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Insist on Your Right to Education

Uneducated citizenry is like a pitch any game can be played on it. Illiteracy is what has given the politicians in Ghana the chance to fool so many people for so a long a time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NDC and NPP must stop underdeveloping Ghana

Since the attempt by first president Dr. Nkrumah to industrialise Ghana and his demise in 1966, no genuine attempt has been made by successive leaders to transform and industrialise Ghana. Successive leaders (particularly those that belong to the NDC and NPP political tradition) who came after Nkrumah have all worked for their own interest to the neglect of the country and its people. Instead of visionary ideas, positive transformative thinking, strategic and long term policies and programmes, and better skills of state-crafting that will transform Ghana into an industrial powerhouse, all that Ghanaians have witnessed since 1966 and particularly since 1992 has been insults, corruption, mismanagement and waste.

While countries that gained independence with Ghana in the same period including Korea (1945), Malaysia (31 August 1957), Singapore (9 August 1965), are proudly exporting durable goods like ships, mobile phones, computers, television (LG, Samsung), cars (Hyundai, Daewoo), solar panels, washing machines, microwaves, blenders, toasters, air-conditions, bicycles, baby-carriers and other smart technologies, Ghana is still majoring in minor things: KVIP, importing used clothes and exporting cocoa beans, cashew nut etc.

While Koreans, Malaysians, Taiwanese and Singaporeans are sending satellites to the earth's orbit to boost telecommunication, improve national security and enhance weather forecasting, Ghana is still struggling to feed itself with constant food donations from Japan and United States. Additionally, while South Korea and Taiwan are launching ballistic and cruise missiles and building war ships and other strategic weapon systems to protect the territorial integrity of their countries, Ghana is busy importing all kinds of throw-away electronic waste from Europe and America, leaving the country's borders and coastal waters poorly protected.

After 55 years of independence, Ghana's economy is still structurally weak and deficient. It is heavily dependent on export of few raw materials: cocoa, gold, timber and crude oil with little or no value addition making it vulnerable to the price volatilities that characterise raw material export.

Sadly the nation does not own the resources in the country. It is shocking to learn that Ghana owns just about 5% of Ashanti Gold with majority of the shares in foreign hands. It is also shocking to know that Ghana's share in the much talked about oil is not more than 20%. What is clear is that the leaders in Ghana have not placed the development and control of the fundamental instruments of wealth and power in the hands of Ghanaians but rather foreigners. Ghana too is a country that produces gold yet there is no gold refinery and every gold product in the country is imported from desert-stricken Dubai. Ghana produces crude oil for export yet Tema Oil Refinery has to import crude oil to refine.

One would ask what at all is the problem with NDC and NPP leaders? Is no one among them nationalistic and visionary enough to see the harm being done to the country and its people and therefore to plead the nation's cause?

Ghana with its more than 20 million people and abundant hydrocarbon resources has a total electricity generation capacity of 2185 megawatts, while Singapore with her population of about 4.6 million people and no hydrocarbons has a total electricity generation capacity of more than 8919 megawatts. Singapore with its population of about 4.6 million people has five oil refineries processing more than 1.3 million barrels of oil a day while Ghana with its population of more than 20 million has only one oil refinery (Tema Oil Refinery) processing not more than 50,000 barrels of oil a day. The last time I checked TOR was struggling to maintain letter of credit to import oil for processing, thanks to the mismanagement and the corruption of its leaders.

Thanks to the blind management of the TOR, there is information that TOR has now been turned into oil storage facility because it cannot raise the money to import crude for processing. When Nkrumah contracted the Italian firm AGIP to build TOR in 1963 his hope was that subsequent leaders would build on it and expand it to make the nation less vulnerable to energy shocks but today TOR is falling apart, thanks to the NDC and NPP leadership and TOR management team.

Ghana is still at the bottom of the world's progressive economies--thanks to the corrupt political system, the dysfunctional educational system and the corrupt and visionless political and technocratic leadership that stopped thinking many decades ago. The leaders in Ghana have sold and surrendered the sovereignty of Ghana to the World Bank and the IMF and are desperate to please them even at the peril of the state. Ghanaian leaders cannot do anything without seeking permission from the IMF and the World Bank and yet they say Ghana is a sovereign country. Recently President Mills celebrated the fact the IMF had given he and his government permission to secure $3 billion loan facility from China. Can you imagine a leader of a sovereign nation celebrating because a manipulative organisation somewhere has given him permission to contract loan that his people will be the one to pay?

