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"Most of the armed robberies going on in the region and elsewhere, some are criminals. For instance in the northern region those I arrested last year; I think I arrested 99 there about armed robbers and 96 were Fulanis."
Those are the words of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ken Yeboah who opens up this conversation in his first-ever encounter with the media after his appointment as Ashanti Regional Police Commander.
In a voice laden with grief and despair, 58-year old, Nana Kwaku Ansong, chief of Empaemu, pours out his frustration on how he and his subjects have become refugees in their own land.
This farming community in the Kwahu East District of the Eastern Region of Ghana is now a ghost town. Nomadic Fulani herdsmen and their cattle have forced over 600 residents out.
Empaemu has since 2002 been under constant attack of armed Fulanis who let their cattle lose onto farmlands to destroy crops.
At least, two natives were shot and killed while two others sustained gunshot wounds within the first five-months of 2017.
"Empaemu, until now, used to be one of the communities under Kwahu Traditional Authority.
In local and national elections, it serves as a designated polling for a population of just 600 adults.
The town is empty now. Everyone has relocated as a result of the presence of Fulanis. Many of the houses have been washed away," says Nana Ansong.
Ruins of deserted mud and brick houses stare at me, with no sign of their owners returning. I travelled to the communities which have been under siege by nomads who unleash terror on indigenes, destroying crops, raping, and killing innocent people.
A basic school which had over 200 pupils, some from surrounding villages and hamlets, has now become a home for rodents.
Nana Ansong says he and his subjects have been forced to relocate to nearby Afuni, Hweehwee, Aduamoa, Abetifi and Nkawkaw which have fewer nomadic herdsmen.
Spotting a black cloth to symbolize grief, he says his people are too weak to confront the armed herdsmen who wield sophisticated weapons.
"The Fulani herdsmen have killed two people at Empaemu. A woman was also raped in the bush. The only basic school at Empaemu no longer exists. Farmers were afraid to allow their wards to school for the fear that they would be attacked by the herdsmen and their cattle.
The Fulanis also shot another farmer and injured him on the farm. He was admitted at the Atibie Government Hospital where he was treated," Nana Ansong revealed.
Besides Empaemu, about 17 vibrant and active communities in the district are virtually dead.
Amongst them are Demano, Nsawie, Boadikrom, Alhaji Akura and Yaw Marfo, Tumi Ayebi, Wawakonton, Asegya, Kwakuakura.
Residents in 14 communities were forced to leave their homes in 2014. Many of them remain in exile.
The situation means many schools such as the Aseseaso D/A Primary School remain closed.
The latest to be hit by the exodus is Mmepamasem. The community has been attacked twice in two years by the herdsmen.
In the more recent onslaught, about eleven armed nomadic herdsmen descended on inhabitants, shooting to death 20-year old Emmanuel Boateng, also known as Koo Joe, on the farm in March this year.
Victims and other residents fled to neighbouring Aseseaso where the local Church of Pentecost building served as their camp.
Even then, they had to be put under strict surveillance by a team from the Police Anti-Terrorism Unit from the Nkawkaw Divisional and Eastern Regional Commands.
Similar operations were mounted at Hweehwee in an effort to arrest the perpetrators.
"The Fulanis ransacked their rooms. For now, even food to eat is a problem. Two, they stole their money so something to put into their pocket is also a problem. For now, they don’t have water so we need to be providing them with water,” says Assemblyman for Hweehwee Electoral area, Solomon Aboagye.
Local farmers have had repeated distasteful encounters with the nomads culminating in reprisal attacks.
Four people have been killed within a period of four months in 2017 alone. Two of them are nomads.
Police are overwhelmed by the bloodshed, besides the high cost of maintaining law and order in the area.
They are so overstretched in both funds and logistics that, they buy fuel on credit.
Here is Chief Superintend James Sarfo Peprah who commands the Nkawkaw Division.
“As security, we move in a convoy so we send a lot of people there. How they are fed everything is on the police and that is costing us. And the fuel too, as I said, at times we are compelled to go into credit. We, at times, have to credit fuel just to send men to the operational ground and that is costing the division [police] a lot.”
Perhaps, the revelation by police suggests intensified state effort and resources are required to tackle the menace.
