The ranking member on Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has reiterated a call for improved security following terror attacks in Burkina Faso on Sunday that claimed at least 17 lives.
In an opinion piece released on Monday, the North Tongu legislator said Ghana, like other countries, is not immune from the scourge of terror attacks, urging security agencies to heed to the grim warnings by the United States and Canada and other countries about Ghana to their citizens.
“God forbid that Ghana should ever experience a terrorist attack, however, our approach must not be to play the proverbial ostrich and ignore what other countries (with no mean counter terrorism capacity) are telling their citizens about us.
“It is better to be sincere, vigilant and prepared than to be taken by surprise. Pathetic attacks on those who urge vigilance and action serve no useful purpose,” he writes.
Mr Ablakwa recently warned that Ghana faces a possible terror attack following a travel advisory on the website of the Canadian Embassy cautioning citizens wanting to travel to Ghana that there is a looming threat of terrorist attack on Ghana.
“There is a threat of terrorism. Terrorist targets could include shopping malls, government buildings, public areas such as bars, restaurants, hotels and sites frequented by Westerners. Be aware of your surroundings in public places,” the travel advisory on the Canadian Embassy in Ghana in part noted.
Defence Minister Domnic Nitiwul has also said Ghana remains vulnerable to the threat of terror attacks despite indications the country is safe.
However, some security analysts have said there is no motivation for religious extremists to strike in Ghana, suggesting that recent terror attacks appear to be taking trends in only francophone countries.
Seventeen people died and eight sustained severe injuries in an in the centre of the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. Three gunmen opened fire on customers seated outside a restaurant, witnesses were quoted as saying.
Security forces killed three attackers, Burkinabe Communication Minister Remis Dandjinou said.
Mr Ablakwa’s opinion piece is published below.
Okudzeto Ablakwa writes
Our prayers and sympathies are with the victims and loved ones of yesterday’s senseless terror attack on our next door neighbor Burkina Faso.
Considering the fact that the attack took place at a Turkish restaurant on Ouagadougou’s busy Kwame Nkrumah Avenue makes Ghanaians feel even more attached to Sunday’s horror.
It remains unimpeachable that Kwame Nkrumah is an international symbol of Justice and the liberation of the oppressed, so surely, this attempt to desecrate a highway named in honour of the Ghanaian Founder and African liberation icon has failed. Rather, may we be inspired that just as Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah won the battle against imperialism so shall the battle against global terrorism be won. God has never stood neutral in these matters.
It must however not be lost on us that ahead of this latest attack, the travel advisories of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom to their citizens traveling to or living in Burkina Faso were very instructive:
On July 21, 2017, Canada’s Travel Advisory read:
“There is a threat of terrorism. Terrorist targets could include government buildings, places of worship, schools, natural resource extraction sites, airports and other transportation hubs, as well as public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners.
On January 15, 2016, gunmen stormed the Splendid Hotel and the Café Cappuccino in downtown Ouagadougou, killing 30 people. Additional security measures are in effect throughout the country. Further attacks cannot be ruled out.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times in public places. Stay at hotels that have robust security measures; however, keep in mind that even the most secure locations cannot be considered completely free of risk.”
On June 7, 2017, the United States Travel Advisory stated:
“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burkina Faso, and recommends they avoid travel to the northern part of the Sahel region, and exercise caution in the rest of Burkina Faso, due to continuing threats to safety and security, including terrorism. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services in remote and rural areas of the country is limited. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning issued on January 20, 2016.
The security environment in Burkina Faso is fluid and attacks are possible anywhere in the country, including Ouagadougou. ISIS, al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and al-Murabitun terrorist organizations and affiliates have declared their intention to attack foreign targets in North and West Africa. In January 2016, armed assailants attacked civilians at the Splendid Hotel and Cappuccino restaurant in Ouagadougou, killing 30 people, including one U.S. citizen. AQIM and al-Murabitun claimed responsibility for the attack. Violent extremist groups increased their activities in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region in 2016 and 2017, attacking police stations, customs offices, military posts, and schools in Koutougou, Intangom, Markoye, Tinakoff, Nassoumbou, Kourfayel, and Baraboule.
In the border regions shared by Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, extremist groups and linked criminal networks have targeted Westerners for kidnapping. These northern regions are extremely remote, and the ability of the governments of either Burkina Faso or the United States to provide emergency assistance there is very limited.
Due to the risk of attacks throughout the Sahel region, the U.S. Embassy has placed restrictions on official government travel to Dori and Djibo, the road that connects these cities, and all areas north of that road. Embassy personnel traveling to or staying at Parc National du W (Parc W), the regional national park located on Burkina Faso’s southeastern border with Niger and Benin, must arrange armed escort with Burkina Faso security forces. U.S. citizens are encouraged to follow the same guidance.
U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Burkina Faso should maintain situational awareness at all times, and have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance. Take steps to mitigate the risk of becoming a victim of violence, including limiting trips to locations frequented by Westerners.”
That of the United Kingdom as at 4th August, 2017 before it was updated today the 14th of August, 2017 stipulated:
“There’s a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Terrorist groups continue to mount attacks on hotels, cafes and restaurants. There is a risk that terrorist groups may cross the border from Mali and the northern border with Niger into Burkina Faso to carry out kidnap attacks.”
Clearly, travel advisories from these countries cannot be treated lightly even if some of them try to downplay their importance to Ghanaians when they do not do same to their citizens.
It is trite knowledge that no country is immuned from the scourge of terror more so when other countries are issuing grim warnings to their citizens about our country. God forbid that Ghana should ever experience a terrorist attack, however, our approach must not be to play the proverbial ostrich and ignore what other counties (with no mean counter terrorism capacity) are telling their citizens about us.
It is better to be sincere, vigilant and prepared than to be taken by surprise. Pathetic attacks on those who urge vigilance and action serve no useful purpose.
May we all be eternally vigilant and may the good Lord keep his protection over us.