According to a memo from Ghana’s Immigration Service, Ghana and Togo are the next targets for Islamist militants following high-profile attacks that occurred in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast this year.
The memo calls for better border protection, in what is the latest sign of a heightened government response to the threat to West Africa by militants based in northern Mali, who in the last year have increased their campaign of violence. The memo also states that the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) has evidence from neighboring Ivory Coast from the interrogation of a man suspected of orchestrating an attack on 13 March in which 19 people were killed. The memo, which is dated 9 April and which was published by Ghanaian media, states that “intelligence gathered by the …NSCS indicates a possible terrorist attack on the country is real….The choice of Ghana according to the report is to take away the perception that only Francophone countries are the target.” The memo ordered immigration agents on the northern border with Burkina Faso to be extra vigilant and disclosed that patrols should be stepped up along informal routes between the two countries.
In an interview on state radio’s Sunrise FM on Thursday, President John Mahama asked for public vigilance and stated that Ghana was also at risk from home grown militants. He further noted that countries in the region share intelligence on militant threats. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for attacks on a hotel in the capital of Mali last November, a restaurant and hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital in January and the Ivory Coast attack in March. In all, more than 65 people have died, many of them foreigners.
In the wake of the 13 March deadly terror attack in neighbouring Ivory Coast, Ghana’s government has put the nation on high alert. The terror alert is a first for the West African country.
On 16 March, Ghana’s national security chiefs disclosed that they have intelligence of a credible terrorist threat in the country. The announcement was made on Wednesday following a meeting with Ghana’s President John Mahama to review their readiness. In a statement, the government called on Ghanaians to pay attention and report anything unusual to security agencies.
The alert comes as the United Kingdom has also advised its citizens in Ghana to be cautious. The United States has also restricted US service members’ travel to five West African countries, citing recent militant attacks in the region. On 16 March, the Pentagon issued the move, which effectively limits unofficial travel by US military personnel to Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Ghana. US Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman, has disclosed that the order will remain in effect until 30 June and does not restrict official travel to the countries involved, adding, “given the recent attacks in Western Africa, we felt it prudent to make this decision at this time in an effort to ensure the safety of our personnel.” According to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for US Africa Command, “its just vigilance given the recent events that have happened in the area of the world.” US Africa Command has between 1,000 and 1,2000 forces on the continent at any one time, mostly in training and support roles to help local security forces combat militants.
Since November 2015, al-Qaeda militants have attacked hotels in two other regional capitals, Bamako (Mali) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), and a beach resort located outside Abidjan (Ivory Coast).
The World Heath Organization (WHO) on Thursday called for “drastic action” in order to fight the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record, and announced an 11-nation meeting to address the growing crisis.
As of Sunday 22 June, 635 cases of hemorrhagic fever, most confirmed to be Ebola, including 399 deaths, have been reported across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This effectively makes the outbreak the largest ever “in terms of the number of cases and deaths as well as geographical spread.” A statement released by the UN agency stressed that “drastic action is needed,” and warned of the danger that the virus could jump to other countries. The WHO’s call for drastic action comes just days after medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) indicated that the virus was now “out of control.’
Since the deadly epidemic emerged in Guinea in January, WHO has deployed more than 150 experts in a bid to tackle the crisis. However despite its efforts, and the efforts of other medical charities, over the past three weeks there has been a “significant increase” in the number of cases and deaths reported each day. According to WHO’s regional director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, the agency is now “gravely concerned by the on-going cross-border transmission into neighboring countries as well as the potential for further international spread,” adding “this is no longer a country specific outbreak but a sub-regional crisis that requires firm action by governments and partners.”
