The national coordinator of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), Albert Yelyang, has described Bawku in the Upper East region as gradually becoming militarized.
According to him, the conflict situation has led to the sporadic gun shots in the area which doesn’t augur well for the community. He revealed that this is because there are targeted attacks on the field, farms, roads, around houses.
“Bawku is becoming a zone that if you want to describe it, it is becoming militarized in a way. Some of the times, if there are gun firings on one location, the following day or almost the same day, you would hear gun fires on another side. So, it is like many people are armed in a way.”Albert Yelyang
Reacting to the shooting of three truck drivers transporting pepper and tomato from the Bawku Municipality to Accra who were reportedly shot dead, with several others sustaining injuries after unknown gunmen opened fire on the cargo trucks at a spot 20 kilometers from the conflict-ridden town, Mr Yelyang noted that the situation could get worse if not handled well.
He explained that there is a need to dig deeper to determine if there are criminal elements on the ground and persons behind their activities.
“There have been a number of incidents that have occurred in terms of death. These probably have not been picked by the mandated institutions for instance the Police, hospitals etc, so a lot is happening in Bawku that requires collaboration.”Albert Yelyang
The stunned drivers from the shooting revealed that they decided to drive out of Bawku with their perishable goods after the police refused to grant them escort out of the community. These cargo vehicles, one driven from the scene of the shooting in Bawku to Akomadan and Suame in Kumasi bear evidence of what took place.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director for Rural Initiatives for Self-Empowerment (RISE) Ghana, Awal Ahmed Kariama, has called on the government to assign psychologists to Bawku.
This, according to him, will help reduce the distress among the youth, especially students, amid the recent conflict in the area as the region is incapacitated to provide psychological treatment to the traumatised students.
Impact of Bawku conflict on the vulnerable
Commenting on the impact of the conflict on children, RISE Ghana director indicated that the safety of children is not guaranteed due to fitful gunshots, thus creating fright in them.
“As a municipality, Bawku does not have the capacity to accommodate and provide the necessary post-traumatic stress and therapy for people who are suffering from the stress that the conflict has brought on them. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough clinical psychologists on the ground so that they can be able to have a school-placed programme so that they can support some of these students…”Awal Ahmed Kariama
Beyond children, he noted that teachers and other adults within the municipality are facing similar problems.
Mr Kariama also stated that the children’s panic has reached such proportions that they are terrified of a balloon burst.
He also revealed that his office has been advocating for trauma-informed approaches to help affected people communicate, which he said has failed because their system is not fully developed.
Prior to this, a senior health officer at the Upper East Regional Directorate of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Majeed Sulemana, disclosed that between 2021 and last year, 27 pregnant women in need of critical medical attention died in the Bawku municipality.
He noted that whereas 20 of the pregnant women died in 2021, seven had died by the end of December last year. This, he explained, is as a result of the inability of the pregnant women to visit and receive medical care at the Bawku Presbyterian Hospital, the only major referral health facility in the heart of the municipality.
Mr Sulemana revealed tha the 27 maternal deaths recorded in the Bawku municipality accounted for 39 per cent of the 70 maternal deaths recorded in the region for the two years. He highlighted that the Bawku Hospital served patients from the municipality and others from the Pusiga, Garu, Tempane and Binduri districts due to the absence of district hospitals in those districts areas.