The leaders in Ghana have placed all their hope in the IMF and the World Bank and have refused to learn or even think. Instead of moving closer to the Asia and learn from them Ghanaian leaders prefer to align themselves with the manipulative Bretton Wood institutions whose toxic economic medicines and conditional loans are part of Ghana's underdevelopment and socio-economic backwardness.

Meanwhile instead of treating technological backwardness, inferior industrial export, poverty, unemployment, social and economic inequality as their sworn enemy, the political parties and their politicians especially the NDC and NPP continue to insult one another leaving critical issues unaddressed with the gullible voters unable to differentiate the wheat from the chaff. Instead of unifying the country and mobilising all the people and natural resources for Ghana's total development, the NDC and NPP politicians prefer to tear one another with the most despicable and unprintable words they can ever find.

As for NDC it is very difficult to pinpoint what policies and programmes they have and what kind of strategy they have and which direction they want to move Ghana to. Everything they do or say is full of propaganda and not the things that will make Ghana move forward. To put it plainly the NDC are a bunch of parasites and vampires whose leaders continue to drain Ghana of its resources while doing nothing to help the country. I am being particularly harsh on NDC because of what its leaders have done to Ghana.

A book entitled “The Politics of Government-Business Relations in Ghana, 1982-2008” published in 2010 and authored by Darko Kwabena Opoku has documented how in the 1990s the NDC leadership and their cronies used Ghana to secure loans, sold hundreds of state owned enterprises to themselves and refused to pay the state and also squandered the money that was paid. The Chapter Six of the book headlined “The Changing Face of Ghanaian Business: The Rise of P/NDC Stalwarts” has a long list of NDC gurus who have moved from rags to riches by scandalously acquiring properties built by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. They include the Ahwoi brothers (Kwamena, Kwesi, Ato), Kwame Peprah, Peter Peprah, Tsatsu Tsikata, Kojo Tsikata, Fui Tsikata, Vincent Assiseh, P. V. Obeng, Agyemang Konadu, Ebo Tawiah, Kofi Totobi Kwakye, Edward Addo, Augustus Tanoh, etc. Paragraphs on pages 147 and 149 of the book read:

“…The Ahwoi brothers (Kwamena, Kwesi, Ato), who were key figures in the PNDC and later the NDC, were among the first NDC stalwarts to enter private business. Unlike many others, their business activities were quite open. Prior to entering politics, all three were civil servants with no business background. Widely said to have received a state-guaranteed loan of $30 million as starting capital, they steadily built an economic empire. This included a waste disposal business that enjoyed a profitable contract with the AMA; a hotel near their hometown in the Central Region; and a haulage company called Comstrans. A confidential interviewee revealed that they had also acquired large tracts of land, hoping to invest in real estate” (p.147).

“…Tsatsu Tsikata, Rawlings' closest aide, who held a long and unaccountable stewardship of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) also tried, unsuccessfully, to conceal his business interests and vast fortune. In 1994, the government wrote off $124.7 million owed by the GNPC (World Bank, 1995). Finance minister Kwesi Botchwey questioned Tsikata's judgment and his handling of GNPC finances and resigned partly in disgust over Rawlings' apparent tolerance of this. Tsikata was convicted and served time for the embattled GNPC's debt, totaling several hundred million dollars. Just as Mrs. Rawlings used the DWM as her personal vehicle, so Tsikata used the GNPC, effectively personally controlling the GNPC's 20 percent share in Westel, a telecommunications company” (p.149).

These are the people who have prevented Ghana from becoming the likes of Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia. After 55 years of independence Ghanaian women and men still wash their clothes with their hands, carry goods on their heads while the women still carry their babies on their back in the scotching sun. Does it mean that Ghana cannot build common baby-carriers to relieve the nursing mothers from this unnecessary burden and punishment?

Thanks to the visionless leadership Ghana is now a dumping site for cheap foreign goods. Everything in the country is now imported including those that it has the ability to produce. Ghanaian leaders are in love with V8 and other expensive four wheel drive vehicles that cannot even be found in Japan and Germany yet they will not develop and implement policies and programmes that will enable Ghana to produce some herself.

The NDC and NPP leadership must think like Dr. Nkrumah and put the interest of Ghana and Ghanaians first for the betterment of all her citizens.

