Have you ever imagined living in a community and not being allowed to buy neither food nor water – basic necessities of life? Or perhaps you deciding to travel to transact a particular business and not being allowed to board a vehicle simply because drivers are heeding a directive not to pick you? Well, it seems that’s the fate Fulani herdsmen in Agogo, in the Ashanti Region, and its environs have to suffer for deciding to stay on despite the numerous calls on them by the indigenes to leave their town.
The Agogo Youth Association, led by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Asante-Akim North, Honourable Kwadwo Baah Agyemang, last week issued a stern warning and a 24-hour ultimatum to the herdsmen to leave Agogo and its environs or risk dire consequences. The youth also admonished traders and drivers in the area not to transact any business whatsoever with the Fulanis after the expiration of the ultimatum, failing which would result in offending parties facing their wrath.
The youth have been up in arms about the activities of the Fulanis in the area for quite some time now. They have accused the herdsmen of allowing their cattle to destroy their farms, while the Fulanis themselves are alleged to be raping women in the area and also killing farmers who confront them about their nefarious activities.
While the youth accuse traditional authority of being complicit in the refusal of the herdsmen to leave Agogo, they also believe the police have failed to protect their valuable lives and properties, hence the decision to take their ‘destinies into their own hands’ and handle the situation their own way!
Of course one needs not belabour the point that, wherever these Fulanis have settled, their activities wreak havoc on indigenes. I recall the countless occasions farmers at my village, Hweehwee, in the Eastern Region, have expressed similar sentiments as being echoed by the youth of Agogo about the activities of these herdsmen. Be that as it may, I find the current posture of the Agogo youth not only worrying but also problematic.
First of all, it is high time the youth realised that it is not their core duty to protect lives and property or ensure law and order within Agogo and its environs. That is the responsibility of the police and other security agencies, and so they owe it an obligation to allow the police to handle whatever infractions the activities of the nomads have caused. They have no business issuing an ultimatum and threatening to take the law into their own hands!
Secondly, it is important for all of us to bear in mind that Ghana is not an island; it belongs to the community of nations, and so has responsibility to protect the lives of all persons living within its territory. That also includes respecting its treaty obligations to allow, for example, the free movement of these foreign nationals from neighbouring West Africa.
Again, one of the basic principles which undergird the concept of human rights is the principle of non-discrimination, especially as Article 21 of the 1992 Constitution guarantees the fundamental human rights and freedoms of ALL PERSONS IN Ghana – including the Fulani herdsmen. Therefore, the directive to traders and drivers not to have anything to do with the nomads clearly amounts to discrimination and an affront to the Constitution.
Yes, the youth have genuine concerns. They cannot sit aloof and look on as their women are allegedly raped and others killed. However, I don’t think we can restore justice through injustice. We would only end up compounding the situation. It is, therefore, important that long lasting solutions are sought to deal with the problem at hand.
For me, since the Fulani menace is not peculiar to Agogo, I think it is time government took a stance on the matter. If it would mean that these foreigners have to be repatriated to their home countries or a more appropriate place found for them to undertake their activities, then the government can initiate moves to ensure the proper thing is done for peace to prevail.
In the meantime, the current impasse between the youth and the herdsmen should be seen as a national issue, and not left at the beck and call of the Agogo Youth Association. The Regional Security Council and the District Security Council must maintain a heavy presence in the area to ensure law and order and to arrest anyone who would attempt breaching the peace of the area.
Finally, all relevant stakeholders – the police, MP, traditional authority, representatives of both the youth and the herdsmen – must sit around the table and explore practical ways of dealing with the current fracas through dialogue. For a start, the ban on traders and drivers not to mingle with the drivers must be lifted immediately. Obviously, the herdsmen cannot leave Agogo without water passing their lips and without having eaten anything!
By: Richard Amoako Ansong
(The writer is a public relations and communications professional)