Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bawku’s Bunkers and Baulkers

Dedicated to The Innocent Victims of Unchecked Criminality in Bawku. The State must silence the guns up north!

In the early part of 2008 as the then Senators, Barrack Obama and Hilary Clinton tried to outshine each other to get the nomination of the Democratic Party as its presidential candidate, the latter landed in hot waters when she made the infamous claims about sniper fire in Bosnia. The former first lady of the United States of America said of an earlier trip she had made to Bosnia, "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base." She was forced to beat an embarrassing retreat as she downgraded her heroic Bosnia tale to a “misspeak”.
The Upper East regional minister Mr. Mark Wayongo will have no such problems if he makes the big decision to succeed the asomdwehene as the next NDC president. His account of what happened to him in Bawku, as he narrated on the Joy FM’s Super morning Show, hasn’t been challenged so it must be the truth. He has seen enough on the battle field to describe the guns used in battle and give an estimate of the number of enemy combatants. There is enough material in the story to spawn a movie, maybe his strategists can take that up. The movie can end with Mr. Wayongo advocating for a Presidential Special Initiative (PSI) to build bunkers in Bawku since it has become apparent that Ghanaians are not interested in ending these conflicts up north. The bunkers will be dotted around the Bawku Township providing politicians with immediate refuge when their political tours are interrupted by gun fire.

It begs saying that, the recurring war of attrition between ethnic groups in Bawku and other parts of the northern region, is fast becoming a big embarrassment to this nation. Sometimes, those of us far from the conflict zones struggle to understand the reason for these battles and I sometimes wonder if the combatants do. Millions of Ghana cedis that could be channelled into development are spent to protect people from their kith and kin, while the real enemies- poverty and under-development – cool off in the stands. I seek a soothsayer that shall declare how much greatness shall emanate from the North of Ghana; if peace replaces war, if opportunity replaces poverty, if tractors replace the guns, if compromise replaces contest and dialogue replaces distrust? Surely, my folks up north recognize this truth better than I do. So who stokes the flame?

When the guns that had been silent over Bawku for sometime went blazing over the weekend of 30th October, I asked myself
Who is the peace baulker in Bawku?
a.      The People
b.      The Politicians
c.       The Police (Security)
d.      All the above  

Who gets my ‘vote’?

Surely, the people of Bawku must have a say in the battles. Who burns the houses? Who pulls the trigger? Who hides the combatants? Certainly, there is a beast within. The art of war, especially in a functioning state like ours, must be difficult to plan and execute. Raising the funds to buy the armour, doing the actual purchase, smuggling ammunition to the right destination, organizing the clan to fight and other tactics of war require a man or woman with great influence in our society. I dare say this war lord is a citizen of Bawku. Who can name him? It is my belief that one word from somebody in Bawku will collapse the world of these war lords. Who wants to bell the cat?

It is a sad commentary that there are few good things happening around us that we can attribute to our politics. But Ogyakrom politics never fails to provide the spark to create controversy and sometimes notoriety. Such cynicism stems from the mediocre treat dished to us year after year by our elected officers. It is just not possible to extricate our politicians from the troubles up north.
It is no secret that warring factions have aligned themselves to the two major political parties in the country. There is the growing perception that factions aligned to a ruling party at any time get audacious in their attacks for obvious reasons. Recently, in an extension of the battles up north, some men were butchered in cold blood at the Agbogbloshie market in Accra. They were NPP sympathizers who had lost control of the market because NDC had regained power. The culprits are still at large.   Which party do they belong to? 
During the eight years of Kuffuor’s government, there were many infractions up north, where NPP sympathizers were fingered as culpable. Is it for lack of evidence that we didn’t see a single successful prosecution, or the guys were just untouchable? For some reason, sitting governments tend to exhibit great inertia in prosecuting their own.  Signals that one can get away with impunity if he is properly connected cannot augur well for fighting crime and lawlessness anywhere.
Former president Rawlings made several statements on the northern conflicts that perhaps got NDC some votes but did little to stem the tide of the wars up north. Is politics all about power and all other things secondary?

The police force has a lot to prove that they are on top of security issues in this country. I do admit that they share responsibility for fighting the crimes up north with the military, but responsibility of internal peace lies with the ministry of interior rather than the ministry of defence. The Bawku crisis has spanned the tenure of a number of IGPs. It will be of interest to see what these police chiefs record on their CVs and auto biographies regarding what they did in Bawku. It is a shame that the whole State apparatus hasn’t been able to get big convictions to halt these small intra ethnic battles. There have been tough talks warning people to surrender arms- how many did we collect? Why can’t we craft an intelligence network to unravel the source and paths traversed by sophisticated armour to get to Bawku? When institutions like the BNI and National Security are in the news, I’d rather it is about such exploits than bravado against wives of former ministers at the airport. Sometimes I do wonder if political powers prevent the police from doing their lawful duty. If it is so, what does a police chief worth his title do? Kowtow to the dogs of war or remain professional and earn his medals? I hope none of these police chiefs was mis-decorated with Kuffuor’s medals. The blood of the innocent from Bawku shall stand in their faces if they don’t return them.

So, is it the People, the Politician or the Police? Who is your choice?
If we find the baulker , lock him in Wayongo’s bunker, Bawku may never brawl again.

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