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Bawku Security Issues: A Cautionary Tale for Ghana

Bawku is a Cautionary Tale of the State of Ghana’s Security
I undertook a one-week fact-finding visit to Bawku last week where I met with Chiefs, Opinion
Leaders, Youth Groups, Heads of the Police and Military and the following are my observations
and concerns of incidents involving the Security in 2023.
1. On February 1st
, 2023, the Military chased unarmed civilians for miles and gunned down
eight in the Zoogin suburb of Bawku. The MP of the area publicly decried the killings and
is reported to have petitioned CHRAJ to investigate the cold-blooded murders. Nothing
has happened since. Both CHRAJ and the MP have gone silent on the issue.
2. On February 8th
, 2023, a National Security Operative by name Fataw Nambe was killed
alongside Mamprusi fighters in a Kusasi neighborhood in Bawku. Fataw was a well-
known local Mamprusi boy from Bawku. The incident was sanitized by the media
claiming he died in “crossfire.” Truth is that everybody in Bawku, especially the Security,
knows he was killed fighting alongside his tribemates. The people of Bawku had on
several occasions reported Fataw’s involvement in gruesome killings in Bawku, including
the Zoogin murders. No official word, let alone investigation, has been made into the
circumstances around Fataw’s death and how he was deployed in Bawku.
3. On February 15th, 2023, Nayiri enskinned a rival Bawku Naba in Nalerigu. Same day, the
Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, issued a statement calling the act
“illegal and a threat to National Security.” The statement added that: “Government
further re-iterates that Naba Asigri Abugrago Azoka II is the Bawku Naba, duly gazetted
and a member of the National and Upper East Regional House of Chiefs.” The Minister
assured Ghanaians that “the Security agencies have therefore been directed to arrest
and prosecute any other person who holds himself out as Bawku Naba.” The statement
concluded with the following promise to the people of Bawku: “Any developments that
have the potential to undermine the peace of Bawku will also be dealt with swiftly and
in accordance with the law.”
Eight months on, the pretender remains free, hiding in plain sight in Nalerigu. Recently,
images of the “wanted” man were circulating on social media, surrounded by uniformed
Police Officers beaming with smiles. Meanwhile the killings continue in Bawku.
4. On April 20th, 2023, Mamprusi young men with weapons were apprehended by local
people around the Nakpanduri area after they ambushed vehicles heading to Garu. The
culprits were handed over to the police, all caught on video. Calls were intercepted from
the Nalerigu Palace and NPP Party officials in the Northeast Region, telling the police to
release them because Nayiri was aware of their actions. The culprits were let go.
5. On July 21st
, 2023, a bus from Bawku was attacked and set ablaze right in-front of the
Walewale Police Station. Not a single person has since been apprehended till date.
6. Following an attack on commuters along the Pusiga-Pulimakoum road on September
21st
, 2023, the military raided the Ninkogo Chief Palace the following day, September
22nd
, 2023, found no weapons or ammunitions, and stole GHS56,000.00 which belonged
to a widow. After pressure from the family, the military returned GHS24,800.00, leaving
an outstanding balance of GHS31,200.00. As at now, the Soldiers who stole the money
are still at post in Bawku and the widow is still waiting for the rest of her money.
7. On September 22nd
, 2023, the Military picked up two young men tending cattle in the
Zemasa area. They took them to their base at Silminabin, inside the Mamprusi enclave,
tortured them with beatings and electrical shocks, and warned them that if they found
any young person around the area, they will be shot. Two days later, on September 24th
,
2023, the Military again picked three young men from the same community, took them
to the same base and subjected them to the same torture. Some of the victims showed
me their injuries. The police confirmed these incidents. The Military continued their
campaign against Kusasis by brutalizing young men who were found sitting together
around Gingande, Kpalwega and other areas. They went outside the curfew zone to seize
motor bikes from villagers, and demanded owners pay GHS1,500.00 each to retrieve
their bikes. Innocent Kusasi youth have been randomly arrested and thrown into jail for
weeks and months without a shred of evidence and without charges.
8. After terrorizing the Zemasa community, on September 27th
, 2023, young men from the
same community transporting sweet potatoes were attacked by Mamprusi fighters.
