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Is the government already overstretching the security services?

Fri, 15 Jun 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, June 14, 2012

As we move toward Election 2012, much exists to portend danger. The conflicts erupting all over the country and the government’s over-reliance on the security services make me wonder how the situation will be like if politically motivated conflicts take the centre-stage to worsen the national security situation.

The approach toward handling these conflicts gives much cause for concern. These isolated conflicts have already strained the nerves of our police and military service. I haven’t heard any of them complain, but I am reading a deeper meaning into their deployment all over the place to suggest that if we don’t handle things properly, they will be exhausted long before the real need for them arises.

Certainly, I see them as dancing themselves lame before the actual dancing begins (thanks to Chinua Achebe).

Just one instance. From the way the aggrieved residents of Ho took the battle to the police last week, forcing them to retreat to their barracks and pursuing them to cause mayhem, I am tempted to guess that the police aren’t fully prepared to handle situations of the sort. They can be easily overwhelmed.

So will it be for similar situations erupting in other parts of the country. We must admit the fact that the segment of the population not in the security services or trained for conflict resolution far outweighs that of those now being relied on to ensure peace in the country.

The fear is that if such a huge population becomes engulfed in conflicts, the security situation will get out of hand because our security services stand being swamped and over-run. Already, so much of them is being spent on operations in the existing conflict zones. As new conflicts erupt and more are pushed to the forefront, disaster looms.

Let’s not forget other factors. As human beings, these security personnel have their own ethnic and religious sentiments and we will be foolish to put all our trust and confidence in them to save us from the cataclysm that is gradually being forged with these isolated conflicts.

The capacities of the Ghana Police Service and the military have already been overstretched to the breaking point. As the spate of these conflicts persists, there is ample concern that more pressure will be put on the security services to intervene in the conflict zones. Is that when the Special Forces Unit will step in? I cringe!!

Although such interventions may help stop the internecine ethnic or religious conflicts, they are not the long-term solution that can help ensure peace and tranquility. It’s just a stop-gap measure.

The overarching measure to do so lies more in the hands of the people themselves and the government as the overall supreme authority of the land. How willing are these to resolve misunderstandings before they explode into these conflicts?

At this time that major partisan political rallies are yet to begin throughout the country, I am afraid that if the differences triggering these conflicts are not tackled expeditiously, they will become the tinder to ignite more damaging conflicts.

There is already every good reason to be apprehensive. Considering the scare-mongering politics of those desperately pushing to rule the country, the conditions seem to be ripening for explosions. I have in mind the despicable “All-die-be-die” scare-mongering slogan of Akufo-Addo and Kennedy Agyapong’s genocidal pronouncements, which are capable of plunging the society into chaos if capitalized on by trouble makers.

What has happened so far at Nakpanduri, Tishigu, Akumfi Eguase, and Hohoe is horrifying, although it will be height of stupidity to attribute it to the “All-die-be-die” war cry or Agyapong’s hotheaded utterances. In any event, those politically motivated clarion calls haven’t yet been heeded to warrant any apportioning of blame to Akufo-Addo and Agyapong.

The potential danger posed by such utterances may be felt if political violence becomes the order of the day. As of now, the conflicts can’t be described as politically induced. They are pure instances of tempers (ethnic or religious) boiling over.

I am deeply concerned—and so should you be too—that these conflicts are erupting left and right in the country as if there is no urgency for peaceful co-existence among the citizens.

Some of the factors promoting these conflicts are the already-known ethnic sentiments, land and chieftaincy disputes, and religious differences that have perennially torn many communities apart. We must not hesitate to condemn these conflicts in the harshest terms and to blame those who instigate them.

We bring to mind such major conflict situations as have persisted in Dagbon (Yendi, especially) and Bawku. The inability of the government and the feuding parties to resolve such conflicts is a disgrace. It seems the government is more interested in relying on the so-called peace-keeping effort than in taking any long-lasting action to solve the root cause of the problem.

The occasional sporadic fighting that erupts in Bawku or the skirmishes in Yendi despite the huge presence of the security services confirms that peace-keeping is not the final solution. For how long will these security services be stationed in those areas? Can’t anybody in authority put on his thinking cap at the right angle to see things more clearly?

