Ghana is bordered by Cote d’Ivoire to the West at a distance of 668km, Togo to the east at 877km, Burkina Faso to the north at 549km and the southern shore washed by the Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean.
There are three main types of borders, (land, sea and air). These borders have their unique characteristics and require different modes of control by specialized security agencies.
I will restrict myself to the issues pertaining to Ghana’s land borders. Ghana has three main legal custom entry points (Aflao, Elubo and Paga). However, there are dozens of unapproved entry points from our neighbouring countries to Ghana.
Aflao is the main border crossing between Ghana and Togo to the East though other remote crossings are possible. Elubo is the main border crossing between Ghana and Ivory Coast to the west. There are many informal points of crossing along Ghana’s northern border with Burkina Faso.
There are only two recognized customs entry posts. The main post is at Paga and a less used entry point at Hamale in the northwestern corner of Ghana.
Ghana’s borders, especially the land borders, have been patrolled since the 18th Century, with its attendant challenges and weaknesses.
However, in the 4th Republic of Ghana, the issue of Ghana’s land borders, continue to rear its head into our politics, especially during elections and voter registration exercises. This is usually a game of suspicion, which is played by the two dominant political parties; National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party during almost all elections in the 4th Republic.
The irony of the above situation is that all the two main political parties, admit the porosity of our land borders yet haven’t adopted any lasting solution to this national security lapse, which drains the nation, a chunk of its income.
So I ask, “is the politics pertaining to Ghana’s land borders needless? During voter registration exercises and elections in Ghana, we hear the two main political parties, accusing each other of compromising our sovereignty by bussing foreigners to partake in such civil exercises. I do not seek to single out any political party for blame or praise.
The NPP has always accused the NDC of bringing Togolese through unapproved routes in the Volta Region to vote especially at Ketu South. The NDC on its part has always rubbished the NPPs allegations and has also attributed their (NPPs) allegation to sheer hatred for the people of the Volta Region.
Personally, I am not in the position to admit or rubbish such allegations of political parties compromising our land disputes during such processes. I leave it to the good determination of independent and politically neutral institutions like the CSOs, Electoral Commission and others.
Currently, in Ghana, there is an ongoing process to make an entirely new voters register. In the knowledge of the Electoral Commission, the old voter's register is fraught with challenges and foreigners who found their way into our electoral books. They attribute this same issue of foreigners being made to register as their main basis for their overhauling of the voters’ register. “Na who cause am?”.
As a political scientist, I believe totally in the sanctity of the Ghanaian election. Also, I condemn any action that will cause foreigners to take a major political decision for Ghanaians, but my major concern is whether new voters register, but not dealing with or checking strictly the entry of foreigners into our country, is a lasting solution to this recurring blame game.
One will argue that both are being done presently by the government. I have no cause to disagree with such an argument, haven heard from the president and the sector minister.
Will politicians not come back to Ghanaians after this voter registration process and still raise the old issue of foreigners being on this new voters register? This question is apt in the wake of several allegations being made on radio about local people vouching for foreigners to still register.
Will we ever take out politics and deal with this issue of foreigners sneaking to register, in a dispassionate and a lasting manner? What can be done? First of all, I will say without any equivocation that successive governments only took cosmetic measures to help avert this looming border politics in Ghana. To me, it is certainly not just about changing the voter's register.
Changing the register is one way. Changing the register cannot block or close our unapproved entry routes from our neighbouring countries into Ghana. I am advocating for a real permanent and lasting solution to this issue.
The demarcations of Ghana’s land borders till today, are concrete pillars and wire mesh. For a serious country, this should be a cause for worry. How can we not have people destroy or force their way into our country to perpetuate illegality?.
It is time for Ghana to wall its land boundaries. This will provide a lasting solution to this recipe for disaster. Elsewhere, governments have adopted this approach to avert smuggling, illegal entry, money laundering, child trafficking and more, with their attendant effects on the nation.
The politicians have always argued that it is expensive. I disagree with their view. Can the cost of building walls progressively, be compared to the million tonnes of cocoa and other produce lost illegally through our borders?.
I strongly believe that walling our land boundaries and fixing entry gates; the work of our security forces at the borders will be streamlined and their burden reduced drastically. Ghanaians must insist on this. I think it is long overdue. We can do it, with a sense of determination and a political commitment.
I have not heard anything like this yet in any party’s manifesto. I do not think walling our borders will have security or legal ramifications for Ghana and its neighbours. I am ready to be educated by the experts.
Furthermore, to deal with our land border politics, our border security forces must be resourced in monetary and logistic terms. They should undergo stringent training physically, mentally and in character. This is necessary because it is only disciplined officers who can patrol even the tightest borders in the world.
Also on the issue of who can register or vote in Ghana, I believe the constitution of Ghana is very clear on that. The fact that a person is blonde or white-skinned does not always mean he/she is a non- Ghanaian. Citizenship is a legal issue but not tribal, ethnic, geographic or religious. We should make citizens aware of the fact that people can go through certain legal processes to acquire citizenship.
If this is done, this blame game of people coming from Togo or elsewhere to Ghana to vote can be dealt with.
I hear that in border towns in the Volta Region, most people either stay in Ghana and work or school in Togo or otherwise. Therefore, using the law can let us know the real Ghanaians in order not to disenfranchise eligible citizens.
Ghana belongs to Ghanaians but not political parties
Let us insist on the things which will, in the end, preserve the sovereignty of Ghana and its people at all time.
Let us act now.
Nana Osei Boateng
(Political Scientist, Broadcaster, Writer, Educator)