Lord Aikins Adusei politicalthinker1@yahoo.com

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Energy Security and the Future of Ghana

Ghana is tipped as one of the countries in Africa that is likely to pull itself out of the socio-economic doldrums and to emerge as a economic powerhouse in this 21st century. Several factors work in Ghana’s favour including political stability, investor-friendly climate, abundant business opportunities, robust judicial system, as well as well educated class (human resource). However these favourable conditions would not help Ghana to industrialise or break into the global league of higher economic achievers without sufficient, adequate, reliable and sustainable supply of energy. History shows that no nation has ever developed, industrialised or joined the global league of progressive economies without adequate, reliable and affordable supplies of energy. Put differently countries that have achieved industrialisation and have done away with poverty did so by placing higher priority on Energy Security.

The recent developments in Ghana’s energy sector (with frequent power outages, disruptions and blackouts) indicate that unless Ghana takes critical and urgent steps to strengthen the development and use of local energy resources, invest, build and expand energy infrastructures and to secure enough energy resources abroad, it may lose the plot to build a stronger economy. Indeed Ghana’s emergence as a serious economic powerhouse either now or in the future is dependent on her Energy Security.

What does Energy Security mean?

In the words of Dr. Barry Barton Energy Security means “a condition in which a nation and all, or most, of its citizens and businesses have access to sufficient energy resources at reasonable prices for the foreseeable future free from serious risk of major disruption of service”. The European Commission refers to Energy Security as “the ability to ensure that future essential energy needs can be met, both by means of adequate domestic resources worked under economically acceptable conditions or maintained as strategic reserves, and by calling upon accessible and stable external sources supplemented where appropriate by strategic stocks”.

In practical terms Energy Security means securing adequate supply of energy resources (gas, oil, hydro, biofuel, solar, wind) both home and abroad to meet both short and long term demand. It involves not only the production of oil, gas, hydro but also safe transportation and distribution of the energy products to consumers. It involves not only protecting say the gas pipelines coming from Nigeria to Ghana but also oil and gas tankers, oil and gas stations, refineries, oil rigs, sealanes, transportation corridors, power lines, power stations, transformers, cables and other critical infrastructures through which energy is delivered.

Energy Security implies identifying and dealing with all the short term and long term threats, risks, vulnerabilities, crises and costs associated with energy supply and demand and working to either minimise or completely eliminate them. Energy Security also includes maintaining regular investment to expand energy infrastructures to keep up with growing demand and to deliver timely energy to all sectors of the economy. Not only that, Energy Security also means that the workers (management and technical staff) working at various locations within the energy chain also need protection from kidnappers and other criminals. Additionally, the investors that put their money into the development of energy resources and critical energy infrastructures need to have their investments protected i.e. the political and economic environment must be stable.

Why is Energy Security important for Ghana?

Energy Security is essential for Ghana for many reasons. From security point of view, to maintain peace, security, stability and territorial integrity of the country at all times the Armed Forces need fuel to power its ships, boats, aircrafts, armoured vehicles, communication systems and other ground, air and sea operations. The police and other security agencies also need regular supply of fuel to maintain law and order. Indeed serious problems of insecurity would occur including armed robberies and carjacking if the police cannot fuel their vehicles to patrol the country. More importantly most of the modern equipments used by armed forces and other security agencies are such that without reliable energy supply it will be difficult to operate them.

Similarly the Fire Service will be rendered irrelevant during fire accidents if they cannot fuel their vehicles to locations where its services are needed. The barracks and the military bases hosting the men and women of the Ghana Armed Forces, Police, Immigration and Prisons all need fuel to keep them operational at all time. This suggests that Energy Security is closely bound up with the physical security and indeed national security of Ghana. Without adequate and reliable supply of energy to the Armed Forces they may find it very difficult if not impossible to police the coastal waters and keep drug cartels, pirates, illegal fishing vessels from violating the territorial integrity of Ghana.

From economic point of view, critical and strategic economic infrastructures such as Tema and Takoradi harbours, the Kotoka International Airport and other airports and airfields in Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale are heavily dependent on energy. The communication installations in these locations need constant supply of energy (electricity) to keep them operational. The oil, gas and mining operations at Takoradi, Obuasi, Prestea, Tarkwa, Akwatia and other locations also rely heavily on energy. Likewise the operations of VALCO, GHACEM, AshGold, real estate and other construction companies also require adequate and uninterrupted supply of energy.