Three were killed and many others sustained serious injuries. The local community has
no doubt in their minds that the Military paved the way for the Mamprusis to attack and
murder their young men and are seething with grievance and anger.
Observations and Concerns
In a meeting with the military leadership in Bawku on Monday, October 2nd
, and Thursday,
October 5th, the Security made it clear that they are under orders to protect the minority
Mamprusis from the majority Kusasis. Apparently, Government fears the prospect of ethnic
cleansing. On the face of it, this is a good move. However, what the order means is that the
Security forces in Bawku are not there to enforce the rule of law. They are in Bawku to protect
the Mamprusi. The irony is that it is the same Mamprusi community that sparked the current
cycle of violence by defying a court order to perform a funeral of someone who died over forty-
years ago and went on to enskin an illegal chief. Consequently, there is a widespread feeling
among Kusasis that the Security forces are actively supporting the Mamprusis. All the Military
bases in Bawku are posted around the neighborhood of the Mamprusis and their Moshie allies,
ostensibly to protect them from Kusasi attacks. Yet the Mamprusis are able to sneak out of their
enclave, launch attacks against Kusasis, and sneak back into their homes.
The Police and the Military cannot provide Security for the operation of public institutions and
services such as banks, schools, hospitals etc. Yet, they can provide escorts for Mamprusis and
their allies to go to markets across the border in Togo. Some of the Security personnel have
been in Bawku for years and I was told that some of them strongly resist transfer out of Bawku.
This raises the obvious question as to why anyone in a conflict zone will resist transfer unless
they are benefiting from the situation? There are unconfirmed reports and rumors of Security
personnel selling ammunitions and confiscated weapons to different factions. The Police in
Bawku have barricaded themselves behind a very high wall, allowing killings to take place
meters from the Bawku Municipal Police Station.
The obvious question is why is the government not enforcing the law impartially? The answer,
from the ground, is simple: PARTY POLITICS. Even though the single seat the NPP currently holds
in the Upper East Region is from the Kusasi area (Binduri), and the MP is a Kusasi, the
Mamprusis in Bawku present themselves as NPP supporters. Seeing them as party faithfuls, the
Kusaal proverb that “a dog does not bite its own puppy to the bone,” seems to be the guiding
principle for the Security forces in Bawku. The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, is a
Mamprusi and is vying to become the flag-bearer of the NPP in the 2024 elections. His support
among Kusasis is very minimal, and he needs to count on his own people. The main Opposition
Party, NDC, on the other hand, has adopted silence as an official policy on Bawku. The NDC is
counting on the fact that they have the Kusasi vote in the bag. Their preoccupation therefore is
not the violence and killings in Bawku, but to avoid offending the sensibilities of Mamprugu in a
misguided hope of retaining their seats in the Northeast Region, including Nalerigu. Indeed,
politics is dirty, and partisan politics is now deadly in Bawku.
While these are going on, the Security forces in Bawku have become a law onto themselves. The
issues on the ground are damaging and require immediate investigation by an independent
body. Many I met view what is happening in Bawku as a symptom of a deeper malaise in
Ghana’s law enforcement agencies and the application of the criminal justice system in our
country. It seems we live in a country where law breakers who are politically well-connected are
provided with armed protection rather than prosecution. It is these actions and inactions by
those in authority, along with the culture of impunity and selective justice that poses a serious
national Security threat in Ghana. Not terrorists from Burkina Faso. Peace will return to Bawku
in a matter of weeks if the Security forces conducted themselves professionally and impartially
in holding real culprits to account. When people are left with a sense of helplessness, grievance,
selective justice, and seething anger, they will take the law into their own hands. The common
refrain in Bawku is that the Security cannot be counted on. It is everyone for themselves. This
situation should worry every right-thinking Ghanaian. And for that reason, I appeal to the six
MPs from the Kusaug Traditional Area to table a motion in Parliament for an independent body
to inquire into the activities of the Security in Bawku.
Prof. John Azumah
Executive Director
The Sanneh Institute
October 12th, 2023

AKom, better known as the blogger, is a passionate writer and blogger who has been sharing his thoughts and ideas with the world for years. With a keen eye for detail and a love for exploring new topics, AKom has become a respected voice in the online community.
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