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Opinions of Monday, 17 March 2008

Columnist: Afrani, Kwabena

Terrorism In Ghana, When Is It Going To End?

Numerous armed robbery attacks in both urban and rural areas, on the highways and roads have gone on for some years now. The police and the military have done a lot despite lack of equipment for the job. Whatever measures the government has in place seem to be not enough to eradicate this canker plaguing the country. Fow how much longer is this violence going to go on and whose legacy is it going to be?

This wave of armed robbery is nothing less than terrorism. It is not planting or throwing of explosives and bombs alone that constitute terrorist acts. Ghanaians both inside and outside the country live in fear. Ghanaians travelling home are often the targets. Ghanaians going about their businesses and in their homes are targets as well. The authorities should set up an investigation to find out who are behind this terrorism. I don't believe these attacks are random acts. Like all terrorism, there are always kingpins behind the scene.

On a serious note, it is high time the government declared a state of emergency to curb this terror. The rage demands drastic measures. It is not democracy when armed robbers are given bail, even when they are caught in the act, to later appear in court in suit and tie accompanied by some lawyer ready to offer defense. Democracy is for law abiding citizens and residents, both legal and illegal. Even proponents of democracy would not give bail to terrorists. Where in the world do terrorists get bail? They inflict pain on their victims. And what right do they have to do that? Do they have to be allowed to take undue advantage of the democractic atmosphere in the country to do what they want? They don't just shamefully take what do not belong to them, they rape and kill, steal and destroy lives. Those who take arms to terrorise and rob the public give up any basic rights that the prevailing democracy accords the citizens of the country. They have chosen to be on the dark side. What could be more serious than these armed robbers being bold enough to send text messages and phone calls to their would-be victims? Ghanaians live under constant threat of armed robbers breaking into their homes in the middle of the night or being accosted on the highways to demand what is not theirs.

The people have become so fed up that some take the law into their own hands by administering "instant justice" whenever a suspect is caught. Unfortunately, those suspects that are lynched may be petty thieves. The real hard-core armed robbers are becoming bolder and bolder, knowing that the system in place is not effective to deal with them. It is the Government's utmost obligation to protect the people, of course, with the help of the citizens as watchdogs. If one sees something out of the ordinary one should alert the neighbours and report to the police, even though one might think that the police would not take action. One has done ones civic duty.

There are some measures that can be taken to help in combating these riff raffs. Some hide in hotels and motels. All hotel and motels in the country should be compelled to keep daily records of their activities. Those who use their services should show some ID that should be checked against the names they give. Forms must be filled in to state how long they intend to stay at the particular hotels. If something does not seem right, the police should be informed to investigate. Ghanaians should give up the inexcusable assumption that the police would not even take action whenever a report is made. Do your civic duty to help protect your country. That's the only one you have, no matter what. Go to another station when there's no action in the one you went to. The hoteliers should know that they would not have business if the country became an uninhabitable place. The hotels around the country, especially, those in Accra should not be hotbeds for criminal activities.

The typical Ghanaian apathy has come into play on this serious issue. Those who have a voice on national matters don't seem to care much about this problem, since they can afford to barricade their houses and hire security guards day and night to protect them and their families. But how would one feel waking up each morning to hear wailing in ones neighbourhood or in the immediate houses around one, signaling loss of lives and property, or even reading in the newspapers or hearing on the radio. Only a callous individual that would go about his/her business unconcerned as if nothing has happened or what has happened doesn't matter.

Ghanaians should not let armed robbery become a norm. It should never be allowed to become part of Ghanaian life. Ghanaians have too many things to worry about to add this to the burden. This is the worst, and all should militate against it. Having armed robbers on your mind all the time when going to bed, coming from the bank or travelling, not knowing when these monstrous creatures may strike is tortuous. These criminals live among the people and it is for their own good to expose them, doing otherwise will not serve them well. For how long are Ghanaians going to allow armed robbers to terrorise them?

