About two weeks ago, Ghana was rated as the first and second most peaceful country in West Africa and Africa respectively.
On a continent plagued with civil unrest, Islamist attacks, pirating and kidnappings morphed into banditry, it is understandable when a country like Ghana is seen as somehow peaceful.
In recent times, one does not wake up in a day without hearing the news of one form of attack or the other in some parts of the continent.
Living in West Africa has become more perilous today than it was two decades ago, and this is largely due to persistent attacks from Islamist and Jihadist insurgents.
Even though the most affected countries are in the neighbouring Sahel – Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, the activities of these insurgents continue to cascade down south, with countries along the Gulf of Guinea also threatened.
Already the Ivory Coast and Benin have witnessed attacks from these terrorist groups while Ghana has received a number of threats from possible insurgents.
Oasis of peace
Ghana is seen and viewed by many as an Oasis of peace in the midst of a turbulent subregion.
The peace enjoyed by Ghana is one that has not been obtained on a silver platter. It has taken years of concerted efforts to build and maintain.
However, recent occurrences have left many wondering if indeed the country is safe and peaceful as revealed by the global peace index. While some believe there is a deliberate ploy by some political actors and their hirelings in the media and civil society organisations to create a false sense of insecurity among the citizenry, others believe that, there is a clear and present danger in terms of the country’s security.
Over the last few weeks, there has been some violent crimes including the robbery of a bank van, killing of a police officer accompanying the van, other violent robberies, killing of a supposed social media activist, killing of two rioters by the military and the beating of civilians in Wa, in the Upper West region.
These unfortunate incidents have set tails wagging with the trumpeting of insecurity in the country. Unfortunately, this cry of insecurity is being championed by some political actors with the buy-in of both traditional and social media.
Even though these occurrences are unfortunate, it is difficult to come to terms with why it’s happening and has been equated to some new levels of insecurity in the country.
Available information and statistics clearly point to the fact that these violent crimes, although unfortunate, are not new neither have its magnitude of occurrences escalated.
The following are but a few of such occurrences which buttresses the fact that violent crime is not new in this country albeit unfortunate, but does not constitute a state of insecurity as being portrayed by some political opportunists and their hirelings in the media.
For example, on November 3 2014, the media reported of the gruesome murder of Mr Peter Kojo Keyenso, District Chief Executive for the Nkwanta South District in the then Volta Region by Some youth of the then ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Similarly, J.B Danquah, a sitting Member of Parliament was murdered on February 9 2016, Staff Officer Owusu was murdered on February 6 2016 at Bamboi in the Bole Bamboi District, Emmanuel Fennec Okyere murdered on February 12, 2015, Nana Okotoako Kofi Mankata II, Chief of Chinto murdered March 26, 2015, Nii Kwaku Bibini II, chief of Oblogo near Weija murdered on April 21, 2012 and Naa Dasana Andani, Chief of Bimbila murdered on July 7, 2014.
Apart from these, Nana Kwaku Dwumah Ankoanah II was murdered on November 5, 2013; Nii Ayitey Noryatse, murdered on March 11 2014; Nene Kpetutu, Chief of Sota near Shai, Osudoku murdered on March 20, 2016, Alhaji Seidu Abdullai , Kintampo Gonja chief was murdered on August 28, 2016; George Abanga alias King George, Peace Fm, murdered on September 10, 2015 at Goaso; D/Cpl Francis Amenyo Aballo murdered by armed robbers on May 28, 2016 and Constable Kwakuvi Hukporti murdered by armed robbers on December 24 2016.
Furthermore, G/Cpl Humphery Lumor was murdered by armed robbers on June 30 2016, G/Cpl Frank Kombla Klu was murdered by armed robbers on June 17, 2016, G/Cpl Frank Osei Amankwah murdered by armed robbers on March 16, 2016, at Sefwi Bekwai; G/Constable Emmanuel Nii Atseku murdered by armed robbers on September 22, 2015; G/Cpl Prince Charles Akata murdered by armed robbers on January 7, 2015 at Weija; Constable George Nyiko murdered by unknown assailants on June 24 2014 at Gambaga and Jegri Tabalim murdered by unknown assailants on June 24, 2014 at Gambaga.
