Are our security personnel trained to deal with terrorism? Are we investing in technology and other sophisticated devices to counter terrorism or are we still banking our hopes on our AK47s? Are our borders secured? Answers to these questions depicts how prepared we are or else we have a long way to go. Even the west that have invested heavily in terrorism still has them slipping through the net from time to time. The west has invested in technology, armory, security agencies and people. In our part of the world, when security is mentioned, what comes to mind are the government and security agencies? The people are not involved in security issues making dealing with security issues very unbalanced. 

I remember travelling to London on one occasion and my brother who was supposed to pick me from Heathrow was stuck in traffic for hours. This was winter time and I underestimated the cold as I wore a light jacket. I then had to walk about keeping myself warm, however I did that at the expense of leaving my luggage behind at all times. It was then that an elderly woman who was watching my movements and saw I was leaving my luggage unattended and hence behaving suspiciously, approached me politely and whispered that if I leave my luggage unattended the security staff and police would destroy it if they see that it’s unattended. In no time I heard from the loud speakers announcing that, if you see anything suspicious, do not hesitate to tell a member of staff or the police. What I’m I trying to tell you? The west has conscientise their citizenry to look out for suspicious behaviors, actions and strange movements by people. This is the lifestyle of the West and that in itself is a way of gathering intelligence from the citizenry when it matters most.  

We have a long way to go when it comes to security. The earlier we take security seriously, the better for us. I know the Government is doing its best but there is more room for improvement. Hence the Government in its quest to tackle terrorism in a recent communiqué issued on Tuesday, 15th of March 2016 by the Ministry of Communication, stipulates that ‘the National Security Council on the basis of briefings by the intelligence agencies and partners has determined that there is credible terrorist threat to all countries in the sub-region’. This was further reiterated by the British High Commission to Ghana, Mr. Jon Benjamin, ‘’alerting its citizens in Ghana or those that intend to travel to Ghana to be security conscious’’. This shows the in-depth of the seriousness of the threat and how important we deal with it in a swift manner to bring back confidence in the citizenry is the fundamental step in fighting Terrorism. The good news here is that, the Government has admitted that there is an eminent threat not only to Ghana but the whole West Africa sub-region. The fact is knowing something is different from not knowing. Meaning your approach to dealing with a known situation is different from an unknown one. Therefore how we secure and protect our cross borders, patrol to stop the influx of potential terrorists and undertake vigorous checks at our borders will determine our first step to fighting terrorism considering the fact that the threat is to the whole ECOWAS communities. Hence the Government should treat this threat with all the needed attention and resources as we cannot afford to lose a soul for something we are aware of. Though terrorism cannot be eradicated at the moment but it can be minimized if we take the right steps. We need to be action oriented and not just usual discussions on media platforms with no substantive plans to fight this battle of terrorism.

To me, I believe Africa can be a breeding ground for Terrorist activities considering certain factors that resonates with our continent. Hence we need to find answers to questions that have the capacity to fight terrorism from the grassroots. This is the only way to reduce terrorist activities to the barest minimum if not to eradicate it. Therefore for us to be on top of our game in fighting terrorism, we need to consider the following factors;

Economic Factors

Are there jobs for people on the continent? Do we create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive not forgetting small businesses? 

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research site, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, politicians and policy experts drew a quick and intuitive line between terrorism and poverty. Much of the existing academic literature on conflict suggested that poverty increased the likelihood of political coups and civil war, so conflating terrorism with poor economic conditions seemed logical. Thus in my own opinion, you can’t leave poverty out of the equation as anyone that does not have a sense of belonging in any community can rise up against it to use terrorism as response to the unbalanced wealth sharing in any society. That’s why terrorism is one way to fight the ideologies of society and a way of making their grievances heard. Therefore Terrorism has a voice and that is to send a message to others by killing and maiming innocent people.

Africa needs to wake up and start providing a safe haven of political dispensation that enhances economic stability and a platform that enables dreams to thrive and grow. Jobs must be provided; career progression must be a lifestyle for people and opportunities to have education and skills must be provided to help citizenry to have stability in life.