Recent studies indicate that investors have gained serious confidence in the Ghanaian economy and many of them wishing to invest in the growing oil and gas sectors in West Africa are using Ghana as a base for their operations. On November 7, 2011 a paper published in the Oil & Gas Journal noted that a number of foreign and local companies (including the London-based investment group Lonrho) have indicated their preparedness to invest and “provide  Ghana with a world class backbone of transport and logistical infrastructure, investing in new ports, logistical support centers, and engineering facilities for the offshore industry”. This is a very positive development, the problem however is that these investment overtures would come to naught if reliable and affordable energy supply cannot be guaranteed.

The operations of major financial and banking institutions including the Ghana Stock Exchange, the Bank of Ghana, commercial banks and their ATM systems rely on regular supply of energy. Indeed the Akosombo Dam and Thermal Plants in Takoradi, Tema, and Asogli all need power to generate the electricity they produce. Transportation of people as well the production, distribution and marketing of food, medicines and other goods in the country cannot be possible if the transport sector cannot be supplied with adequate and sufficient supply of diesel and gasoline  at affordable prices.

Linked to the point above is the fact that the operations of key institutions of the state i.e. ministries and departments in the country including Defence, Energy, Finance, Foreign Affairs and Interior cannot go on smoothly without a guaranteed supply of energy.  Again the activities of major organs of government including Parliament and the Judiciary depend on reliable supply of electricity. Health institutions such as the Korle Bu, Komfo Anokye, and Tamale Teaching Hospitals and other Regional and District Hospitals, polyclinics, and their infrastructures e.g. X-rays, incubators and other life-saving equipments are energy dependent. Educational institutions including universities, polytechnics, secondary schools, nursing and teachers training colleges and libraries cannot operate fully when the security of supply is interrupted.

Households’ thermal comfort, their security, safety, education, health, social life, and economic fortunes would negatively be affected without access to regular, adequate, reliable and affordable supply of energy at all times. The above issues explain why Energy Security is so critical for Ghana.

Energy Security: the situation in Ghana

The recent nationwide blackouts and frequent power outages and load shedding signal the deep problems existing in the energy sector. Energy generation has not kept up with demand. While demand in the country is growing by 10 to 15 percent annually, supply is well below demand. Experts believe that Ghana needs about 5000 megawatts of energy to keep up with soaring demand and to achieve full middle income status. Unfortunately energy generation capacity in the country is lower than 2200 megawatts.

A number of factors including neglect, poor management, monopoly and underinvestment in infrastructure have led to supply fallen behind demand, creating the huge supply deficit. The deficit has in turn created huge pressure on existing infrastructures. To add insults to injury most of the critical infrastructures used by VRA, GRIDCo and ECG are obsolete and need replacement. But the inability of the companies to replace them due to weak financial position has resulted in huge load pressure causing system failures which are partly responsible for the nationwide blackouts recently experienced in the country.

Though government intends to increase generation capacity to 5000 megawatts by 2015 it is unlikely that the target would be met given financial challenges facing VRA. According to Dr. Imoro Braimah of Department of Planning-KNUST without increased investments in the power sector, total electricity generation capacity will be only about 2,665 MW by 2015, leaving a deficit of about 46.7%.

Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) the only refinery in Ghana is plagued with a number of problems that make it unable to import and process crude oil to keep up with demand. TOR’s processing capacity has barely exceeded its initial capacity since its establishment in 1963 by Dr. Nkrumah. This is hardly any good picture for a country hoping to reach full middle income status. Besides, climate change is seriously altering the amount of rainfall available to generate power from the Akosombo Dam leading to supply disruptions.

The general insecurity in Nigeria and pirates’ activities in the Gulf of Guinea also poses serious challenges to Energy Security aspirations of Ghana. For example in the past the gas pipelines coming from Nigeria to Ghana have been attacked by the Niger Delta militants fighting for resource control in Nigeria. In the first quarter of the 2012, Ghana was exposed to serious load shedding when gas imports from Nigeria were disrupted. The disruptions in Nigeria and the intense load shedding that followed in Ghana highlighted how vulnerable Ghana is. This vulnerability may worsen unless the insecurity and disruptions in Nigeria stop.

