Hamile, Upper West Region. 19 August 2021
In the prevention of violent extremism one is reminded that it will take both government and the people to make a determined effort to stem it.
It is in this spirit that the Human Security Research Centre, Ghana (HSRCGh) facilitated interaction between the security forces and local chiefs and opinion leaders at Hamile, in the Upper West Region on 19 August 2021. The purpose of the interaction was to facilitate dialogue over what both groups should jointly do to confront the threat of violent extremism and terrorism creeping towards Ghana.
Hamile lies to the north of Ghana, on the border with Burkina Faso. In fact the town straddles both countries as there is a Ghana Hamile and a Burkina Faso Hamile. The people in the town are therefore united in more common ways and an imaginary border may not be able to divide them.
Hamile is very important for the prevention of violent extremism, largely because of the recent security situation in Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria where over the last few months terrorist and violent attacks have been recorded. Being an entry point into the country, it is important not only to have the town remain peaceful, but most importantly for the chiefs and elders and the security forces to cooperate in the face of the danger drawing closer.
The dialogue was imperative against the backdrop of security challenges identified at the border areas, such as robberies of especially mobile money vendors, influx of refugees running away from violent incidents from across the border into Hamile, the predominant use of non-registered motor bikes in the area, and the difficulty in establishing the true identities of commuters across the border or even identifying possible extremists.
It was also necessary to arrange the dialogue to facilitate cooperation between all stakeholders in addressing some of these challenges and to help identify what could possibly be the causes, drivers and triggers of violent extremism in the area.
At the meeting, which was held at the palace of the Happa Kouro, were Kouro Hiller Seidu Ten-womu, caretaker of Hamile and its surroundings, the Wangara, Fulani and Kantosi tribal chiefs as well as some opinion leaders, including the elected Assemblyman for the area who is also the presiding member of the Lambussie District Assembly, Amoah Bassing. Others were the heads of the Customs Division and the Immigration Service.
The HSRC team consisted of its Executive Chairman, Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, Prof A.B. Salifu, HSRC Head of Research, and Colonel M. Atintande (rtd), HSRC Head of Media and Communications. Others were Helen Nana Mensah, Razak Abdul Nuhu, Rockson Konde, and Dulcie Ofori-Akuffo. The HSRC team also included HRSC’s foreign partners — Carol Mottet and Jean-Daniel Bieler, of the Human Security Division of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs, who were in the country to explore ways by which the two organizations could cooperate to prevent violent extremism in Ghana.
The Executive Chairman informed the gathering on the existence of the National Framework for Preventing Violent Extremism and Terrorism in Ghana (NAFPCVET) and efforts so far being made to implement the policy. He added that their visit was therefore also to help raise awareness on the document so that all concerned could contribute to its implementation. As it was important for all stakeholders to work together, he called on the chiefs and his people to cooperate with the security forces so that Hamile could remain peaceful and calm. He reminded all that the “danger coming is not good,” adding that HSRCGh’s mission was therefore to help keep Hamile peaceful and calm. This kick-started the engagement.
There was then a frank expression of views by the chiefs and elders. Leading the way, Happa Kuoro Hiller noted that he and his people do cooperate with the security forces because they were interested to help eliminate the threat. They have therefore not been “sleeping.”
Notwithstanding these assurances, the chiefs and elders found it important to bare problems that could have the tendency to encourage the youth to be attracted to the extremists. Making the point that “the devil finds work for idle hands,” priority on their list of problems was the massive unemployment in the area. It was explained that many youth group themselves in “camps” idling all day with nothing to do. Drug addiction was another problem. It was revealed that young people patronize drugs, especially what has since come to be known as “tramol” and this, it was noted, is a recipe for disaster as the extremists could easily “buy their mind.”
The visiting team had the singular opportunity to interact with Burkina Faso security officials across the dividing line and to share with them the same message.
It is expected that with the healthy engagement between all stakeholders in Hamile, much more would be done in the near future as they all cooperate to confront the creeping threat.
Credit: Human Security Research Centre, Ghana