“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life”- Jane Addams, an American activist.
Over the past 18 months, there have been several complaints from residents in Accra, Kumasi and other parts of the country concerning security challenges and lack of police visibility in their immediate neighbourhoods, leading to surge in criminal activities.
The Police have been accused of being lethargic in responding to emergency situations. What is more worrisome is the fast growing loss of public confidence in the internal security apparatus, which has emboldened criminal elements to act with impunity.
Although the Police have been undertaking highway patrols, snap checks and community patrols, known as ‘Operation Calm Life’ the public seems not satisfied with their efforts and criticise the Police Administration of lacking the capacity to protect them.
It is understandable to blame the state security apparatus for the crimes committed by criminals as they have been presumably adequately trained to enforce laws of the country.
There is an Akan adage which wits, “If you see your friend’s beard on fire, you need to fetch water on your side”.
The recent surge in violent-crime, secessionist activities and violent clashes between political parties’ supporters have raised concerns about the upcoming December 7 polls.
The Greatest Soviet Encyclopedia 2010, defines state security as ” The aggregate of measures taken to protect state, social structure, independence and the territorial integrity of the state from subversive activities of internal and external actors, acting as enemies of the existing order”.
The assassination of the 49-year old member of Parliament for Mfantseman Constituency, Ekow Quansah Hayford on Friday, October 9, 2020, on the Nkusukum Mankessim-Abeadze Duadze road by unknown assailants, the murder of Professor Emmanuel Yaw Benneh, University of Ghana law lecturer at his residence at Adjiringanor, a suburb of Accra, the attacks of separatist group on police stations at Aveyime and Mepe in the North Tongu District of the Volta Region on early hours of Friday, September 25 and the Violent clashes between the NPP and NDC sympathizers in the Odododiodio Constituency on Sunday October 25 have sparked another wave of security anxiety in the country, especially as the nation is preparing for a general election.
Inadequate security personnel
The United Nation (UN) benchmark of police to civilian ratio is one police officer to 500 persons.
However, statistics from the Ghana Police Service (GPS) indicate that there are about 28,000 police personnel with a ratio of one police officer to 800 persons and thus, required extra 28,000 police personnel to meet the UN benchmark.
Government to release 200 police personnel to protect MPs
Ghana’s Minister of the Interior, Ambrose Dery on October 13, briefed Parliament in-camera on the country’s security situation following the murder of Mfantseman MP.
The Minister consequently told the media that, government has agreed to release 200 police personnel to serve as security guards for MPs and additional 800 to protect their homes till the end of the year.
The decision received a backlash from the public with the Bureau of Public Safety (BPS), a non-profit organization with interest in public safety, kicking against the move.
The Executive Director of the BPS, Nana Yaw Akwada subsequently petitioned the President to defer the decision to release police personnel to protect MPs, arguing that, the number of MPs casualties against the ordinary Ghanaians was minimal. BPS called for general improvement in public safety, rather than protecting the few privileged Ghanaians.
The 1992 Constitution and international laws requiring the state to protect every citizens
Chapter Five of the Constitution (Fundamental Human Rights and Freedom) has underlined the need for everyone to enjoy fundamental rights and freedom.
Article 12 (2) says; “Every person in Ghana, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights.
Article 13(1) says, “No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Ghana of which he has been convicted”.
Also, the Criminal Code 1960 (Act 29) under section 64 (a) says, “The death of a person is caused by harm if by reason of the harm and death has happened otherwise or by short a time than would have probably happened, but for the harm caused”.
The UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect says; “The right to life finds its recognition in article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
Article 6 of the International Covenant on Council and Political Rights recognises the inherent right of every person to life, saying that, the rights of everyone shall be protected by law and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life.
Worry over proliferation of firearms in the Ghanaian society
Security experts have raised concerns about increasing firearms finding their way into civilian hands and some criminals and echoed by the Police Service and the Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons (NASCA).
A statement issued by the Police on Thursday, October 22 indicates that there are 4,098 political ‘hotspots’ in the country and called for police/public collaboration to curb violent-crime ahead of the December 7 polls.
The NASCA said there were 2.3 million small arms in civilian hands, according to a baseline survey conducted by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in 2014.
The Commission was of the belief that the number of small arms in circulation could be more in view of the fact that it took six years after the study.
Mr Jones Borteye-Applerh, the Executive Secretary of the NASCA, at the launch of a safety campaign dubbed, ” Ballot without Bullets” on Thursday, October 22, said: “I think we should do more, in as much as several security agencies are undertaking exercises in anticipation of potential violent- clashes in the upcoming general elections”.
The NASCA Executive Secretary notes that the ‘Ballot without Bullets’ campaign aims at creating awareness on the need for the citizens to volunteer information to the security agencies for prompt action.
“We shouldn’t keep quiet irrespective of our political affiliation. We are Ghanaians first before our political persuasions and so politics should not divide us because elections are just meant to select leaders,” he advised Ghanaians.
He observed that unregistered firearms in circulation posed danger to the country’s peace and harmony and called for concerted efforts by all well-meaning Ghanaians to halt firearms proliferation.