Similarly ships and oil tankers carrying crude oil to Ghana to be refined at the Tema Oil Refinery have to meander through the pirates’ infested waters of the Gulf of Guinea raising security concerns about crude oil import into the country. The pirates-militants-terrorists nexus in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea have serious consequences particularly for Energy Security ambitions of Ghana. There are fears that the dreaded Boko Haram terror group may one day turn its attention to oil and gas infrastructures in Nigeria. If that happens to the West Africa Gas Pipeline it would cripple the already weakened energy production capacities in the Nigeria. Ghana would suffer greatly if the security of these infrastructures is breached. Ghana also imports some of her electricity from neighbouring Ivory Coast but given the insecurity in that country relying on energy from there is also problematic.

The economic cost of these blackouts and disruptions run into several hundreds of million of cedis annually. It increases cost of production, and cuts down profits, thereby preventing the companies to expand in order to create jobs. Recently the Association of Ghana Industries ranked energy supply insecurity and disruptions as number one of the 13 major problems facing its members.

What must Ghana do?

So what must Ghana do? If Ghana wants to maintain the momentum in economic growth then it needs to critically look at energy security more comprehensively. First the surest path towards achieving Energy Security is through diversification of both energy mix and energy sources. The energy mix (oil, gas, hydro, thermal, solar, wind, biofuel etc) and energy sources (Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Libya) is a major strategy towards achieving Energy Security. Ghana has a lot of energy potentials herself including gas, solar, wind, hydro and biofuel. If these energy potentials are developed it could make her energy independent/self-sufficient. What is needed is leadership, robust energy policy and the political will to raise the needed funds to develop the local energy resources.

Second the Tema Oil Refinery, GNPC, VRA, GRIDCo, and ECG need to be reformed and restructured to improve efficiency and best industry practice in their operations. To improve Energy Security, further market liberalisation and robust regulatory designs are needed in the power generation, transmission and distribution sectors. The monopoly enjoyed by VRA, GRIDCo, ECG and NED needs to be broken up to allow more independent power producers, distributors and private investors the opportunity to own energy infrastructures and to give consumers wider choices. Third, there must be a determined effort to invest in efficient fuel technologies to reduce waste and losses at production, transmission and consumption levels. Fourth, more cooperation is also needed between Ghana and countries supplying energy to her particularly Nigeria and Ivory Coast.

Fifth the Armed Forces particularly the Navy and the Air Force must be strengthened to increase patrol and surveillance to protect gas pipelines, oil rigs, and oil and gas tankers carrying energy to Ghana. This will help to remove the threat pirates and criminals pose to the country’s Energy Security ambitions.

By Lord Aikins Adusei. The author is an Independent Energy and Security Analyst (politicalthinker1@yahoo.com)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Unemployment, Poverty and Inequality: a hidden security threat in Ghana?

The central argument in this article is that the growing unemployment, poverty and inequality in Ghana particularly among the youth constitute a ticking bomb whose explosion could present unimaginable security threat for the country. It argues that the weaponisation and acts of violence and disturbances associated with the ongoing biometric exercise should prompt the nation’s leaders to act by implementing economic and industrial policies that will create jobs for the youth who have become increasingly restless and frustrated.

Ghana faces several security challenges including growing influence of drug cartels, weapons proliferation, shipping piracy, climate change, and spill over effect of terrorism, and militancy from neighbouring countries. These threats were acknowledged when the Chiefs of the Ghana Armed Forces recently held a seminar for junior officers and senior non-commissioned officers at the Jungle Warfare School at Achiase in the Eastern Region (see The Ghanaian Chronicle report headlined ‘GAF meets on terrorism threat’10th April, 2012). It is believed that these security threats led to the formation of the Special Forces within the Ghana Armed Forces. However, there is one very critical yet hidden security threat that often does not get audience in policy circles but which has the potential to affect the long term peace, security and stability of Ghana. I am referring to the huge unemployment, poverty, and inequality in the country.

It is fair to say that Ghanaian governments both past and present have shown a disproportionate lack of understanding of the security implications of having a large army of people who are poor, unemployed and marginalised in the country. Many policymakers in Ghana including members of Parliament, the Executive and top bureaucrats of the various ministries and departments do not consider poverty, unemployment and inequality as major security problem and policies have often tended to scratch the surface of these problems rather than getting to the bottom.

Officially nobody knows for sure how many Ghanaians are unemployed. Not even the Ghana Statistical Service or the Employment Ministry could tell. In his presentation of the unprecedented and phenomenal achievements in the recently released “NDC Forum for Setting the Records Straight” Mr. Fiifi Kwetey, Deputy Minister of Finance could not tell how many Ghanaians are unemployed except to say that:

“… [The] levels of unemployment admittedly continue to be relatively still high and require a lot more efforts. There are no quick fixes though but the age-old need to continue to work hard to achieve faster expansion and growth of the economy which would open up more employment opportunities”.

