Opinions of Mon, 24 Mar 201413

Tamale’s descent into crime

Tamale’s descent into crime: a jarring reality for city dwellers

Moses Kofi Yahaya

For those of us who bask in the warmth and glow of Tamale and unapologetically call it our beloved hometown, this is difficult to contemplate; the citizens of Tamale are experiencing a nerve-racking spike in violent crime.

And anyone who doubts that Tamale, once an oasis of tranquility is in a vise-like grip of organized criminal gangs, opportunistic petty thieves and violent political youth groups, should take a long, hard look at the grim statistics I will trot out to bolster my assertion.

• A 20-year old female student of the University of Development Studies was allegedly viciously stabbed and nearly strangled to death by unknown assailants in her apartment.

• A 44-year old teacher was allegedly shot dead and his motorcycle stolen and his pockets picked clean by unknown attackers.

• Two young men affiliated with the ruling NDC and opposition NPP were allegedly killed in what police authorities described as politically motivated murders.

• The spate of shootings in the city has increased exponentially

• Home invasions in the outlying suburbs have swelled in recent times.

• Snatching of motorcycles is now at an all-time high.

• Many crimes go unreported by victims.

Though sparse and anecdotal, evidence that crime and related violence are on the upsurge in Tamale is irrefutable. But more crucially, given this sordid background, one is compelled to pose the most obvious of questions; what went wrong and where does one lay the blame for this rise in violence?

There aren’t easy answers. Nonetheless, there is the temptation to ascribe the rise in violence and crime to the rapid urbanization of Tamale in the last two decades. The population explosion in Tamale has been anything but stunning. A steady migration of rural folks who have decided that the city offers more in terms of jobs and economic opportunities than the villages and small towns they left behind has swelled the number of city dwellers.

However, rapid urbanization, though fundamental to economic growth and prosperity, has its drawbacks among which are high unemployment and increase in poverty rates. Consequently, the unemployed are compelled to engage in anti-social activities.

Rapid urbanization aside, the other driving force behind the surge in violence is the gullibility of Tamale youth and their inability to resist the goodies unscrupulous Tamale politicians dangle in front of them. I have written on this issue before, but I thought revisiting it will serve the singular purpose of refocusing attention once more on the plight of the hapless young men in Tamale who have become easy pawns in the hands of Tamale politicians.

The recent politically motivated killings of two young men supposedly NPP and NDC diehards, and the ensuing violence which culminated in the looting of a radio station and the burning of cars speak volumes of the poisoned political atmosphere in Tamale. And despite threats by security authorities to come down hard on those who break the law, don’t bank your hopes on the NPP and NDC youth groups abandoning their desires to pummel each other senseless at the least opportunity anytime soon.

As crime and violence spike in Tamale, so do the consequences. The city is fast losing its reputation as a bastion of peace and calm; investments in Tamale and its surrounding areas are drying up as local and foreign investors grow wary of pumping money into an urban area where there are no guarantees that their investments will be safe. But more importantly, residents of the city now live in constant fear of falling prey to goon squads in the streets.

What then, in view of the mounting crime and violence, should be done to combat this evil? The first solution that comes to mind is the establishment of sub-police stations in the outlying suburbs of Tamale. The only police station located in the central part of the city is not adequately resourced to fight crime.

Sub police stations in Lamashiegu, Estates, Sakasaka, Vitin and Nyohini will go a long way to reduce violence as police officers will be able to file reports of crime from citizens and also quickly descend on scenes of criminal activity without heavy reliance on the central station.

Then of course, there is the issue of our city politicians preying on the ignorance and innocence of the youth to score political points. Egged on by their political paymasters, young men in Tamale are more than willing to draw blood, commit political violence and generally flout the law.

Tamale politicians should as a matter of urgency put a screeching halt to the manipulation of our young men and instead create employment opportunities that will absorb the thousands of men who wake up every day with dim economic prospects.

There is no need belaboring the point that Tamale as an urban area isn’t immune from the hazards of urbanization, but there is also the point that Tamale is a precious economic and social enclave for thousands of people from varied ethnic backgrounds. Its preservation from crime and violence should therefore be the paramount concern of city leaders and all those who have its welfare at heart.

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