Normalcy has been negatively affected in those conflict zones and the citizens can’t live their lives in peace and go about their socio-economic activities to contribute their quota toward national development. The negative impact of such conflicts on the national economy is unquantifiable, which should have prompted more effectual action by the government to tackle the problems in those areas; but it is not doing anything concrete. It is waiting for an electioneering campaign occasion to make vain promises.

It is a painful irony that these conflicts are erupting indiscriminately all over the country at the time that a President labelled as “Asomdwehene” is in charge of affairs but isn’t proactive enough—or even concerned as some of us are—to take any initiative. It is a contradiction that President Mills cannot escape—and he will definitely feel the full brunt of it at Election 2012.

It is not as if one is heaping the blame on President Mills to score any political point against him. After all, before his assumption of office, there had been numerous conflicts of all kinds in this country. Since time out of mind, internecine battles have erupted between members of different ethnic groups. The most devastating of such conflicts was the one between the Konkombas and Nanumbas at the time Rawlings was in power. Other pockets of conflicts induced by ethnic differences occurred elsewhere too.

We acknowledge the fact that there are many reasons to confirm that the conflicts will not abate for as long as causes exist for them. And there are many causes in all parts of the country where people of different ethnic extractions, worldviews, political interests, and life-expectations live side-by-side.

The nub of it all is the attitude that the government, especially the President, adopts toward settling such conflicts. To his credit, Rawlings handled affairs well. His resolute and expeditious tackling of those conflicts prevented them from degenerating into a widespread national woe.

Although the Bawku crisis had been on-and-off prior to Kufuor’s assumption of office, the worst one that flared up under his watch caused much devastation and still persists. Kufuor didn’t personally play as much of a frontline role as Rawlings had done in tackling such conflicts. Bawku is still unstable.

Against this background, what is happening now—especially in this election year—calls forth much apprehension. There is every indication that as tension builds up between the various political fronts, more vim will be mustered up and added to the indifferences among the people during political campaigns, which will constitute the powder keg to threaten national security.

We suppose that if the government doesn’t act judiciously now to stem any future threat, it will be difficult for it to do so when the situation worsens. And that worsening will not be far off. Very soon, heated national campaigns by the various parties will begin. Considering the open display of uncompromising tendencies by activists of the rival political parties, we can’t fail to foresee doom.

Although President Mills has given the assurance that his government will preserve peace before, during, and after the elections, I am skeptical at this point. Mere grandiose pronouncements don’t persuade me that the government can do so. It may be counting on the security services to move in to quell any trouble; but how much can these security services do simultaneously all over the country? Their capabilities are not inexhaustible.

The more the government pushes them on to tackle such problems, the more it will be sending out the wrong signal that it can’t control the situation, which will be a good justification for an unscrupulous strongman in the military to advance and…… (You can fill the gap). But we want our democracy to survive.

The government should help us stem the tide. It shouldn’t just be interested in providing logistics and staying aloof from all that has been happening so far. The essence of democracy is the peaceful co-existence that it ensures for all the citizens whose contributions sustain it.

Our democracy isn’t growing in the right manner to assure us that it can serve our needs. We are just feeding it with the benefits of our toil, which the politicians are reaping with savage glee and alacrity. That’s not what we’ve gambled for.

All these conflicts erupting here and there in the country are clear indications that the stage is being set for a national disaster in this election year. The government has to do more than just pushing the security services into conflict zones. Pre-emptive steps must be taken to avert all these conflicts. What are the BNI and the analogous intelligence-gathering institutions doing to help detect the potential volatile situation even long before it crystallizes?

Our democracy will benefit if such security apparatus do their legitimate assignments properly instead of spreading themselves too thin all over the place, serving too many infinitesimal purposes for parochial political gains. By pre-occupying themselves with such politically inclined petty assignments and neglecting the major risks that are now manifesting as social strife in the country, the BNI and all those institutions give us cause to lose sleep. Why should we continue sustaining them with our blood, toil, and sweat?

And why should President Mills ask for votes to remain in office if he isn’t helping us live in peace?

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.