Security experts are warning that Ghana faces a twin threat from pirates and Islamicist terrorists, following a string of recent arrests.
In July, pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea abducted nine crew members onboard two Ghanaian-registered fishing vessels, the Atlantic Princess and the Iris S.
The abductees included five Koreans, a Russian and two Chinese nationals.
Five of the victims were released after a ransom of $1 million was negotiated and paid to the kidnappers.
Such incidents have become a growing problem in the region, which has witnessed an escalation of piracy, kidnaps-for ransom, crude oil thefts and illegal fishing operations over the past few years. Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are estimated to make up about 43 per cent of global piracy.
This worsening security situation in Ghana’s territorial waters has become a real headache for President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government, which is also battling an increased jihadist threat on land.
The West African subregion has become a harbinger of violent extremism from jihadists over the past decade, with the Sahelian states of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso being the hardest hit.
Ghana’s neighbours Benin and Ivory Coast have already suffered casualties from jihadists incursions from the Sahel, killing a number of civilians and members of the security forces alike.
Meanwhile, the involvement of a Ghanaian national in recent attacks in Burkina Faso has raised concerns that a terror attack may be imminent in the country.
At a media briefing in Accra, Ghana’s minister of information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, revealed that insurgents in Burkina Faso and lvory Coast appeared to be slipping into Ghana through its porous borders.
He added that at least one of the terrorists arrested by security services was known to be a Ghanaian national, raising the probability that the country would also one day be targeted by insurgents.
'If a country's national is found in such a group, then it presupposes that he will be trained and come back to practice the act in that country and this calls for concern,’ the minister cautioned.
In a recent visit to Ghana’s Upper West Region, President Akufo-Addo reaffirmed his government’s commitment to maintaining law and order in the country as well as safeguarding the security of the citizens, adding: ‘I am determined to protect citizens from internal and external forces such as armed robbery and terrorism’.
On June 8, his government launched the National Security Strategy Blueprint to help security officials deal effectively with existing, new and emerging threats to the country, including piracy, terrorism, human trafficking and kidnaps-for-ransom.
Festus Jojo Aubyn, of the West African Network for Peace and Development (WANEP), believes every country in the subregion is at risk of terrorist attack and Ghana is no exception.
He said: ‘The porous nature of our borders and the fact that the presence of the state along these borders is weak makes us more susceptible to attacks by these jihadists and we need to stay alert in order to prevent them from having their way in Ghana.’
He added that there needs to be stronger collaboration among members of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and said it was time to reinvigorate the ‘Accra Initiative’, which was intended to deal with general insecurity with the coastal states in West Africa.