WHO’s top Ebola specials Pierre Formenty warned last week that the recent surge in cases had likely come in part because efforts to contain the virus had been relaxed too quickly after the outbreak appeared to have slowed down in April. In order to address the on going crisis, officials at the WHO announced Thursday that they will convene a meeting of the health ministers from 11 countries in Accra, Ghana on July 2 – 3 in order “to discuss the best way of tackling the crisis collectively as well as develop a comprehensive inter-country operation response plan.” Ministers from Guinea, where nearly 400 confirmed, suspected and probably cases have surfaced so far, including 280 deaths; and Liberia, which has 63 cases and 41 deaths, will take part in the meeting. Ministers from Sierra Leone will also be present. Additionally, neighboring countries, including Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal, and countries as far afield as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda have also been invited. The meeting will also include a range of UN agencies and other aid organizations including MSF and the Red Cross as well as the Western African, British, EU and US centers for disease control.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, officials from the WHO announced that, at the request of the Sierra Leonean government, they were changing the way it reports fatalities from the Ebola outbreak in the country.
Previously, probable and suspected deaths from Ebola were included in the count however from now on, only laboratory confirmed cases will be reported. Therefore this reduces the death toll in Sierra Leone from 58 to 34 as of 24 June 2014. According to WHO spokeswoman Fadel Chaib, the way that deaths are reported in Guinea and Liberia, which are the other two countries affected by the deadly outbreak, will remain unchanged.
The change comes after Sierra Leone’s press had criticized the government for reporting lower death rates than those reported by the WHO. The changes however now bring the WHO figures inline with those released by the Sierra Leone government. The latest Ebola outbreak has now been named by international organizations as the worst Ebola epidemic ever with 635 cases and 399 fatalities occurring in dozens of sites across the three countries, including in major cities and remote areas. Officials from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have described the outbreak as “out of control,” adding that it had reports of cases in more than 60 sites and that its resources were now stretched to the limit. In light of the on going outbreak, which has worsened in recent weeks, the European Commission announced Tuesday that it was committing an additional 500,000 euros in funding in order to combat the outbreak. This latest funding brings its total contribution to 1.9 million euros.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has released an arrest warrant for Ivorian ex-minister Charles Ble Goude pertaining to charges over war crime allegations. According to the ICC, he is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity which occurred during the violence that erupted following the 2010 disputed elections in the Ivory Coast. Meanwhile in Guinea, the country’s President has called on the opposition to accept the results of Saturday’s vote. While the provisional results have yet to be announced by the country’s electoral commission, security in the capital city has increased as the atmosphere has been tense.
ICC Makes 2011 Arrest Warrant Public
While the Ivory Coast’s Charles Ble Goude, 40, has denied leading pro-Laurent Gbagbo militias in the violent attacks that occurred shortly after the 2010 elections, the ICC has indicated that Mr. Ble Goude, who is currently detained in the Ivory Coast, is suspected of murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts that were committed between December 2010 and April 2011. During that time, some 3,000 people lost their lives in the crisis after ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat. Judges in The Hague have stated that forces loyal to former President Gbagbo targeted civilians who backed his opponent, the Ivory Coasts current President Alassane Ouattara. Although the arrest warrant for Mr. Ble Goude was issued in December 2011, it has only now been made public and it describes the Ivorian ex-minister as a member of Mr. Gbagbo’s “inner circle.”
Following the post election violence, Mr. Ble Goude spent more than eighteen months in hiding. He was arrested in January 2013 in Ghana and extradited to the Ivory Coast, where he also faces war crimes charges. He has previously stated that as head of the Young Patriots group, he had only organised rallies and meetings and that he never ran a militia. Mr. Ble Goude, who was placed under United Nations sanctions in 2006 for allegedly inciting attacks against UN personnel, has indicated that he is prepared to go in front of the ICC in order to clear his name.
Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, 67, was arrested in 2011 and is currently awaiting trial, on four charges of crimes against humanity relating to the election violence, at The Hague. The former president’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, has also been indicted by the ICC however the Ivory Coast’s ministers have voted to dismiss the ICC warrant and have instead indicated that they will try her in the country’s own courts.
