Rhythms of Thoughts: Dealing with the Shabab syndrome
You can choose to be in self-denial, but the sad reality is that terrorism has come to stay. It doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon despite the world’s superpowers claiming that the battle is being won.
What happened at Kenya’s Westgate Mall may not be the worst terrorist attack on African soil, but it remains the freshest on our minds. The events of the Kenya embassy bombings in 1998 that claimed 212 lives will forever linger on in our memories.
Not a single day passes that one does not hear about the news of a suicide bombing or bomb detonation killing dozens especially in the Middle East. For those of us who listen to international news, we have almost become accustomed to such reports.
As a country, we have not really shown any concern about the global anti-terrorism combat. We have always seen it as being far from us despite the fact that we live in a global village. We can’t be bothered, right?
It was only when news of the death of the renowned poet Kofi Awoonor during the Kenyan Westgate attack trickled in that we realised that acts of terrorism are indeed closer than we think. We can’t always play ostrich. As usual, as the news came in, you could actually feel a lot of kneejerk reactions from our leaders. Quite typical of us.
President Mahama’s speech at the UN was definitely on point. Indeed, those “senseless and cowardly” acts of violence should never be countenanced. But what I don’t seem to get is our haste to condemn these terrorist acts without getting our house in order.
For years, we have had nomadic herdsmen terrorise and treat with disdain our citizens in the countryside. Before we could even figure a way around it, the market fires set in, leaving us a lot more confused than ever. Before one could say “Gyan”, the American forensic experts were here to unravel the mystery of the market fires.
Not to forget the unfortunate collapse of the Melcom shopping mall that claimed dozens of lives. Even with that, we couldn’t handle the situation on our own as the Israelis flew in to help with the rescue efforts. It’s never been easy.
Of course, in times like this, it’s good for the ordinary citizen to feel that the government is up to the task and is ready to counter acts such as what happened at Westgate. Such assurances, much as we need them, must not be a provocative invitation to these hoodlums, especially when we have done little or nothing at all to counter these acts.
Terrorism is a very sophisticated act requiring loads of high-level intelligence and much more to counter. Terrorist organisations are not far from us. Within our sub-region there has been a consistent rise of organisations such as the Boko Haram, Ansar Dine and many militant groups.
The death of Prof. Awoonor at the hands of such hoodlums, however sad it was, must not push us into any state of panic. We don’t counter terrorism with kneejerk reactions, like deploying forces to the Accra Mall immediately it was discovered Westgate was under siege.
What were we seeking to achieve with such reactions? Let’s not try to seek political points with such measures. The Westgate incident claimed the life of Kenya’s Uhurru Kenyatta’s nephew, with his son escaping by the skin of the teeth. Same can’t be said of others who perished in the siege.
The United Kingdom’s warning that Ghana could be a target of terrorist attacks due to our involvement in peace-keeping efforts in Mali is one that should be taken seriously. Though I disagree with the mode by which they communicated this, I think we have no time to take chances.
Very soon Kenya’s Parliament will be querying their security chiefs for failing to act on intelligence on the Westgate attacks. By putting our acts together, we may not get to that stage. Terrorism is a global menace that we cannot fight alone. We need to seek more collaboration with countries that have experience in dealing with such a menace.
We don’t want needless talk from government. We need to see action. We could actually start by chasing the illegal galamsey operators who have succeeded in destroying our green vegetation. So long as these gun- wielding riffraffs are able to keep our security at bay while they go about their activities, no one should attempt convincing us we are ready for the Boko Harams, Shababs and the dreaded al-Qaedas.
Enough of the “Ghana is a peaceful country” and let us set our minds to work. Though I pray that day never comes, we must not allow ourselves to be caught off-guard. We have had more than enough reasons to hit the ground running.
Those who are being paid to work must proceed to work and stop the numerous talk shops. Prof. Awoonor and all those lives that have been lost to terrorism will not forgive us if we fail to prevent an attack on our home soil.
Even as we embark on this war, let us pray to God that he should forever let Al-kayida in Ghana remain a dance craze. Nothing more, nothing less.
The writer is the author of Rhythms of Thoughts, a column published in the Weekend edition of the Business and Financial Times (B&FT).