On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, residents of Mmepemasem had an opportunity to return home and pick up the pieces. This was after police satisfied itself in a normalized atmosphere. Under police escort, residents were led to their deserted homes- the first time in several weeks.
What was supposed to be a joyous moment, however, turned into grief because it was the first time Emmanuel’s Boateng’s mother stepped foot on the soil since her son was killed by the herdsmen.
“I really felt sad when the people got to Mmepemasem and some started wailing. It was so bad and I felt very sad,” says the police chief Sarfo Peprah.
He promised intensified efforts to secure returnees at home but there is no certainty about what happens to people when they go to their farms.
Caught in Crossfire
The nomads -natives stand-off in the Kwahu East area has had a toll on education. Students, teachers and other education workers are sometimes caught in the crossfire.
Authorities have had a tough time arriving at decisions to close down schools in these areas which have seen violent clashes between the nomads and the indigenes.
In February this year, seven schools were closed down for months, on the recommendation of the District Security Committee, as a result of sporadic shooting in the communities.
District Director of Education, Akwasi Boafo, had close-shave with death when he was caught in the crossfire during one of his school monitoring trips at Abotriansa in 2016.
He says: “Sometimes, they come as rumours but I have had the occasion myself last year to witness a typical scene of that nature. Yes. Exactly at one of the villages called Abotriansa. The situation there was an eyesore.
Indiscriminate shooting, the Fulanis will shoot at anything they think potentially is an object of provocation that will endanger their lives.” Besides, Mr Boafo has temporarily put a hold on posting female teachers to endemic communities, as women are targets of rape by herdsmen.
“This particular problem has even educated me in a way. I have now learnt that it would be unwise for me to be posting female teachers to such areas because when such things normally happen, they become targets so beginning from next academic year, I think what I will have to do is to seek clearance from my regional boss and make sure that no female teachers are posted to such areas.”
The confrontation between local farmers and foreign nomadic herdsmen escalated in 2016 and early 2017.
Teachers live in constant fear as security agencies struggle to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Most of them have put in transfer requests which put education authorities in a tight corner.
Closure of schools in 'risky' areas has become the only option for education authorities.
“In a situation like this where we also find out that schools are located in those areas, we have no option, then to close down because if the parents themselves are running away for their lives, how can you also insist that schools must be run,” Mr Kwasi Boafo quizzed.
The situation in Kwahu East is similar to what farmers and residents at Agogo and other communities in the Asante Akim North District of the Ashanti Region have endured for decades.
Agogomanmakuo, Agogo Youth Association and the Concerned Citizens of Agogo claim 65 natives of Agogo and settler farmers have been killed and many others maimed over the last 15 years.
This cannot, however, be independently verified by the police. But my checks revealed more than 40 locals have been killed and several others injured in the ensuing confrontations. Some nomadic herdsmen have also fallen victim to the clashes.
The Paramount chief of Agogo Traditional Area, Nana Akuoko Sarpong entered into an agreement to lease lands on the Agogo portion of the Afram Plains to four cattle owners on May 27, 2006, and January 15, 2008, respectively. The cattle owners were Alhaji Ahmed Abdul Karimu Grunsah -Chief Executive Officer of King Faisal Football Club, Alhaji Ali Mamudu, Alhaji Fuseini Hassan and Alhaji Dauda Kassim.
Apart from Alhaji Dauda Kassim who was given a temporal permit, the remaining three were granted 50-year lease renewable for 25 and 50 years respectively.
Each was assigned between 30 and 50 acres of land. One year after leasing lands which turned out to be Forest Reserve, Nana Akuoko Sarpong was at the World Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark to talk about deforestation.
The astute traditional ruler and politician in a media interview with Sally Ranney bemoaned the continued devastation to the forest cover.
"The British had the foresight to see that because of our farming practices, they needed to protect us and they created rain forest areas-protected; areas to ensure that the climate was in balance. Unfortunately, after independence, things started falling apart when our own bureaucrats took over the administration and within the past 50-years, Ghana has lost close to about 80 % of its forest cover and particularly in the area that I used or I was used to as a young man. If I see the devastation, the loss of the forest cover, and the consequences, the consequences have been that many of these rainfall areas have now turned into savannah grasslands," he complained.