I think there should be another ACO(Aliens Compliance Order). It was the best thing Prime Minister Busia did for Ghana. He made Ghanaians take control of their country. (Some people may be getting agitated already). If one knows what ACO is, one will not make any fuss about it. It was not (and is not) anti-foreigners, not at all. The order was that all foreigners in the country should register with their respective embassies. It was a way to keep track of foreigners in the country, the right of every country to secure her borders. At the moment the government has no clue of the number of foreigners that are in the country, where they come from, their background and what they do. Though in any country there are undocumented people, majority of foreigners are known and those who are illegal, most of them live within the confines of the law for fear of being found out. That is not the case in Ghana. Though they are illegal they can do whatever they want and get away with it. They have teamed up with criminally minded Ghanaians who do not care to destroy their own country.

Ghanaians are under siege in their own country. It is only strong measures on the part of the administration and unflinching support of the citizenry that will eradicate this canker. The question then is, who are these people who have chosen to terrorise Ghanaians? Where do they come from? The answers to these questions make it even more urgent the implementation of the proposed national identity cards. People should not be allowed to make 'in and out' entry at their whim. As much as Ghanaians continue to welcome foreigners, the nation needs people coming to help to develop the country and enjoy it as well. And not people who enter at will to plunder what they have worked hard for.

The argument for ECOWAS is frivolous. There was Ghana before ECOWAS. The security of Ghana comes first before any other consideration so far as any organization is concerned. Criminals have taken undue advantage of this organization to enter the country to unleash terror on the people and the authorities have allowed it to go on for so long and it should be known that no one is immune. The other ECOWAS countries would not allow this terrorism to go on in their respective countries. These low life elements even use the bloody stolen money to acquire parcels of land to build homes. Armed robbery has become lucrative to these villains at the expense of peace-loving, hardworking Ghanaians.

Many people seemed to have misunderstood democracy, and it seems the govenment is petrified of being branded as undemocratic. It should be known that under the tenets of democracy, laws are strictly enforced to maintain law and order, and to prevent people from going overboard in their behaviour. Even there must be restraints in freedom of speech and in all other aspects of freedom. Democracy is not for one to do whatever one chooses against soceity and get away with it. Unfortunately, that's how many Ghanaians understand it and have given the same erraneous impression to foreigners who enter the country. Then, they the foreigners send the message home that in the country Ghana you can do what you cannot do over there, in their home countries. Armed robbers get bail when caught, and can bribe their way out to go back terrorizing the people.

The onus is on the police to protect the people. No matter the most sophisticated gadgets given to them, if they don't have the love of country to perform effectively, not much can be achieved. Imagine calling the police while armed robbers are in the process of breaking into your house and the officer at the end of the line asking you to provide a vehicle for them to come to your aid. The government should equip the police with all the necessary apparatus for effective performance. It is a well-known fact that the police don't have much to work with. Thus the 'monsters in human form' have taken advantage of this handicap to do what they are doing. On the other hand, the good work being done by the dedicated law enforcement officers are often thwarted by some unpatriotic elements. Some act as informants for the villains.

The government should seek suggestion as to what to do about the wave of terror in the country. A warning must be given that if nothing is done, these villains would one day turn into rebels, and the whole country would be plunged into chaos. The armed robbers that are caught should never be given bail and should be given stiff sentences after trial. Foreigners amongst them should be fingerprinted and deported at the end of their prison terms and those who are citizens should be monitored. For instance, initially they should be ordered to report to the police daily and subsequently every two weeks. There are criminal laws already on the books, but I think special laws should be enacted for armed robbery. There should be no laxity when it comes to law enforcement. Laws are strictly enforced in a democracy. It does not make sense when laws enacted are not enforced. However, it takes very dedicated individuals to make enforcement possible. At the moment, it is obvious that some Ghanaians are habouring criminals by giving their houses to people they know are up to no good. The long arm of the law should reach them and they should be held accountable for the criminal activities as well.

Are Ghanaians going to give up their hard-earned freedom to the armed robbers to control their movements and the way they go about their businesses? I don't think so. Then it is the civic duty of every law-abiding citizen to help the police to give the required protection. Ghanaians need each other more than ever. There is strong indication that some bad people in the various communities have become informants for the armed robbers, on the movements and activities of their neighbours.

What's good economy when the people cannot enjoy what they have worked hard for? People are being attacked in their homes, on the roads and now....imagine being accousted on the street and stripped down to your underwear. The country is living in fear , and fear is detrimental to peaceful existence.



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