That is how far Mr. Fiifi Kwetey could go. He could not specifically tell how high the unemployment situation is. However, what is true is that many Ghanaians who are looking for jobs and are willing to work cannot find any. This truth is exemplified by the recent formation of the Unemployed Graduates Association (UGA).

While many of the youth have had access to secondary and tertiary education, the expanded access to education has not correspondingly given rise to expanded economic opportunities and job creation. Unofficially unemployment in the country is estimated to hover between 25 and 50% and is even higher as one move from the south to the north of the country. Apart from this high unemployment rate, available data indicate that nearly 30% of Ghanaians still live within the high poverty zone (i.e. less than $2 a day). Another unpalatable story is that the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen in the country with some people living in gated communities while others can barely eat two meals a day.

This chronic poverty is being experienced in Ghana in spite of the fact that since the 1990s the nation has received and continues to receive record amount of money in the form of loans, grants and revenue from export of gold, diamond, cocoa, timber, and recently oil. Nobody can really tell how the record amount of money has been utilised but a closer look at the country’s balance sheet indicates that it has simply been mismanaged, stolen or squandered by the elites in authority.

From what we can see in the streets of Accra, Koforidua, Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale, Tema, etc with children as young as 10 years selling dog chains, ice water, etc and sleeping in kiosks and in front of stores, it is obvious that not much of the financial and material wealth being generated in the country has trickled down to the majority of the people especially the growing youthful population. The great number of young men and women selling anything they can find in order to make a living also show that a great number of the population is being denied their share of the national cake.

Unfortunately, in spite of the obvious poverty and unemployment in the country, statements, comments and language used by the politicians, policymakers and top bureaucrats in the country do not reflect the reality on the ground. The kind of actions, policies, programmes and urgency required to tame these problems have been ineffective to say the least. The policymakers continue to ignore or downplay the fact that unemployment, poverty and inequality are serious issues that need to be aggressively addressed.

The end result is that Ghana is slowly becoming a high crime state. Evidence is beginning to emerge which suggest that for some of the unemployed, excluded, marginalised and the poverty stricken members in Ghana violence and crime have become the only means through which they can make a living. These crimes include internet scam, fraud, drug and human trafficking, burglary and armed robbery.

Over the last couple of weeks armed robberies and crimes involving the use of guns and other offensive weapons have been on the increase. A police officer Corporal Ernest Acheampong was recently killed by armed robbers in Kasoa during a shootout with armed robbers. Another police officer Lance Corporal Iddi Braimah was also shot dead on Tuesday 10th April 2012 during a shootout between suspected car snatchers and the police. On that same day (i.e. Tuesday 10 April 2012) Andrew Mayer, a Zimbabwean investor was also killed in Juapong in the Volta Region, prompting President Mills to issue a statement condemning his murder. Nii Kwaku Obibini II, the late chief of Oblogo was short dead on 8th April 2012 and then butchered with machetes by his assailants.

A broader picture begins to emerge if we connect all these dots of crimes together. One part of the picture shows that serious crimes are being committed in almost all parts of the country. Another part of the picture also shows that criminals are becoming bolder and more willing to use deadly force and violence to achieve their objectives. Yet another side of the picture shows that guns have increasingly become the weapon of choice by the criminals in the country.

In 2005 Emmanuel Addo Sowatey, a researcher at the African Security Dialogue and Research in Accra, Ghana observed that about 100,000 guns are been produced illegally in Ghana every year. It is believed that some of these guns are being used to commit crimes in Ghana and also fuelling the conflicts and instability in northern Ghana.

A recent paper authored by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in conjunction with the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and titled “Governance and Security in Ghana: the Dagbon Chieftaincy Crisis” noted that:

“Ghana is generally described as an oasis of stability in a region that appears to be ravaged by intertribal and cross-border conflicts. However, Ghana too has experienced ethnic and communal conflicts, especially in its three northern regions (the Northern, the Upper West and the Upper East). The state of security and stability of these regions is deteriorating at an alarming rate due to the resurgence ethno-political misunderstandings since 1992”.