A Kumasi High Court on January 20, 2012, in a ‘’mandatory injunction” directed the Ashanti Regional Security Council (REGSEC) to “take immediate, decisive, efficacious and efficient action to flush out all cattle in the following villages and localities in the Agogo Traditional Area.” They are; Abrewapong, Mankala, Nyamebekyere and Koweriso. The rest are Adoniem, Bebuso and Brahabebome.
The period between 2014 and 2016, however, has been bloody in Agogo over Government’s failure enforce the 2012 ruling by a High Court in Kumasi. According to the High Court ruling, “the only exceptions are cattle that have been properly confined in the permitted locality.”
"It was a landmark victory for the farmers. People jubilated when we heard that. I remember we went with 3 loads of buses to Kumasi, the precincts of the High Court and when they actually heard the judgment, jubilation started from Kumasi to Agogo. So when the Regional administration came in and said they were looking at the modalities and getting a date, and getting the resources to flush them out, my clients relaxed hoping that when an order of the High Court is directed at the regional administration, they will live up to expectation, but with time, they haven't done it," lawyer for affected residents, Kwame Anyimadu Antwi recounted.
Five years down the lane, the government has virtually thrown the ruling away, paid lip service as the farmers suffer murder, torture and other atrocities from invaders.
The government also failed to implement recommendations of an 11-member committee it set up on February 7, 2012, to draw an evacuation plan for Fulani herdsmen and their cattle from Agogo area.
Mr Anyimadu-Antwi who is also the Member of Parliament for Asante Akim Central wants further action brought against the Regional Security Council.
"My clients must wake up. If the plaintiffs are not ready to enforce the judgment, there are ways. For instance, we can go for a mandamus order against the people that the order of the High Court was directed to and if they are not able to live up to expectations, then the court can punish them. Period!."
This monumental failure plunged Agogo into a state of insecurity. Murder, rape and destruction of farms by cattle, have since become the order of the day.
Kingsley Obeng, Public Relations Officer of the Agogomanmakuo wondered why security officers detailed to the area will do the bidding of nomadic herdsmen.
“Some security men were sent to this area. The Kumasi High Court ruled in our favour that the Regional Security is to deploy security men here to drive them or force them to go away from our stool land. When they came here, they didn’t do anything in our favour. They just came here, protected the cattle from grazing around in our area. They didn’t have the intention of driving them away at all. When a man from Agogo, if you are a hunter and they see that you are holding a gun, they will seize the gun from you. But when these Fulani people when they see that they are holding their guns, they won’t do anything so we are not satisfied with what they came here to do at all,”.
It has taken six Regional Ministers who chaired the Ashanti Regional Security Council in five years to implement what looked like a simple High Court order.
Kwaku Agyemang Mensah, Samuel Sarpong, Eric Opoku, Peter Anarfi Mensah and John Alexander Ackon, all under the NDC government. Enter Simon Osei-Mensah of the current NPP administration, and there is still no end in sight. The effect is the persistent confrontation between natives of Agogo and herdsmen resulting in loss of lives and property.
Mr Ackon told me in an interview in April 2016 it would be difficult to remove all cattle from Agogo due to the complex nature of the issue.
Government fails to protect the people
Agogomanmakuo has been at the forefront of the fight to rid the area of nomadic herdsmen.
The tripartite affiliates have organized several street protests, press conferences and meetings to put pressure on both government and traditional authorities over the violent nomads.
The groups issued threats and concretized them. For instance, the groups’ ban on funerals in September 2011 was adhered to, respected and implemented throughout Agogoland.
It has since been lifted back in February.
The group grew in strength when some traditional and opinion leaders joined their meetings and protest marches.
Agogomanhemaa (Queen mother), Nana Serwaa Afrakomaa Kisi, wore war dress to join such protests.
Then Member of Parliament, Kwadwo Baah Agyemang, and other aspirants all rallied behind the advocacy group.
Repeated killing of natives by Fulani herdsmen between 2011 and 2016 made the group more visible and vociferous.
What, perhaps, broke the camel’s back was the gruesome murder of the community’s chief priest, 35-year-old Okomfo Akwasi Badu, at Koweriso on January 11, 2016.
News of Akwasi Badu's death started as rumour until police brought the body to the morgue. His wife was heartbroken.
She describes that moment as painful.
"I wept uncontrollably when I heard of his murder. I never saw him again until he was laid in state.
