Northern Ghana Situational Report (December to February ,2021)

Published on 26 Feb, 2021.


Over the last decade, security in northern Ghana has remained unstable and unpredictable. While the overall climate has been relatively calm in last 3 months, there have been isolated incidents of violence resulting from chieftaincy disputes, misunderstandings over land rights, armed robbery, and political vigilantism.


As violence has been reported in northern Ghana over the past three months, ethnic tensions and chieftaincy tensions have remained unchanged. In the Upper East Region, the dispute between members of Doba and Kandiga escalated into violence after a native Kandiga who resided Doba was killed by members from Kandiga because the victim was seen as a traitor because he lived in Doba. In retaliation, the people of Doba attacked the Kandiga resulting in the killing of 3 other people and the burning of 10 houses. The situation is currently calm as police and soldiers have been deployed to maintain stability in the area. The operation also resulted in some arrests and confiscation of weapons from both townships and whilst currently clam the underlying tensions remain unresolved. The misunderstanding is between the families of the deceased and the police over the burial of the victims. The issue is currently being handle by the Regional Peace Council, the Regional Co-ordinating Council and the Police.

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An incident with ethnic ties was also reported in Bolgatanga after riots ensued at the Bolgatanga Technical Institute. According to local sources, the riots was due to the fighting between Frafra students and Bawku students. The clashes resulted in the closure of the school for 2 weeks. The incident has raised concerns among local authorities as this incident is not the first of its kind in the region. Similar clashes among students have also been reported in Tongo.

No violent ethnic/chieftaincy clashes in the Upper West Region in the last 12 weeks despite existing disputes. There have been reports of religious tensions in the area among Orthodox Muslims. According to information from local sources, the disputes emerged as a result of misunderstandings between the Regional Chief Imam and some members of the regional mosque leadership about the use of mosque funds. The situation has been resolved as a new Imam has been installed following the death of the former Imam (died of natural causes).

Violent clashes were reported following the escalation of an existing chieftaincy dispute in Yong Dakpem Yili, Tamale. The incident resulted in the burning of 24 houses following the disagreement over the performance of a funeral in the community. The situation is currently calm as police have arrested 15 people including a chief for inciting the violence.

Tensions in the Kafaba area, Northern Region, has increased in the last 4 weeks as the parties in the existing chieftaincy disputes have issued threats to each other over the enskinment of a new chief.

Tensions between farmers and herdsmen in the Savannah are on the high as there is growing disputes over grazing land. A farmer is reported to be in critical condition after being attached on his farm by an alleged Fulani. Farmers are reported to be aggrieved as there is constant destruction of farm crops by cattle in the region. Efforts to address this situation have been unsuccessful as reports suggest that, majority of the cattle are owned by chiefs and hence the plight of farmers in the community have been ignored. This has resulted in farmers resorting to excessive charcoal burning for income leading to grave environmental degradation. According to Rev. Fr. Clement Aapengnuo—Executive Director of CECOTAPS, the current situations is creating a conducive environment for clashes between herdsmen and farmers as witnessed in Mali—Dogon farmers and Fulani herdsmen.


Risk of armed robbery remains high in the Upper East Region, as residents have suffered multiple attacks in the last 8 weeks. Most armed robbery attacks have targeted travellers on highways i.e between Tamale and Bolgatanga. On 5th February, two masked robbers with AK-47s opened fire on a truck driver on the Pusu-Namongo highway—a community in the Talensi District. The truck driver was reported to be carrying passengers and tomatoes from Kumasi to Burkina Faso. Another driver carrying cement was also shot on the same route by the same armed gang. Both attacks were reported to have happened just minutes apart with the robbers making away with Ghc3,000 while killing the two drivers and inflicting wounds on the passengers. According to local sources, the attacks were the 2nd and 3rd incidents in the region in the 11 days. Prior to these attacks, travellers—a driver, his 4 aides and other traders were attacked and injured by armed robbers on the same route. The assailants robbed the victims of Gh¢15,000 and CFA 2,750. In another incident, 4 armed men attacked a filling station—Maxx Energy at Chiana in the Kassena-Nankana West District injuring 2 fuel attendants. The rampant attacks in the region have resulted in the drop of confidence in the police leading to protests and multiple demands for the change in the Regional Police Commander.