Political Factors

The tone of language used by political parties, leaders in society and the citizenry can incite violence that can lead to terrorist acts. For instance, in recent times some leaders and members of political parties in Ghana have made religious and tribal comments that can fuel terrorists’ insurgency. Hence how we communicate to foster unity and peace to stop religious divide and tribal tensions should be our mantra as a nation. Our leaders need to set good examples for others to emulate. You were voted to make a difference that brings progress to the life of the ordinary citizen, not to make it worse.

Technology and Social Media

One of the greatest achievements of technology is how it has improved communication. Terrorists today use sophisticated communication tools to communicate in our communities, towns, cities and across borders and continents. They easily communicate to recruit terrorists, train them and release them back into their communities to cause havoc. Hence these are one of the areas African countries needs to invest in especially Ghana to monitor potential terrorists and weed them out of the system. In my opinion, the two Gitmo prisoners sent to Ghana is not an issue if the security agencies do their job well. If we had an option, then they should not have been sent to Ghana in the first place. However, as far as they are here, the security agencies need to monitor their communication, internet use and social media to curb any iota of terrorist connection or threat before they surface. Hence the use of technology and social media is one communication tool for terrorists and hence monitoring it 24 hours a day, 356 days a year is the key to fighting terrorism.

Training and Development for Security Agencies

Are our security agencies well trained to fight terrorism? Are we prepared enough if there is a terrorist attack now? The answers to these questions will determine how prepared we are for the task ahead. Fighting terrorism is not a lip service but a conscious effort to fight it by acquiring the right resources, current training and developments trends and our preparedness if there is an attack. I read an article recently in the Sun news paper where the Greater Manchester police took exercise at the Manchester Trafford Centre to test the response of the emergency services in reaction to a terrorist attack. I’m not sure if Ghana has done this before and if they have, how frequent do we do it. We need to wake up from our slumber and start getting serious because we are sitting on a time bomb and the earlier we get serious the better for us.

Building an Intelligence Hub 

Intelligence building is not a job for just one department but a team effort where information is shared among security agencies, the government and the citizenry. Also cross border sharing of intelligence among countries is a powerful way to share information and knowledge pertaining to terrorism. The experiences of Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso can be an asset for Ghana. According to a recent report in the Metro News paper in London, ‘’three men accused of plotting attacks in Britain have been arrested in Italy’’. This was achieved as a result of intelligence shared among the British intelligence and that of the Italians. Hence the African continent must work in their quest to fight terrorism.

In conclusion, we need to secure our borders through cross border controls and patrols, increase police presence at public places, increase security at gatherings especially during campaign and elections, implementation of random security checks on individuals and on vehicles, alter primary entrances and exits of public spaces, presence of law enforcement cars in public domains and awareness creation by government using the media and all social media platforms to educate the citizenry and everyone involved in fighting terrorism. 

In all there is a saying in security circles that says ‘’absence of the normal, presence of the abnormal” if you see something, say something’’. Never close your mouth whenever you see something suspicious. Keeping quite can be deadly but saying something can save lives.

Author: Gerald Sintim-Aboagye is an MA Student Majoring in Terrorism, Crime and Global Security at Staffordshire University, UK, and an EX British Military Personnel with over a decade of experience. As the Director of S4L Consult, a firm that provides security to individuals, corporate institutions and events as well as consulting to other security agencies, he has a vision to make our communities more vibrant in dealing with security issues confronting our Nation by working with them closely through training and development and enhancing their knowledge and skills. 

He believes this is the way to create a safer place for a secured future for our generation. Ghana needs all its citizens to be alive and to do so; we all have a role to play.

I will end by wishing Ghana a very peaceful and successful election on the 7th of November 2016.



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Henry Cobblah

Henry Cobblah is a Tech Developer, Entrepreneur, and a Journalist. With over 15 Years of experience in the digital media industry, he writes for over 7 media agencies and shows up for TV and Radio discussions on Technology, Sports and Startup Discussions.

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