"I couldn't stand the sight of his disfigured body. He won't appear in my sleep, neither will I see him again, anywhere. Only God knows." She has had to endure unforgettable pain at the loss of her husband. Life after the death of the husband has been very challenging. Mavis breaks down; weeps uncontrollably anytime her eldest son asks of the whereabouts of his father.
The unemployed mother of two depends on the mother for everything- from feeding to kids’ school fees.
To uphold that sacrifice her husband made, she wants the cattle evacuated from the area.
As a spiritual head, he offered prayers to the gods through libation and enchantments. He also participated in anti-Fulani street protests. "My husband took part in protest marches. He always prayed for the gods to intervene in the Fulani issue. He was active in discussions to end the menace, with a wish to see an end to it," she recounted.
President of the Worldwide Agogomanmakuo, Sam Anyang Kusi adds, "nobody ever thought and believed that Okomfo Badu could be brought down the way and manner the Fulanis killed him. So we didn't understand. How could this happen and if that spiritualist, the one with powers on his own who has served most of us can be killed, then people became very scared that we were not safe."
The murder of the spiritualist who left behind a family, including a 6-month old baby, angered residents who threatened to kill any Fulani on sight.
"The way and manner he was killed was very brutal. Have you seen the picture? Very brutal. You can't even look at the picture. An innocent person. He had even gone to them just to talk to them and look at the way and manner, shot at close range in his face and it ignited us so much. For him to have been killed in that barbaric way was too much for the township to absorb," says Mr Anyang Kusi.
That threat issued by the group took then Inspector-General of Police, John Kudalor, and other security capos to visit Agogo.
Major- General Poku-Adusei, then Chief of Army Staff; DCOP Kofi Boakye, then Ashanti Regional Police Commander; Peter Anarfi Mensah, former Regional Minister for Ashanti, were on the trip.
A military-police team was put on standby for “Operation Cowleg”, a program introduced about 30-years ago by the former military ruler, late General Acheampong, to combat nomadic herdsmen activities.
Not even an assurance by former President John Mahama to construct a Cattle Village in the northern part of Ghana could bring change.
He announced during a visit to Simpoa, in the heat of the 2016 Election campaign , the government had acquired 10,000 hectares of land in the northern part of the country to relocate Fulani herdsmen and their cattle from troubled areas of the country.
Averagely, 5 bodies of locals from Agogo are deposited at the hospital’s morgue in a week. It was higher in 2015 and 2016.
Dr Nana Arhin Thompson is the Medical Superintendent of Agogo Presbyterian Hospital.
As a physician and surgeon, he and 30 other medical officers see farmers who have fallen victim to Fulani attack and vice versa.
“I cannot give off hand the number of cases, but we receive quite a lot of injuries. People brought in dead from gunshot wounds, and sometimes even people decapitated. Apart from the Fulanis fighting the locals, we have cases of Fulani-Fulani violence and they are also brought here,” Dr Thompson reveals.
News of a body of native murdered by nomadic herdsmen arriving at the Agogo Hospital always spread like wildfire, putting pressure on the only referral facility in the area.
Curious residents who in an attempt to verify the news will go as far as the theatre to catch a glimpse of injured victims.
Dr Thompson says those are difficult moments.
“People troop in to come...I mean just to observe what is going on and it's been one of our problems. We have security men but sometimes it is difficult to control the crowd and even while you are working inside the theatre, people rush in and try and just to catch a glimpse of what’s happening.
"When bodies are brought, people just rush in and so at such times our security men have a lot of work to do. A lot of pressure is put on them,” he explains.
A local advocacy group wants the government to show more commitment to fully implementing the Kumasi High Court ruling.
Sam Anyang Kusi, President of the Agogo Worldwide Association, sums up the frustration of residents.
"Part of the feeling and our frustration has been that perhaps the previous government was not assisting; it was not helping us because once a court issues an order [for the Fulanis to be removed from the town], it must be carried out. As we speak there is an Agogo citizen languishing in Nsawam Prisons after the same High Court found [him] guilty and sentenced [him] to death over the clashes."
Aerial view of Agogo TownshipAt least, five nomadic herdsmen were either awaiting trial or being prosecuted for murder between December 6, 2014, and January 2016. Several others were being sought by police for robbery as well. Chairman of the about 1,000-member Agogo Youth Association, Emmanuel Buabeng, fears Agogo could be sitting on a time bomb if the government fails to address the Fulani menace immediately.
