The government of Ghana through the Security forces and National Security has intensified its vigilance and operations all over the country with the aim of securing the borders and territorial waters of the country in a bid to maintain peace and order.
In spite of the constant reports of Jihadist activities in the Sahel, which has drawn closer to the boarders of the country, some difficult and drastic measures taken by the government and its security agencies have helped secured the boarders of the country despite the intermittent reports of some skirmishes.
I must commend our security forces, stemming from the National Security, Ghana Armed Forces, Immigration Service and the Ghana Police Service for the collaboration and joint operations that have helped secured the boarders of this country and maintained peace in the country.
Ghana has taken measures to respond to the threat of terrorism, these include reorganizing the northern regions to make them easier for security forces to operate;Launching programs aimed at boosting the economy of its northern border regions, where unemployment is high, particularly among the young men terrorist groups often target and Promoting regional counterterrorism collaboration through the 2017 Accra Initiative.
The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) has established forward operating bases across the northern regions and provided those units with more equipment to ensure they can monitor the border and response quickly to threats, Vice Adm. Seth Amoama, chief of defense staff for the GAF, recently told a gathering at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference hosted by Ghana.
Government is also increasing state presence across the country, so that there would be no ungoverned spaces anywhere in the country.
I therefore urged Ghanaians to support government in this regard to fight terrorist activities by volunteering information about suspicious characters and activities and reporting criminals to the state security agencies in the country. Government cannot do it alone, hence the need for public support. It is recalled that National Security has initiated the See Something Say Something.
The “See Something, Say Something” that encourages people to report suspicious behavior in their communities to the authorities.According to the European Institute of the Mediterranean, Since the ignition of the 2012 Malian crisis, violent armed movements claiming to fight in the name of Islam, known as jihadist groups, have become a major security threat for the countries of the Sahel, a region separating North and Sub-Saharan Africa comprising Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. In 2017 alone, jihadist groups reportedly perpetrated 276 attacks in the region (Long War Journal, 2018).
To combat this threat, Sahel states and their partners have deployed multiple military operations on the ground. Since 2013, thousands of French soldiers have been operating in the region and about 800 US soldiers are now deployed in Niger alone. In late 2017, the regional G5-Sahel joint task force, a military cooperation of the Sahel states conceived in 2014, began counter-terrorism operations at the three-border area (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso). Despite military efforts, jihadist groups have proven resilient and even extended areas of activity, as illustrated by the 13 March 2016 jihadist attack of Grand Bassam in Ivory Coast.
The Sahel: from Rear Base to Frontline
Jihadist implantation in the Sahel can be traced back to the end of the Algerian civil war (1991-2002), which pitted security forces against Islamist armed groups (GIA). After years of fighting, reportedly claiming the lives of 60,000 to 150,000 people, Algerian authorities implemented the 1999 ‘Concorde civile’ that granted amnesty to thousands of GIA members. While most accepted amnesty, some militants created the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in 1998, and continued fighting the regime (Interview, Algerian Diplomat, Niamey, 2017). Hunted by Algerian security forces, and lacking popular support, the GSPC was however in need of backing.
In 2006, the group pledged allegiance to jihadist organization al-Qaeda, and was rebranded al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2007. While AQIM elements in Algeria remained under military pressure, some members moved to northern Sahel and concluded alliances with local communities, mostly through marriage (Ould Salem, 2014: 56-59).
For years, AQIM used the Sahel as a rear base to gather wealth, arms and local recruits (Lacher, Steinberg, 2015: 71). This led jihadist groups to develop on a more Sahelian basis. According to Algerian security reports, out of 108 AQIM members in the Sahel identified in mid-2010, only 21 were Algerians (Lacher, Steinberg, 2015: 75). The Movement of Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), created in 2011, while including some North African members, was first led by Hamada Ould Mohamed Kheirou, a Mauritanian Arab, and was mainly composed of combatants from the Sahel countries. While referring to Osama bin Laden as an ideological reference, MOJWA also placed emphasis on West African figures such as Usman Dan Fodio, founder of the 1804 Sokoto Caliphate, in northern Nigeria (Cristiani, 2012). However, until 2012, and despite several attacks in Mauritania, “AQIM operations in Algeria still far exceeded the type and number of operations it carried out in the Sahara-Sahel” (Roussellier, 2011: 5). Indeed, MOJWA’s first claimed operation was the kidnapping of three Westerners from a Polisario Front refugee camp in southern Algeria in October 2011 (Lacher, Steinberg, 2015: 76).
By Kwabena Adu Koranteng