Although these violent incidents are unfortunate, it is meant to draw attention to the fact that violent crime have always been with us and perhaps would continue to be with us for as long as we remain human.
The argument has been that we are experiencing such crime because our security agencies are not on top of their game and majority of our youth are unemployed.
While these arguments could be right to some extent, it is not supported by available statistics. A comparative data between Ghana and the United States point to the fact that crime does not necessarily depend on the number of youth who have employment opportunities, although it holds the potential to reduce its occurrence.
The case in US
It is important to emphasise that America has and continues to witness violent crimes despite its advanced security architecture and huge employment potential it possesses, yet America is not framed by its political class and media as suffering insecurity.
On June 14, 2021, the Newsnationtv.com reported that, more than 19,000 gun violence deaths occurred in America in the first half of the year making it an average of 120 per day.
Furthermore, the New York Times on June 29, this year reported of mass shootings and killings of people in San Jose and California, nine were people were also killed on May 9, 2021.
Also in Bulmer, Colorado, 10 people were killed on March 22, 2021; Colorado Springs, nine people killed on May 9, 2021; Orange California, four people killed on March 31, 2021; Muskogee, Oklahoma, four people killed on February 2, 2021; Allen, Texas four people killed on April 4, 2021; Indianapolis, 17 people killed on April 15, 2021; Chicago, five people killed on January 9, 2021; Atlanta, eight people killed on March 16, 2021; Boone, N.C, four people killed on March 28, 2021; Rock Hill, S.C, six people killed on April 7, 2021 and Essex, MD four people killed on March 28, 2021.
The above examples clearly go to point out that violent crimes do not necessarily take place simply because a country has been plagued by insecurity.
Perhaps, what the political opportunists and their hirelings in the media are forgetting is the fact that, issues of national security are also a shared responsibility and each citizen has a role to play in creating a safe and peaceful environment.
While recent agitations by some members of the public for the country to be fixed maybe legitimate, it is equally important that, these agitations are situated within the framework of a collective call rather than pushing the partisan political bottoms.
A framework of collective role play is the only means by which the challenges which have and continue to confront our society can be dealt with effectively.
It is within this framework that the roles and responsibilities of both state actors and non-state actors must be defined.
While it is the duty of the government of the day to listen to concerns of persons leading the #Fixthecountry campaign, be it legitimate or not, the government must equally draw up a mechanism that clearly spells out what is required of the citizenry to fix the country.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy would imply that the government must find innovative ways to get its citizens to understand the real impact and carry them along in finding solutions together.
Today, the real threat to national security is not only external aggression but internal ones as well. It is good to equip the various security services with all that it requires to maintain order in the society, but the real deal is the government’s ability to engage its exuberant youth to channel their energies into the productive sectors of the economy.
To effectively do this would imply that government would have to employ effective communication as a mechanism to get the buy-in of the youth.
How government communicates its business of reducing corruption, building the economy, creating opportunities for the people and solving challenges of the country is very important.
The modern trend of communication is gradually shifting to social media. It appears that in countries where insecurity and street protests have taken centre stage, the root cause can be traced to agitations on social media.
As a result, government would have to find innovative ways of augmenting its traditional communication strategies with effective social media tools and tasking competent people with effective communication skills to play within that space.
Majority of the youth today do not patronise the traditional media like the print, radio and television like before, as a result, government communication strategists must put in place strategies that enables it to tap into the new order.
The current agitations must at all cost attract government’s attention and where there are genuine concerns dealt with. But even as government works to deal with those concerns, it must also not lose sight of the fact that, not all the concerns are borne out of genuine interest but are of parochial self or partisan political interest.
Government must bend backwards to get the citizens to understand that the country is safe and peaceful and that recent occurrences are but every day occurrences which the security agencies continue to deal with.
Yes, those occurrences are a threat to both individual and national security but they do not necessarily constitute insecurity in the country as some political actors and their assigns in the media and civil society organisations would have the whole world to believe.
National Security is the very foundation upon which the development of the country is built and it is the responsibility of every Ghanaian to ensure that, it is protected no matter its shortcomings.
The writer is a Records Information Management Project Coordinator of a private company in United States of America.