"National Security detailed a police-military team here when we rose against the Fulani herdsmen. They arrested every youth on sight, including innocent people who had just closed from the church. Some were arrested at the workplace. We were threatened and intimidated in attempts to gag us. They could no suppress us.
"Though the Fulani herdsmen have destroyed portions of the land, they can no longer possess it. Let me sound this caution to our chiefs, politicians and the police: If you have been compromised by the Fulanis, your plans won't work. The youth are ready to fight on our own.
“We have discussed this before and that was going to be the last resort because the Constitution even gives us the permission to defend ourselves. So if the peaceful means fail and we continue to see all these atrocities by the Fulanis, I don’t think our people are going to sit back and allow them to take our lands,” Mr Anyang Kusi warned.
This is a concern shared by the chiefs and people of Kwahu in the Eastern Region who feel let down by government’s inability to drive the Fulani herdsmen away.
Kwahu Krontihene, Nana Simpeh Owiredu III, sums up their sentiments.
"How do you confront a Fulani man who is armed? Government is aware of our predicament The worst will happen if the government fails to intervene. Is it not blood Nananom shed to secure our lands? We will drive them away ourselves. We will disregard the law and move them out. When we evict them away, we’ll see how the government will react to our action."
Security experts fear any attempt by locals to take over their own security could spell doom for the country.
A former National Security Coordinator, Kofi Bentum Quantson, said: “that’s the first signal of a national security crisis."
He notes that where the people feel left out by the enforcement system and where their only way of survival is to take the law into their hands to protect themselves, the consequences can be grave.
"It would be done in haphazard, callous way and that reinforces the conclusion that the matter is a security problem,” he said.
Mr Quantson, also a former Director of the Bureau of National Investigations, has over forty years sat on committees to find lasting solutions to the Fulani menace.
The crisis still haunts a nation and no end appears in sight.
“It’s a problem when the local people are part of the problem. If you push it too far, then you are going to compel them to resort to possibly illegal means of defending themselves and that compounds the problem.”
Such “flip-flopping” interventions continue to endanger the lives of locals as marauding herdsmen and their cattle reduce defenceless citizens into refugees in their own land.
Mr Quantson partly blames lack of political will, or what he describes as too much respect for ECOWAS protocols and corruption, for the suffering of the people.
“The problem is visible. The solution is possible. It requires will and the political power and the commitment of the people who are the victims of this Fulani menace. The government ought to be seen to be taking concrete measures to deal with the issue, not verbal admonition that you are appealing to them to stop committing crimes or that; under ECOWAS protocols they are allowed some measure of freedom. ECOWAS protocol must not undermine our national security.”
Many rape victims hardly report their ordeal due to stigmatisation and fear of collapsing their relationships.
In some instances, victims are gagged by the police from speaking to the media. The latest victim is among a few to have had the courage to make her ordeal public.
She had arrived from the Northern Region less a month when she suffered the abuse.
She first informed Assembly member for Ananaekrom Electoral Area, Peter Abaje.
Peter says "it is the common thing that has been happening here but most at times, some of the ladies are afraid to come home and report to their husbands that they have been raped by Fulani men because they fear to lose their marriage."
A 26-year old woman was also raped on the farm by two armed Fulani herdsmen on May 14, 2017, at Nso Nyame Ye village, near Hiatokuro. The victim was sowing maize on the field when a masked Fulani men attacked.
She was treated and discharged at the Agogo Presbyterian Hospital.
Mr Abaje recounts: "When we got there, we saw that they struggled a lot on the ground and then we found beads there and then underwear. Her condition was too bad to the extent that we sent her to hospital. According to their tradition, we were supposed to go to where the incident took place to perform some sacrifices before the husband can sleep with her again so all those things were done."
Police in Agogo, later, arrested a nomadic herdsman for the incident. Former spokesperson for the Fulanis in Agogo, Musah Ali, admits to the involvement of his tribesmen in criminal activities.
He has, in fact, helped police to arrest offending herdsmen. "It is true some Fulanis rape women and kills residents of Agogo. I will not lie about anything," he said.
Destruction by herdsmen and the cattle have plunged many farmers in Agogo in debt in bank loans to expand their farms.
