The Ghana Police Service has identified a number of areas where trouble is likely to erupt before, during and even after the 7 December election. It has categorised these areas under broad classes of flashpoints.
Ashanti tops the regional league table of hot spots, with the greatest number of districts prone to violence, spread across 635 flashpoints.
The Ghana Police Service has already furnished the National Election Security Task Force with details of these 4,098 flashpoints to guide its tactical arrangements and deployments across the 16 regions of the country.
On the alert in “hot spots”
Meanwhile, the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons has called for heightened security alertness in places identified as political “hot spots” in the lead-up to the 7 December polls.
Speaking in Accra at the launch in Accra of an anti-electoral violence campaign dubbed “Ballots Without Bullets”, Jones Borteye Applerh, executive secretary of the Commission, said the proliferation of firearms in the country calls for urgent action, especially in the Ashanti Region.
“I think we should do more, inasmuch as several security agencies are undertaking exercises in response to any violence, because what we see in the media space gives us indications that people have weapons,” he said.
Applerh also advised the public to engage actively in reporting threats of violence before, during and after the elections to maintain peace and order in Ghana.
“What the declaration means is that, if these areas are not put under critical observation, something might happen. So the essence of this campaign is to teach Ghanaians not to be quiet, irrespective of their political affiliation.
“We are Ghanaians first before our political persuasions come in. But [even] that shouldn’t divide us, because elections are just meant to select leaders,” he said.
Arms in civilian hands
The Commission said a survey conducted by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in 2014 showed that there were approximately 2.3 million small arms in civilian hands.
It said out of the figure, 1.1 million remained unregistered, with 1.2 million registered with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service.
Gyebi Asante, deputy director of the Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, said the number of firearms in circulation could be greater, six years after the baseline study.
The unregistered firearms in circulation pose a danger to Ghana’s peace and security, he said. “The fight against illicit small arms and gun violence is likely to elude us until we focus on ammunition control and management as a country.
“Any arm or firearm, no matter how sophisticated, without cartridges or ammunition, is silent and can be silenced for ever,” Asante observed.
He said police records show that even with those small arms which have been registered, fewer than 100,000 licences are renewed annually, which in no way corresponds to the 1.2 million arms officially registered.
The CID has digitised the registration of civilian firearms and devised a system that will enable the police to track licensed gun owners who do not renew their licences. Digitisation will also facilitate easy renewal of licences online, without gun owners having to trek to the district police station to renew their permit.
Risk of jail
The deputy director of the Commission on Small Arms said that digitisation will enable the police to keep a proper database of all licensed gun owners in the country and track missing registered firearms.
Asante said although licensed gun owners need spend only GHC10 to renew a licence for a shotgun, most fail to renew their permit. He advised owners to renew their licence consistently, as this will save them much trouble in the future.
“The refusal to renew one’s licence could land one in jail, a consequence that is not worth anybody’s negligence or forgetfulness,” he said.
Asante said owning a firearm was a heavy responsibility and possessing an unregistered small arm was a huge risk that should not be taken lightly.
The director general for special duties with the Police Service, Commissioner of Police Christian Tetteh Yohuno, said the Service intends to achieve another gun-violence-free general election and that its ambition is on course. However, he called for support from all Ghanaians.
COP Yohuno urged all weapons owners to register their arms and renew their licence, so as not to fall short of the law.
“There was no single gunshot during the period of … the previous elections, and I assure that we are going to use all the strategies we used during the elections period, and also add more strategies to make sure that there will be ballots without bullets.
“We have been organising a series of intelligence operations and also making sure that persons in possession of illicit weapons will renew their licences. Failure to do so will render their usage illegal,” he said.