The Director General for Special Duties, Ghana Police Service, Commissioner of Police (COP) Christian Tetteh Yohunu, says the Police Service is ready to ensure gun violent-free elections and called for support and co-operation from the public.
He advised weapon owners to register their arms and renew their licences in order not to fall short of the law as the world will be a meaningless and chaotic if human development excluded safety and security.
Fortunately, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognises the importance of peace, good governance, justice and security as a critical block for human progress.
The Goal 16 of the SDGs stipulates: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. But it seems the goal 16 is somewhat marginalised by many countries.
Existing security challenges over the decades
Existing and emerging security challenges continue to threaten national peace and security. Chieftaincy and ethnic clashes; farmer-herder conflicts; violent demonstrations; armed robberies; proliferation of arms; human and contraband trafficking; and sexual and gender-based violence are notable traditional security threats that threatened human existence over the years.
In recent times however, emerging security threats such as kidnappings, abduction, cybercrime, vigilantism, terrorist and violent extremist attacks, agitation for succession and increasing political tension have started gaining prominence.
The insurgence of terrorists and violent extremist attacks in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Mali and the continuous atrocities perpetrated by the Boko Haram in Nigeria heightened fears on the coastal West Africa, given the porous borders across the sub-region.
These security challenges require a holistic and coordinated preventive approach to mitigate threats to human lives and the stability of the country.
The Ghana Police Service is mandated to register civil category of small arms in the country, and the NASCA complements the Police’s efforts.
Views of security experts
Professor Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, the Director,Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research, Kofi Annan international Peacekeeping Training Centre, has expressed misgivings about Ghana’s security situation and advised government to adopt negotiatory approach and not brute force in solving the Western Togoland separatists hostilities.
He called for a well-coordinated approach and dialogue in resolving the matter to avoid the killing of innocent people and urged political party leaders to refrain from partisan discussion on security matters.
“We need a common front and a tactical approach to tackle the illegal activities that threatened the existence and survival of the nation.
We should also avoid the knee-jerk reaction in resolving security matters. As a people, we are divisive in looking at the threat posed by the separatists, but must sit up and deal with the matter seriously, “he advised.
Elections and Security
The 2020 election is heating up with the Electoral Commission (EC) clearing 12 out of the 17 presidential aspirants who filed their nominations as eligible to contest the December 7 polls.
The number of candidates on the ballot for this year’s elections is the highest since 1979.
The Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Mensa, received compliments from the public, especially the smaller political parties for giving them five days, instead of two days to file their nominations.
Notwithstanding, the EC also received criticisms, especially from the largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for alleged “unfairness and not transparent” in its operations ahead of the polls.
Party manifestoes and security concerns
The NPP’s 2020 manifesto, “Leadership of Service: Protecting our Progress, Transforming Ghana for All” on page 109 promises to enhance police’s capabilities to fight cyber security and cybercrime.
It also promised to curb proliferation of small weapons, increase resources to the Marine Police, the Navy and the Armed Forces to protect offshore gas and oil installations and safeguard the country’s borders.
It intends to restructure police recruitment to prevent fraud and cronyism and increase police personnel to meet the UN minimum benchmark of one police officer to 500 civilians.
The NDC’s 2020 “People’s Manifesto: Jobs, Prosperity and more” promised to develop smart cyber security policies to ensure strong protection regime, strengthen the Data Protection Commission-commerce, digital financing and e-governance.
It also intends to fight illicit small arms and light weapons and address issues of lawlessness and impunity in the society.
The party will empower the 48 Engineers Regiment to protect the country against terrorism and other security challenges and will decentralise the security architecture, plan strategic emergency plan to protect the country’s jurisdiction.
According to the Ghana Immigration Service, there are more than 500 unapproved routes at the country’s land borders.
Inadequate safety and security education on criminal activities and negligence on the part of the citizenry, public officials, security agencies and other state institutions without doubt can cause a major headache if not checked.
Safety Tips for Personal Security
It is time everybody takes his or her security and safety seriously by avoiding downloading personal information onto the social media. A lot of people speak recklessly in the presence of strangers and in public space, thus giving leads to criminals.
It is advisable to avoid flaunting your wealth on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms since doing so is an indirect way of calling undue attention to yourself and making yourself an easy target for criminals.
Individuals could also install electronic alarm systems at their places of residence and tracking devices in strategic places for their safety.
Also, one must be careful on how you appear in public since wearing expensive watches and chains is not a good idea since it could make you a target for criminals.
Try as much as possible to avoid attending night events and making sure one is familiar with his or her surroundings.
It is imperative to talk to children often on basic safety tips and how to escape potential risky situations.
Government has also introduced a centralised emergency number 112 that could connect anyone in critical situation to emergency services including; the Ambulance, Police and Fire Service therefore and it is advisable to educate children about it and have them on their finger-tips.
Security experts advise against walking alone in a lonely place whether during the day or night and advised walking in the company of two, three or more persons.
Ecclesiastes 4 verse 12 offers good advice on security matters saying; “A person who stands alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken”.
As a nation, we should take our border posts monitoring seriously through the deployment of modern technologies to scrutinise travellers’ luggage and thoroughly scan goods entering and going out of the country.
Safety is a shared responsibility and everybody has a role to play to make the world a better place to live in.