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Opinions of Saturday, 19 October 2013

Columnist: Amponsah, John

Ghana needs Special Ops Police and Public Awareness after Kenya

By John Amponsah

This opinion piece is written primarily for those responsible for security operations in Ghana and also for those Ghanaians who see the need to have our country prepare to prevent or (where that fails) to efficiently deal with the kind of situation that occurred in Kenya.

Today I saw shown on television some raw CCTV video footage of the Al-Shabbab terrorist massacre that occurred in Kenya some weeks ago. Those were acts of pure terrorism, in its rudest form. I saw the terrorists calmly shooting at helpless, unarmed people and other terrorists finished off some people who had survived a first shot.

The events that occurred at that mall were sad to say the least. I have personally shopped at that mall not too long ago. It used to be a nice place that would easily have put Accra Mall to shame if one were to compare the two. Now I am left thinking that it could have been me in place of Kofi Awoonor and others who lost their lives or were wounded by the terrorists.

On October 3rd 2013, Ghanaweb published an article entitled “Terrorists targeting key civilian installations in Ghana - Kenyan MP” in which it was reported that one Colonel (rtd) Musembi was warning Ghana of the possibility of terrorist attacks coming from Tuareg fighters in Mali.

Regardless of the origin of any terrorist groups, the time has come for us as a nation to take concrete steps to prepare for this kind of eventuality, and I was glad to see that right after the terrorist acts in Kenya, many commentators and concerned citizens put forward suggestions on how this can be achieved. It is my intent in this article to add my “2 Ghana pesewas” worth to those preceding contributions.

PREVENTION – On the part of the government and on the part of the people

It is unfortunate that Kenya has now had two adversities – election violence and now terrorism. Ghana learnt from election violence, now Ghana must learn from this act of terrorism that Kenya has suffered. Many instances of terrorism in world history happened as a result of inefficient transmission of intelligence. The creation of a Special Forces police unit in Ghana to deal primarily with all aspects of counterterrorism is now an absolute must, and it is good to see that Ghana Police has already put together 130 police personnel for this purpose.

Such Special Ops units should work with the best Intelligence gathered by various government security and other national and international agencies (BNI, CEPS, Ghana Police, Intel branch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Military Intelligence, foreign intelligence groups etc). This unit should also be manned to deal with terrorism alerts from the general public.

Public awareness and education primarily through radio, newspapers and television is also an absolute must. Police forces cannot be everywhere at every time so it is the civic and patriotic duty of citizens to report suspicious behaviour and suspicious objects. The Idea is not to create a “Big Brother” state where people tell on their neighbours unnecessarily, but to market public education in a way that focuses on reporting on suspicious instances in public that could be terrorism related.

The creation of special free phone hotlines and text messages for people to get in touch with authorities when a suspicious package or some suspicious activity is encountered is also an absolute must an in line with this, the government may consider setting up a dedicated office to deal exclusively with terrorism, an office which will liase with all the security organs in order to have efficient communication of terrorism-related intelligence.

CURE – A special ops police unit that is needed when prevention fails

Unfortunately, even after preventative measures are put in place, there could still be instances of terrorism. The government should be prepared for this. International terrorism of this form is an increasingly global phenomenon. For this reason, other countries have had to deal with this phenomenon prior to what happened in Kenya. Ghana needs to study carefully the approach of other nations while putting together its response units.

The security forces may want to study not only the SWAT model of the US but among others, the approach of the British SAS and SBS in their long standing campaigns against the Northern Irish revolutionary groups, the approach of Germany’s GSG 9 which came into being through purely terrorist acts during the 1972 Munich Olympics, the approach of the Israeli Sayeret Matkal in their dealings with hostage situations, the approach of the Mexican special ops groups in their dealings with groups like Los Zetas, the approach of Russia’s Alpha Group which has been active against Chechen revolutionaries and so on.

In all these studies, a key question to ask will be how militarized the police unit should be? Police units are different from military ones because they are meant to deal with domestic situations and as such they for instance have the power of arrest while military units (except perhaps military police) should not. Yet in today’s world, sometimes police special ops groups even join military ones (in some countries) so an issue for Ghana to think on and resolve is whether our unit whould be purely police based or be possibly backed up by military special ops.

Also, it is my opinion that out of the 130 police units currently being trained by Ghana Police, the authorities, if they have not done so already, should also consider forming small units of 8-12 police commandos who should be specially trained for close quarter, insertion attacks for when it comes to such situations as hostage rescue. There should also be units specially trained for intelligence gathering, interrogation and negotiation. This is why this counterterrorism unit needs to work closely with the other security organs such as BNI and military intelligence. The young men and women who work in the counterterrorism unit should be among the best, the brightest and the most able of all the security forces in the country and as such the highest possible standards across board should be applied the selection and training of these men and women.

CONCLUSION

Terrorism has become a worldwide phenomenon. Ghana is involved in situations and is surrounded by countries with situations which could potentially trigger terrorist acts in our own country. The events which occurred in Kenya must be a wake up call for the authorities in Ghana to step up and to begin preparations for any potential terrorist activity in the country. Just about everyone knows the old adage “prevention is better than cure”. In this context, prevention means preparing the public to perform its civic and patriotic duty of informing the authorities of any potential terrorist-related acts. Prevention also means having the required counterterrorism systems in place to coordinate and act upon intelligence gained from citizens and through formal government and international sources. Cure means being prepared to take on terrorists in the best and most efficient possible way, should preventative measures happen to fail.

It is my hope that as a nation, we will support each other and the government to help fight any groups which want to commit acts of terrorism in our country.