Look for the criminals and stop tagging Fulanis - Prof Osman Bari

Fulani herdsmen

A retired diplomat and the President of the Fulani Association of Ghana Professor Sheikh Osman Bari has called on Ghanaians to disabuse their minds that all Fulanis are cattle herders.

He said this misconception is feeding into the stereotypes that some people have formed about the group and led to a blanket description of most of them as miscreants in areas where they are found.

He said because of the negative tag, criminals are taking advantage of the situation and perpetrating heinous acts that are subsequently attributed to the Fulanis.

Professor Sheikh Bari was speaking on GBC’s current affairs programme TALKING POINT on Sunday evening. The programme looked at FULANI HERDSMEN in the light of recent sporadic attacks and reprisals in some areas where Fulani herdsmen are present.

He traced the history of the Fulanis across the West African sub-region and ancient empires and concluded that as much as there are nomadic Fulanis, there are also sedentary ones who live within communities. He was of the opinion that those who do not create problems are seldom heard of so it should not be assumed that all Fulanis are always creating problems for the communities where they are found.

Professor Bari further added that there is a trigger for the present problem that has led to the discussion. According to him, if proper investigations are conducted, it will be seen that there is more behind the recent killings being attributed to the Fulanis because people were not just murdered but their body parts were also missing. This relates more murder for ritual purposes and not just about Fulani Herdsmen creating trouble. It is therefore important to look for those criminals who might be behind this.

On the issue of sophisticated weapons being used by the herdsmen, he said somebody may be supplying them with these because they do not have what it takes to procure the arms. This is why there should be more investigations to unearth what is happening behind the scenes.

Professor Bari disagreed with the tendency to quickly apportion blame. This, he stated, leads to regular victimization. He said it should be given a comprehensive treatment and challenged the Ministry of Agriculture to produce its policy on animal husbandry as a way of finding a lasting solution. He added that the supposed creation of a fodder for the herdsmen and their cattle could have been done in a better way with provision of facilities to make them habitable. He said such places should have the necessities of life.

In his contribution, a Security Analyst Adib Saani said the oft-used description of “Fulani menace” is a misnomer. According to him, some are Ghanaians born in this country and have had parents and even grandparents who were here at the time of independence.

Adib Saani added that the root of the problem needs attention because there is a fledgling local gun manufacturing industry that should be looked at. Some use the excuse of protecting themselves to acquire arms.

He also attributed part of the problem to migration. Citing Article 2 of the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of goods and people, he said you cannot just drive people away. There is therefore the need to thoroughly investigate and prosecute instead of people taking the law into their own hands. He added that the problem relates more to the issue of food security making it vital to harness security at the micro level. He gave the example of Nigeria where a grazing act has not solved their problem because the fundamental issues have been seen to. Training on intelligence gathering at the local level should therefore be stepped up.

In his contribution, the Assembly Member for Hweehwee in the Kwahu East District of the Eastern Region Solomon Aboagye said the regular statements that the cattle creating problems are owned by Ghanaians and some politicians have not been proved yet. According to him “they’ve not been able to tell us the politicians. It’s a strategy to deviate from solving the problems….” He appealed to the relevant authorities to convince the herdsmen to register and make use of the areas of fodder provided.

The problem with the Fulani herdsmen has persisted over time with occasional clashes between them and the residents of some of the areas where they are found. Farmers in such areas complain about the destruction of their farms in addition to other action that border on criminality. Previous efforts to control the problem did not fully succeed as attacks and reprisals occur every now and then. Some have called for the herdsmen to be flushed out of the country but that is always seen as a far-fetched solution.