They cannot pay because they cannot continue with their farming occupation. Unlike Kwahu area where farms are of average sizes, those in Agogo are much bigger.
Kwame Wiafe, the father of seven, owns a 40- hectare plantain farm at Bonfum near Ananekrom. He lost 30 out of his 40-hectare farm to the Fulani invasion within two days.
As if that was not enough, Mr Wiafe was arrested in November 2016 for failing to repay a Gh¢20, 000 (equivalent of USD 5,100) loan, excluding interest, he took the bank.
Lying a few meters from Mr Wiafe’s farm is another victim, Peter Agyei. His plantation was once plundered.
He planted 9, 500 suckers of plantain on a 15.5-hectare land in August 2016. By February 2017, that large beaming farm had been reduced to a mere playing field.
A few scattered plantain trees wide apart away from each other remain. Mr Agyei now prefers to describe his farm as a playing field. "I feel sad whenever I come and see my farm in this state. I don't even have the appetite for food."
Fifty-two-year-old Abenaa Fosua broke down in tears when she saw her plantain farm destroyed by cattle.
It’s the second time in two-years the animals have destroyed her crops. The degree of devastation is higher than before after the nomads set the farm ablaze to boost the growth of fresh grass to feed their cattle.
Fosua took 40, 000 Ghana cedi loan from Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans for her farming project at Abrewapong, near the Kyenkyenku Mountains.
"I have never been this sad. My husband and I have spent so much since we started farming two years ago. Over 40, 000 Ghana cedis loan from the bank has gone waste," Nana Adwoa, 42, also has harrowing stories to tell.
In 20 16 Nana Adwoa spent GHS7,000 ($1, 700) loan from separate sources to erect a barbed-wire fence around her 30-hectare farm. It is an emerging method adopted by some local farmers in Agogo to protect their farms from Fulani herdsmen and their cattle.
Wooden posts of about 2 meters high from the ground and about eight meters apart hold two strands or more barbed wire together.
She chose this arrangement over having to pay five unarmed young men GHS15,000 ($3,500) cedis to protect her 30-hectare farm for two months.
But the fence has made no impact. Her crops have been razed down by cattle. Apparently, nomadic herdsmen have cut through the barbed wire to let in cattle.
Farming is no longer a lucrative venture in Agogo. Many are shying away from what used to be an inviting and prospering venture.
Issah Dauda has abandoned his farm to learn carpentry.
The proverbial phrase ‘When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade’ sums up his story, having braced the storm to become the only carpenter at Bebome, a Fulani-populated community.
There are thousands of cattle raiding farms at Bebome, Nyamebekyere, Kowireso, Bebuso, Abrewapong, Mankala, Adoniemu and Brahabebome.
The nomads have a camp between Kowireso and Bebome.
There was little Issa, father of five and husband to two women, could do when herdsmen seized his farms.
He explains: “I used to tell my mind that if I train as a carpenter, it will help me because the Fulani people at the moment you can’t go to the farm. The Fulani people, at the moment you can’ go the farm at this time because they capture our farms. They are holding AK 47 with heavy guns there. So we can’t go to our farms to harvest anymore.”
For Issah, nothing will attract him back into farming once the Fulani herdsmen and the cattle continue to devastate farm with farmers facing the risk of attack if they resist.
The herdsmen set up camps between the two communities with whom they share the only stream and two hand-dug wells for water, including their cattle.
Ibrahim Ahmad, nomadic herdsman
I spent two nights in the bush to track activities of herdsmen who had pitched camp here until I met 43-year old Ibrahim Ahmad, a Malian who claims to have lived a nomadic life in Ghana for 20-years. Four boys herd about 1,000 cattle each to support him.
He claims to work for two Ghanaians he identifies as Dauda Kassim, a Kusasi and one Alhaji Sambo who own 4,100 cattle between them.
He admits his cattle feed on farmland but he denies owning a gun. He claims more nomadic herdsmen have been killed than local farmers. Two were killed and another disappeared in February this year.
"We are being killed but nobody talks about it. It becomes a topical issue only when an Agogo citizen is killed. Go to the police station and they will tell you the number of us who have been killed," he said.
My investigations revealed the murder of Maaoney and Denjie led to attack on residents of Mmmepemasem, near Hweehwee in the Kwahu East District.
Nomadic herdsmen had killed one Emmanuel Boateng.
