Protecting the peace: Security update for Ghana
Ghana has experienced a spate of security-related incidents, however, our outlook for the country’s mostly positive security outlook has not changed.
Timeline of incidents
The kidnapping of three teenage girls in the oil city, Takoradi has been a running new item since the first girl went missing in August 2018. Despite a number of arrests, authorities seem no nearer to locating them.
A diplomat (honorary consul) was kidnapped in a residential district of central Accra in April whilst on a jog. He was found roughly 24 hours later following a tip off from residents local to where he was found by police.
An Indian businessman national was seized in Kumasi one week after the diplomat and held captive for a day before managing to escape.
A Burkinabe citizen was arrested in Jirapa in the Upper West region of the country in early June, inside a Catholic church with a loaded gun after members of the congregation raised alarm about his suspicious behaviour.
Two Canadian citizens were kidnapped in Kumasi in early June and were released after eight days following a police operation.
Current Security Risks
The overall security risks in Ghana remain relatively low, particularly in comparison to the regional landscape, and we do not expect this picture to alter significantly in the coming 6-12 months.
The risk of kidnap in Ghana has been and remains low, with very few incidents reported in recent years. The recent incidents have been primarily blamed on criminal elements in the country coming from Nigeria though this has yet to be proven. There have also been allegations of political involvement in the kidnappings. Secretary general of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, has been arrested, questioned and released in relation to an earlier charge connected to a leaked audiotape in which he is alleged to have called for kidnappings and other violence as part of the party’s policy to foment unrest in the run-up to the December 2020 general elections. There have also been accusations from both ends of the political spectrum that the Ghanaian citizens allegedly involved are party members (if not acting on party orders). Despite one member of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) having previously been referred to the ICC over allegations of incitement to genocide, incidents of political violence in Ghana tend to be isolated (rather than widespread and continuous). This means that the allegations of political involvement in the kidnappings should be viewed with scrutiny.
Looking at Ghana’s security landscape, civil conflict arising from ethnic clashes and/or chieftaincy disputes tends to be a more serious risk. Given the structure of Ghana’s traditional rule system, the potential for localised, small-scale conflict, often triggered by the death of a chief is persistent. Similar to other countries in the region, there have been sporadic clashes between indigenes and the nomadic Fulani community. Again, these have been largely localised, however, there is more potential for it to be conflated to a national issue as domestic farmers often view the Fulani as a foreign menace. In order to quell the tensions, the government is seeking to create a number of cattle ranches for use by the Fulanis.
Civil unrest tends also stem from an increase in political vigilantism, typically in the last year of an electoral cycle, leading up to voting day and the immediate period afterwards. Looking ahead to the upcoming 2020 general elections the main political parties have initiated a dialogue on how to end this phenomenon, though it is not expected to result in any significant alteration in either policy or attitude.
Meanwhile, the risk from terrorism is very low, and Ghana has not experienced terrorist attacks such as those in neighbours Burkina and Cote d’Ivoire. However, sources within the military have expressed concerns over the porous nature of the northern border with Burkina Faso and the potential this creates for infiltration by the radical Islamist elements that are besieging that country. The risk of attack would be more likely to come from outside elements seeking to sow tensions within Ghana, rather than domestic sources.
Central to the sense of security in the country is the variance in professionalism and efficiency of the different security services. According to our analyst in Accra, whilst most people have experienced some form of attempted extortion by the police, the same cannot be said of the military, which is generally perceived as professional and competent. This is despite both forces being sufficiently equipped. The variance in efficacy can be seen in recent operations. The army’s largest recent engagement has been Operation Vanguard, which seeks to combat illegal mining and it has been widely touted as an operational success. In contrast the police’s efforts to locate the three women kidnapped in Takoradi have drawn wide criticisms and no end results.
The current situation is likely to have two key implications: firstly, the politicisation of the security situation will only exacerbate an already tense political arena as campaigning ramps up ahead of December 2020’s general election. Political vigilantism is a key theme in this electoral cycle and if one party believes the other is using force to decide the outcome, they are likely to respond in kind.
Secondly, a decrease in investor confidence could occur. An international operator in the agribusiness sector told us “out of an abundance of caution, we are reviewing our insurance cover and implementing extra safety protocols.” The extra cost of taking such measures as well as the risk of reputational harm may cause some international firms to review their procedures and limit non-essential travel.