Tensions Increase as Guineas Await Election Results
On Wednesday, in the midst of security being increased throughout the capital city amid fears of violence, Guinean President Alpha Conde urged party leaders to accept the results of the September 28 legislative polls. While the results have not yet been confirmed, the President has praised the vote, calling it the dawn of democracy in the West African state which has been chronically hit with instability. During Conde’s speech, which marked the 55th anniversary of Guinea’s independence from France, the President stated “I would like to say how proud I am…of your amazing mobilization to make these legislative polls a real success.” The 75-year-old added that the election “has allowed us to take another step on the path to democracy.” However while the president has urged for calm as the election results begin to trickle in, the country’s main opposition parties have already stated that the elections were rigged. On Tuesday, Guinea’s electoral commission released some partial and provisional results. Although full provisional results had been due to be released on Wednesday, officials indicated late on Tuesday that tally sheets were still being transported from polling stations.
On Wednesday, police and military reinforcements were visible on the streets of Conakry, with barricades being set up around the headquarters of the electoral commission. Despite the independence day bank holiday, an increased number of shops and market stalls remained shut as the atmosphere continued to be tense.
Ghana’s President John Mahama has warned that Islamist militants pose a threat that could destabilise the whole of West Africa. This announcement comes just days after Niger’s President indicated that Islamist militants, who attacked two sights in Niger, had come from southern Libya. It also comes at a time when Nigeria’s army announces that armory belonging to the Lebanese group Hezbollah is discovered in northern Nigeria.
Ghana’s President Mahama has indicated that while his country has not directly been affected by the threats, no country in the region was safe if an insurgency were to take place in the region. He further stated that while the French-led military operation had helped secure stability in Mali, the conflict was far from being over, stating that “there is the danger of asymmetric attacks like we saw in Niger the last few days, and so it is a matter that worries all of us in the sub-region.” In turn, the operation to drive out al-Qaeda, and other allied Islamist groups, from northern Mali had showed how the whole Sahel region had “become an attractive foothold for insurgents.”
Meanwhile in Nigeria, an army spokesman, Brigadier Gen. Ilyasu Isa Abba has confirmed that a cache, including 11 anti-tank weapons, four anti-tank mines, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and 21 RPG missiles, 17 AK-47’s, two sub-machine guns and 76 grenades, have been found in a warehouse in the northern city of Kano. He further indicated that three Lebanese nationals have been arrested while a fourth is still at large. According to a military statement, one suspect, Mustafa Fawaz, was arrested on May 16 and his “confession unveiled other members of the foreign terrorists network.” A second suspect, Abdullah Tahini, was arrested several day later while attempting to board a flight to Beirut from the airport in Kano. The third detained Lebanese national, Talal Roda, was arrested at the Kano home on May 26 while the fourth suspect, who has been identified as Fauzi Fawad, remains to be at large. Nigeria’s State Security Service has stated that the weapons were intended to be used against “Israeli and Western interests,” with Bassey Ettang, director of the State Security Service in Kano, noting that “this is the handwork of Hezbollah.” He further indicated that “investigations are still ongoing to determine” if the Lebanese nationals “are really connected to Boko Haram.”
This is the first time that Nigerian authorities have alleged that Hezbollah has had an operational interest in the country. Kano, and the north-eastern region of Nigeria, have suffered multiple attacks in the last three years, ever since the home-grown Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, launched an insurgency. According to Mr. Ettang, “you can be sure that if a group like this is existing then it may even lend support to some of the local terrorista we have on the ground.” Hezbollah is a Shiite military and political movement that is based in Lebanon. It is considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States.
Reacting to the latest claims, a security official in Israel has indicated that Nigeria was a “destination state for Shiite terror and global Jihad groups, which are boosting their efforts in Africa as part of international efforts.” The source further indicated that “the cell exposed and arrested is part of a Shiite terror campaign against Western and Israeli targets around the world which has been taking place for a number of years…the possibility that members of the cell acted under Hezbollah’s orders in other African states, such as Benin, the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Sierra Leone, is also being examined.”