Ibrahim says he and his boys, all Burkinabes, work and live in fear. He admits allowing the cattle to graze in forest reserve contrary to provisions of the Forest Protection Act.
He says the situation has resulted in the death of people and cattle for which reason they now move in groups.
Ibrahim, like many herders, is aware of calls for the evacuation of cattle from the area. They are however yet to receive orders from their employers (owners of the cattle) to that effect.
Meanwhile, figures from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture reveal downward production and crop yield figures.
Maize production recorded -7 % from 17, 322 metric tons in 2014 to 16, 084 metric tons in 2015.
Plantain recorded a drop from 132, 513 metric tons in 2014 to 127, 200 metric tons, 5% down.
Ashanti Regional Crops Officer, Paul Amoh Korang, believes the menace and change in rainfall pattern could be responsible.
“Their [herdsmen] presence has got some effects on crops production. The reason being that normally they come down during the dry season. They come down when the rains have ceased and looking at the numbers, their numbers have got some effects on the soil.”
He warns agricultural programmes such as Planting for Food and Jobs which seeks to encourage, especially, the youth in agriculture could suffer under such circumstances.
A popular plantain market, the Russia Park at Agogo is losing its shine. Fifty-three-year-old Akua Amponsah who started trading in the market as a teenager says the worse could happen if nothing is done about the situation. Education in the Asante Akim North District has gotten its share of the devastation. Teachers are refusing posting to schools in the area while many children of school going age prefer to stay at home than go to school. Retention is a challenge as classrooms become empty.
In some instances, there are no teachers, as well.
Ernest Kwadwo Afari, who is District Director of Education, confirms the effect of the 'Fulani menace' on education.
“It is affecting quality education delivery in about two or three ways. The first one is that the country hears about this Fulani scare- all over. And so it is scaring teachers from accepting postings into this district. And then apart from that too, it also has some effects on enrollment. Most of these communities where we have these activities of the Fulani men, most of the school going age children are still at home. We cannot enrol all of them and so it has also affected enrollment levels in our schools. And then, we also have retention. Retention of those already enrolled. Sometimes too, we lose some of them because of this same Fulani scare."
Some Schools in communities inhabited by herdsmen over the years have seen closures. The latest is Kowireso District Assembly Primary School. There are fears more schools could be closed down as activities of Fulani herdsmen increase.
Though Kowireso boasts of one of the few decent classroom blocks, it is under-utilised. Only three teachers are available to teach 74 pupils, made up of 44 in kindergarten and 3o for the main primary stream. At least, four students are withdrawn every month from November 2016 and January 2017.
Headmaster, Daniel Ayelden, describes the rate of withdrawal as “Very often " and "any moment from now.”
According to Mr Ayelden, “even some parents where they stay because of this thing [nomadic herdsmen ] they will relocate the area because of this thing [nomadic herdsmen ] so it affects teaching and learning and most of the children would be withdrawn from the school,” he worriedly said.
‘Scratch my back, I scratch your back agreements'
On 30th April 2010, Agogo witnessed a confrontation between security operatives, traditional authorities and angry residents who had hit the street in protest over the influx of Fulani herdsmen.
Though the protesters had duly informed the police, they breached protocol on agreed routes and marched straight to Agogomanhene’s Palace. They had also begun the march two hours earlier than the 8:30 a.m. agreed with police.
"It was a hectic period because the police were shooting. As I went there, they were still shooting and people had gun wounds. I have to support them into a vehicle straight to the hospital. I was moving within from police to the people. And I was lucky I was not shot because the police were shooting at random. And it wasn't rubber bullet. It was a real bullet, " Mr Osei Bonsu, former Municipal Chief Executive recounted.
Two protesters were injured when they clashed with police over the arrest of one of the leaders, Yaw Thomas. He was detained at the Agogo police station. District Commander, ASP Samuel Odame, was injured in the process. In the Kwahu Area, for instance, Kwahuhene leased some land to a group of Fulani herdsmen about twelve years ago.
Though the lease has not been renewed after expiry in 2011, the nomads and their cattle continue to terrorize residents.
Krontihene, Nana Simpeh Owiredu the third, admits some opinion leaders have been allocating land to Fulani herdsmen at the expense of peace in the area. The fight against the nomadic herdsmen in local communities has become so complex with some powerful opinion leaders and politicians being entangled.