The authors found that the protracted conflicts in Northern Regions have stubbornly persisted partly because “There is a lack of a systematic structural and operational strategy that can transform the socio-economic conditions of the citizens of Northern Ghana”. Thus while other factors (including chieftaincy disputes and politics) have played a part in the conflicts, violence and instabilities in Bawku, Bimbila, Kpatinga, Wa, Yendi, etc the conflicts have been exacerbated by the high level of poverty, unemployment, inequality and a population that is increasingly youthful.

According to Mr. Bomahe-Naa Alhassan Issahaku Amadu, Regional Population Officer for Northern Region, out of the over 1.8million total population in the Northern Region, the youth aged below 15 years form about 850,000, representing 46.3 percent. The figure goes up greatly when those between the ages of 16 and 24 are added. With this huge youthful population, couple with high unemployment, poverty, low literacy rate and flow of weapons, it is no surprising that the three Northern Regions remain volatile and restless despite effort to bring sanity there. The easiness with which one can obtain guns in Ghana coupled with a youthful population that are poor and without employment pose security threat to the peace and stability of the country.

In 2011 a study in Northern Ghana by Kees van der Geest of University of Amsterdam, found that poverty, unemployment and lack of economic opportunity are acting as a push factor with one in every five people born in northern Ghana opting to move to the south with out-migration rates being significantly higher in poorly endowed districts. The large number of people from the three northern regions escaping unemployment, poverty, economic and social deprivations and working in cities in the south as kayayos and street vendors is an indication of how unemployment, poverty and inequality are acting as a driving force in the conflicts.

The ongoing biometric voter registration exercise and the tensions, disturbances and violence that have come to be associated with it in cities in the south indicate that the threat pose by unemployment, poverty and inequality is not restricted only the north.
The growing militarisation and weaponisation of the ongoing voter-registration exercise with a section of the youth brandishing guns, machetes, pick axe, and stones are rooted in the deep poverty and of lack of employment and economic opportunities for these boys. These acts of hooliganism and of lawlessness are a sign of a ticking timed-bomb waiting to explode sooner or later.
Registration centres in some parts of the country look like war zones with people pulling guns and heavily built men (macho men) going round registration centres and terrorizing registrants. In one registration centre a 12 year old boy was short and seriously wounded by an NDC party agent. The militarisation and weaponisation of the registration have prompted some observers to ask critical questions as to how a mere registration exercise could result in violence but what they have failed to appreciate is that with poverty, unemployment and inequality spreading like wildfire, every state exercise is an opportunity for some to make money by extracting concession from the politicians and political parties.

The growing unemployment, poverty and inequality in the country are not only socio-economic problem but also a threat to the peace, stability and security of the country but the country cannot solve the huge unemployment problem with weak economic policies based on ideologies that say government must only create the enabling environment for the private sector. Ghanaian leaders and policymakers have find it difficult to admit that the private sector touted under Rawlings and Kuffour administrations as the engine of growth has failed woefully to grow and create jobs. The Structural Adjustment Programme undertaken by Rawlings with the privatisation of state owned enterprises gave rise to few jobs being created.

While the NPP’s “Golden Age of Business” built on the foundation laid by Rawlings and led to growth in some sectors particularly in finance and insurance, these sectors could not generate the needed jobs to close the unemployment gap. Kuffour toured all over the world horning Ghana’s stability and favourable political climate to foreign investors. But they refused to come. Nobody knows why. President Mills is also doing the same but little can be shown for it in terms of job creation.

The private sector is extremely weak to absorb the huge unemployment youth in the country. The government must stop the ‘creating of enabling environment’ hymn and seriously look for ways in which it can directly enter into the economy and make contribution. In other words there must be a deliberate effort by government to develop and implement industrial policies and programmes and build factories that will absorb the restless youth. Some will call this an affront to free market and capitalism but it is difficult to find a single country in the world where the government does not directly own or support businesses. Every year countries in the European Union, most of them champions of free market, provide $30 billion to support their farmers. Most of their production is dumped in countries like Ghana.

Ghana faces a real security threat and challenge now and in the near future if nothing is done to address the huge unemployment, poverty and inequality in the cities and also in the rural areas. The government of Ghana cannot be aloof to the growing unemployment, poverty, and inequality in the country because they are the ingredients of crimes, social chaos, conflicts and instabilities.

By Lord Aikins Adusei/ politicalthinker1@yahoo.com The author is an independent Energy and Security Analyst and the author of ‘The Emerging Security Threats and Ghana Special Forces’.  

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