Rural Voices




Posted by Npong on June 5, 2011 at 6:02 PM

BY: Nurudeen Salifu Dawuni

ABOUT two months ago, the Agogomanhene, Nana Akuako Sarpong was said to have ordered the Fulani herdsmen to leave his jurisdiction.

The chief was pressured into this decision following a massive demonstration by some of his subjects, who vowed to forcibly evict Fulani herdsmen from the Agogo Township, if the Chief did not annul a contractual agreement he had supposedly entered into with them. It appears that many Ghanaians are increasingly becoming intolerant of the Fulani immigrants, particularly the herdsmen.

The destruction of crops by cattle shepherded by the Fulani, the pollution of water bodies and the rampant loss of cattle to rustlers have been identified as some of the key factors that are responsible for the anger against the Fulani herdsmen.

In addition, the Fulani pastoralists have been accused of unleashing brutality on inhabitants. Some locals claim that the Fulani are well-armed and they attack and kill anyone who causes harm to their cattle. Steve Tonah (2002) also acknowledges in his paper on “Fulani pastoralists, indigenous farmers and the contest for land in Northern Ghana” that in Northern Ghana, conflicts between pastoralists and farmers had been heightened by increased competition for the most fertile land along the banks of the Volta Lake.

To add salt to injury, some Fulani immigrants have now become targets of the national security apparatus due to their alleged involvement in acts that breach the law, notably rape, murder and highway robbery.

Several arrests have been made and some of them are currently languishing in jail having been found guilty. Again, because the Fulani herdsmen operate across borders, they mostly fail to pass through proper immigration processes before settling in their host communities and this contravenes both national and international laws.

As Dr Ly Boubacar of the School of Wisdom in Burkina Faso would say, “the Fulani know no borders.” Some of them have consequently been sited in cases of illegal immigration.

For instance, on 24th April, 2010, the Ghana Immigration Service officials arrested five Fulani herdsmen on the Ghana-Togo border, and drove their 700 cattle back into Togo. With these and many other factors, one can therefore appreciate why many people are raising their voices against the Fulani, particularly the herdsmen.

In fact, the West African Network for Peace-building (WANEP) has repeatedly attempted drawing the government’s attention to this rising tension, but it appears government remains oblivious of this emerging threat to peace and stability.

The government has failed to come out with a more pragmatic approach towards addressing the challenges involving the operations of nomadic pastoralists in the country.

Instead, government officials have only reacted to calls for the expulsion of Fulani herdsmen from the country, insisting that the ECOWAS protocol ties the hands of the government. Indeed, the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment, promulgated in Dakar, Senegal, on 29th of May, 1979, stipulates that each citizen of the Community have the right to enter, reside and establish in the territory of member states.

However, member states reserve the right under the protocol to expel any immigrant citizen in accordance with laid down procedures “for reasons of national security, public order or morality.” But should the discussion about Fulani herdsmen and their activities be limited to a debate of whether they should be sacked or not? Of course not, this is certainly an un-pragmatic way of dealing with the issue.

Otherwise, we should have advocated that all Nigerians be expelled due to the involvement of a few of them in fraudulent transactions. Resolving the conflicts between the Fulani herdsmen and the Ghanaian community cannot be pursued, successfully, if the biases and prejudice against the Fulani race are not erased.

Whiles there is some justification for the revolt against Fulani herdsmen, there is little logic in branding the Fulani people as criminals, because that is unjustifiable.

The extension of the anger against some Fulani herdsmen or criminal elements onto all Fulani people is a form of cultural stereotyping that threatens to cloud sound judgement on how to address the issue of pastoralists.

Just as we cannot conclude that all Ghanaians are rapists simply because some Ghanaians engage in rape, similarly, it would be unfair to characterise all Fulani people as criminals. In reality, the solution to the so-called ‘Fulani menace’ cannot be addressed by a single stitch, as the issues are multi-faceted. Each issue must be tackled on its merits.

Whiles our law enforcement agencies deal with the criminal aspects, all stakeholders must come together to address conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and local people with respect to access to land and water, especially at this time where climate change poses a threat to these two resources.

It is worth noting that participants at the end of a two-day Consultative Meeting on Agriculture and Pastoralist Conflicts in West Africa, held in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso between 21st and 24th February, 2011, made some recommendations towards addressing these conflicts.

Key among these was the need for governments in West Africa to give due recognition to pastoral agriculture and consider ways of harmonising its operations in line with other forms of agriculture.

They suggested the establishment of entry points and grazing reserves or routes for transhumance and also institute alternative dispute resolution processes to resolve the conflicts between nomadic pastoralists and their Ghanaian hosts, especially the sedentary farmers.

The participants noted that pastoralists and sedentary farmers have co-existed since time immemorial and, therefore, it is possible to build bridges between them.

Again, resolving the conflicts would also mean listening to both parties in the conflict. In fact, the voice of the Fulani community has been virtually drowned and relegated.

According to the Fulani chief of Tamale, Naaba Abdul Karim Adam, “anytime people hear that a Fulani man is engaged in a conflict with an indigene, they tend to side with the indigene and join in meting out violence on the Fulani.” “Is that fair,” he asked rhetorically.

In conclusion, it is clear that a solution to the conflicts between indigenous inhabitants and migrant Fulani pastoralists should go beyond ethnic sentiments, because the Fulani are not our enemies. 

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