Former Municipal Chief Executive, Osei Bonsu, admits some powerful politicians, traditional leaders and security chiefs are complicit in the devastation caused by nomadic herdsmen.
He had been at the forefront of the fight against the menace and he believes he was sacked over the situation without the knowledge of late President Mills.
"Our party General Secretary, General Mosquito(Asiedu Nketiah) and then Local Government Minister, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo teamed up with my own paramount chief for my removal," Osei Bonsu opined.
National Security ex-Coordinator, Kofi Bentum Quantson, describes the continued support nomadic herdsmen enjoy from some local leaders as dangerous.
Anthony Kwanin is the District Co-ordinating DirectorThe Asante Akim North District Assembly is powerless to deal with the issue now classified as a national security matter.
A chunk of the assembly's contingency budget allocation is spent on police-military team stationed there to maintain law and order. It also pays for treatment of victims of Fulani-natives confrontations. This means no funds left for education, health, sanitation, road infrastructure and others.
The 2016 composite budget identified poor sanitation, high unemployment rate, deforestation and poor roads as areas that need attention. Despite the much talked about security operations, I did not meet the police-military team during my visits to Fulani-endemic areas.
But residents of Agogo are not just interested in patrol activities of the police-military team. They rather want to see herdsmen and their cattle evicted from their land to restore their livelihood.
The Agogomanmakuo, a youth association, wants the government to compensate families of the victims of nomads-natives confrontations.
Public Relations Officer, Kwaku Obeng, says the needs of the affected communities are beyond the community.
" We are all at risk. How can I help someone when I cannot go to the farm? It’s the responsibility of either NADMO or District Council or government to come to their aid.”
Unfortunately, the Asante Akim North District Assembly says the assembly cannot afford such compensation.
'State of insecurity'
“The general impression created as if the authorities are impotent to deal drastically with the issue that has lingered on for the past 40-years creates less hostility problem, likely to energize and militarize the younger people coming up –the incentive to resort to militant action to deal with the problem because they don’t see the law dealing with it and they don’t see the opinion leaders, their leaders their chiefs; their preacher men so on dealing with the problem.
And when they suspect their problem is compounded by their own people, then you are likely to encourage local militancy And before you are aware, you are having warfare between the Fulanis and the people in the area,” the former National Security Coordinator, Kofi Bentum Quantson.
At least seventeen people have been killed in clashes between nomadic herdsmen and indigenes in the Bono Ahafo Region in the first half of September 2017 alone.
The deceased comprises of 15 nomads and two natives. Safety and security of local people in affected communities continue to be under constant threat.
In more recent incidents 13 others were wounded and a number of houses torched in Kintampo Municipality alone.
Flash-points include Agege, Kawompe, Kunsu, Gulumpe, Atta Akura and Babatokuma.
In Berekum Municipality, the situation can be described as a ticking time bomb.
Native chiefs and the people in about seven communities are arming themselves for a forceful eviction of the herdsmen. Traditional authorities, with Municipal Security Committee, have extended by one-month, the deadline of an eviction order to the nomads.
They include Kotaa, Tewobaabi, Abisaase and Ammankokwaa. Others are Akurofuro, Mpatasie, Pepaase and Arkokrom.
A near bloody eviction attempt two years ago is at the heart of the current tension. Bus loads of residents of five communities, armed with guns, clubs and other weapons, launched a crusade against the herdsmen in their camps. Kotaahene, Nana Kwaku Baah Brentu the second, is one of those who led the onslaught.
"I organised men from my community...the various towns and villages like Mpatasie, Akurofuro, Pepaase, Abisaase, even some from even Seikwa, we joined hands to fight these Fulani people with cutlasses, even some little ammunitions we can.
That fatal day, it took us hectic time but we tried our best, keep, keep, keep, but we couldn't fight with these people because they are well armed. Some of them using even like AK 47 so how can you use our local made gun to fight with these people? So we have no option to come back and prepare ourselves properly."
Natives expect the Regional Security Council and District Security Committee to lead the fight.
A September 15, 2017, deadline by the chiefs and the people has been extended to October 16 to give the herders time to prepare and move out voluntarily.
Municipal Chief Executive, Kofi Adjei, says the security committee backs the chiefs in the position.
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