Highway robberies have been prevalent in the Upper West Region in the last 12 weeks. The region records at least one incident a week with WA Central being a hotspot of attacks in the last 8 weeks. According to Sissala East Municipal Police Commander, the Municipality recorded 134 crimes in 2020 as against 112 in 2019. Criminals frequently carry weapons; the most prevalent are locally manufactured pistols, rifles, and shotguns.

Multiple incidents were reported in the North East region in the last 2 months. On January 2nd, a 25-year-old man was shot by armed robbers at the entrance of the Wulugu Senior High School in the West Mamprusi Municipality. The victim was said to be travelling to Burkina Faso when he was attacked and robbed of GHc40,000. A similar incident was reported in the same vicinity on the same day—four masked men attacked and robbed traders of their belongings and cash amount of GH¢2,500. In mid-November, a mobile money merchant was attacked in the Walewale Municipality. These attacks are evidence of the insecurity that has left residents in the region in constant fear.

On December 18th, 5 armed men on motorbikes attacked a mobile money vendor in Karaga, Northern Region. 4 of the suspects managed to escape with an undisclosed amount of money. The last robber was apprehended by members of the community and lynched.

High levels of unemployment, poverty, easy access to guns, are among the factors responsible for the high levels of armed robberies that have plagued northern Ghana. Investigations by Ghanaweb also revealed that the police are logistically underequipped hindering the efforts to deal with the crime in the regions.


On January 11th two people were arrested in Tatale—Northern Region, for attempting to traffick 11 children from Tamale to Kumasi. The children, three boys and eight girls, were alleged to have been picked from Kumtumbiiyii in the Zabzugu district. 2 weeks later, the Pan African Organisation for Research and Protection of Violence on Women and Children (PAOR-PVW)—an NGO based in the Tamale, assisted the police in rescuing six children who were trafficked from Yeji to Togo. The victims—4 below the age of 16 and 2 others aged 20 and 25 were being trafficked on the pretext of a better life. According to the Executive Director of PAOR-PVW, the children were found in Sokode—Togo during their transit to Nigeria. The NGO stated that it had re-integrated over 30 Ghanaian & Togolese children between February 2020 & January 2021.


A number of politically motivated clashes and violent incidences were witnessed pre- and post-the 2020 general election. In late November, 9 people were arrested by the police in the North East Region over an attempted attack on the NPP parliamentary candidate for Yagaba-Kubor, Mr. Mustapha Yusif. Reports from residents indicated that, the alleged assailants were members of the NDC and were contracted by the NDC candidate Alhaji Abdul Rauf Tanko. Mr.Yusif managed to escape the attacks but 4 members of his campaign team were injured. The victim’s radio station—Radio Yabaga was vandalized by the attackers.

In the Bawku Central constituency —Upper East Region, supporters of the NPP candidate attempted to attack the Collation officer of the EC claiming the officer declared the results before party agents signed the collation. The group also vandalised some shops including a beverage distribution company—Zanamat. A combined force of Police and Armed Forces managed to foil the chaos and prevent further clashes with opposition—NDC supporters. A similar incident was also reported in Pusiga following the declaring of the parliamentary election.


There are no major reported incidents of commodity smuggling in the region. Notwithstanding, the possibility of commodity smuggling particularly, fuel, remains high as there is excessive demand for cheap Ghanaian fuel in Burkina Faso. Smuggling of fertilizer has dropped significantly in the last 3 months as farming activities has dropped due to the dry season. Again, smuggling fertilizer during the dry season is difficult because transporting large amounts of fertilizer during this season easily draws attention. Fertilizer smuggling is expected to increase once the rains begin. No incidents of arms smuggling have been reported.


No major illegal mining incident was recorded. Nonetheless, disputes between locals and mining companies remain. Tensions between residents of Talensi and Shaanxi Mining Company have de-escalated following several stakeholder engagements. There are still issues of encroachment of illegal/galamsey miners on Shaanxi concessions. According to the PRO of Shaanxi, Maxwell Woom, encroachers use open pits as assessing points to Shaaxi’s mining shafts to steal blasted ore. Mr.Woom also claimed these encroachers are financed by actors who have operated in Talensi since 1995.

There is growing displeasure among residents of the Upper West region over operations of Azumah Resources claiming Azumah’s exploitation of the gold mine in Wa despite having exploration licenses.

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