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This Fulani menace spells more doom if not contained

Sun, 14 Feb 2016 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Monday, February 11, 2016

Folks, we have said a lot already about the threat posed to national security by the activities of the Fulani nomadic herdsmen that are being fiercely resisted by Ghanaians in the affected areas all over the country. Notably, the residents of the Agogo area in the Ashanti Region have been in the forefront, resisting these Fulani nomads and indicating their resolve to do all they can to secure their sources of livelihood that are being destroyed by the cattle reared by the Fulani nomads.

We have had too much already from that area to know the depth of the anger against the Fulanis and the explosive nature of whatever their action begets as reaction from the indigenes. We have also had assurances upon assurances from the government, the regional, and local authorities that the problem would be solved expeditiously to curtail any bloody development. So far, nothing concrete has been achieved to allay fears and doubts.

The problem is spreading really fast—indeed, too fast for comfort—to other parts of the country. We are now being told that the natives of the Krobo area are also angry at the Fulani nomads for herding their cattle there to destroy crops. There are many other parts of the country at risk from the activities of these Fulanis (be it cattle rearing or armed robbery).

In the Kintampo area too, that problem has surfaced. Unlike what is happening in other affected areas, those in Kintampo have gone the extra mile by killing 80 herds of cattle to prove to the Fulanis that their nuisance won’t be tolerated at all. (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Tension-mounts-at-Kintampo-as-irate-youth-kill-80-cattle-414704).

Will there be a reprisal from the Fulanis? What the enraged people of Kintampo have done is likely to be emulated in other parts of the country.

Folks, it is now clear that wherever the Fulani nomads go, tension surfaces. While they move their cattle about to graze indiscriminately in the hope of reaping benefits, they disregard the economic activities and interests of the owners of farms that nourish their cattle. No one will tolerate this kind of callousness.

Primarily, farming is predominant in Ghana, meaning that if the activities of the Fulani nomads and their prized cattle endanger the farms (and the main source of livelihood for the impoverished Ghanaian farmers), they won’t be tolerated. Not tolerating them means a lot. What is emerging is terrible.

Clearly, economic interests clash here. Do the Fulanis think that they can exploit the resources of farms for their own benefits while the victims of their cattle rearing go about empty-handed? What is good for them in their cattle-rearing occupation shouldn’t supersede the benefits that the local farmers get from their “vocation”. It is matter of choice. Cattle rearing may be good but is not the preference of all interested in agriculture. That is why something has to be done by the government to solve this problem.

Just a niggling point here. At the National Farmers’ Day celebration, which Fulani is recognized and rewarded as an accomplished cattle rearer? Over the years, awardees have been Ghanaian farmers and fishermen. So, where do the Fulani cattle rearers come in? I don’t see it (even though beef from their cattle could be available but not affordable to all). The problem thickens as the government snoops and cannot tackle it head-on.

There are many ways to tackle this challenge. First, the government must be bold enough to begin an exercise to locate the various groups of these Fulani herdsmen and where they operate in the country. Proper records have to be prepared and kept on them for us to know who exactly they are and where they operate. It shouldn’t be difficult to know them and their areas of operation so they can be monitored and tracked. Is it possible to allocate specific areas to them so they don’t just move about the perimeters of the country at will? I will come to this part later.

Second, the government must use the Ministry of Agriculture to scrutinize the activities of these Fulani nomads, even as the national, regional, and local security apparatuses are positioned to mount surveillance on them.

Third, the government should devise plans to curtail the indiscriminate grazing by the cattle belonging to these Fulanis. Isn’t it possible to confine them to “ranches” where the cattle can be fed on hay grown and served to them? In civilized societies, that is what happens. I am by this opinion suggesting that a drastic change be made to confine the cattle and ranches created to contain them for the better.

If grass (hay) eaten by the cattle can be grown to sustain the industry, so must it be. By going that way, a new meaning should be given to cattle-rearing and opportunities created for hay farming in the country. It will be a viable avenue for employment. Then, the Fulanis will also undergo a drastic transformation from their nomadic lifestyle to a more permanent one that will make them more attractive and relevant to the Ghanaian communities. They need to change with the times.

More importantly, introducing innovative ways of rearing cattle will also encourage better management of health-related problems (anthrax, particularly).

In putting forth our opinion, we acknowledge the fact that cattle rearing is not restricted to the Fulanis alone. Many people in many parts of the country own herds of cattle and ply their trade. They have been doing so for years and are known to have incurred the displeasure of people whose property (mostly farms) have been destroyed by their cattle. Interestingly, matters don’t get out of hand as they are doing now in the case of the Fulanis, apparently because the local communities have ways of dealing with breaches. I know of situations when owners of cattle that cause havoc are fined by the local chiefs and peace is restored.

It is not so in the case of the Fulanis because of their intransigence/belligerence and bellicose posture. They are behaving as if the owners of farms destroyed by their cattle have no right to protect or as if their economic interests mean nothing. It shouldn’t be so. Such belligerence won’t ensure peaceful co-existence. The question, then, is: Why are the Fulani nomads acting with so much impudence?

Some have suggested that they are doing so because they have the backing of some political authorities, chiefs in areas in which they operate, or some faceless people whose cattle they herd. That kind of backing makes them feel that they are untouchable. If it were so, it would be a grievous mistake.

As has happened in Kintampo, we should be poised for more action by embittered residents against the Fulanis. We note that the Fulanis have been rearing cattle in Ghana since time out-of-mind. But why is it that their activities are now endangering everything, including their own lives? Are they becoming too cocksure to go overboard?

Some have even questioned the nationality of these Fulanis only to be told that they are fit to be considered as Ghanaians. True or not, should they trample on the economic rights of fellow Ghanaians the way they are moving their cattle about to do?

Folks, we can continue raising concerns; but the solution to this problem lies with the government. It must act decisively before the situation worsens. Let the Fulanis rear their cattle to profit from and allow the owners of farmlands to enjoy what they do so they can enjoy the fruit of their labour! No crossing of boundaries here!!

From the lukewarm attitude that the authorities have adopted so far, I am afraid the problem will escalate and add to what is already brewing to jeopardize national security and stability. The hard fact is that the Fulanis cannot be deported en mass from Ghana, which accentuates the need for a policy of containment to deal with them. Containing them means establishing a framework that will deal with the danger that their economic activity poses and blending such an activity with those by other people for the good of the country and its people. Not until they are contained, the menace will persist. What more?

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.