ACCRA - Insurgents in the Sahel are making inroads into Ghana’s northern regions, write Eliasu Tanko and James Courtright in Foreign Policy.

The researchers found that “insurgents have paid Ghanaians to smuggle fuel and personnel across the border on motorcycles” and cite reports of “militants using Ghanaian soil as a temporary safe haven.”

Ghana’s counterterrorism task force says its higher levels of development and democratic norms are bulwarks against insurgency.

In July 2023, an audio message, calling for attacks on the Ghanaian government in response to the forced repatriation of ethnic Fulani asylum-seekers, spread via WhatsApp in northern Ghana.

“The Ghanaian government has begun to forcefully arrest and deport Fulani refugees to Burkina Faso … to destroy and exterminate the Fulani population in Ghana … I’m appealing to [Muslims] located along Ghana-Burkina Faso border to hurry to intervene,” said the message, which was heard by thousands of people. “Please do well to retaliate the blood spilt by the Ghanaian government,” it concluded.

The message was recorded and distributed by a media wing of Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), a West African jihadi insurgent group affiliated with al Qaeda.

Between JNIM and affiliates of the Islamic State, insurgents today control almost half of Burkina Faso, parts of central and northern Mali, and territory along Niger’s borders with the two countries. Over the past two years, they have slowly expanded their campaign south into the northern parts of West Africa’s coastal states. Despite a handful of messages attempting to incite attacks against the Ghanaian government, of the four coastal states bordering Burkina Faso, Ghana is the only one that reports that it has not suffered an attack by insurgents.

Since being established by Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, and Benin in 2017, a handful of joint operations along border regions and meetings of intelligence chiefs have been coordinated through the initiative, which is funded in part by the European Union. At a summit in November 2022, leaders announced the creation of a multinational joint task force that will be comprised of 10,000 soldiers and headquartered in Tamale, a city in northern Ghana.

Meanwhile, the Ghanaian government has reinforced the military’s presence across the north. In 2020, Accra released the funds to construct and upgrade 15 forward operating bases close to the borders of Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Togo. Three new brigades and two battalions were created and deployed to the Upper East and Upper West regions. The military has acquired new vehicles and communications equipment from the United Kingdom and Israel. And the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, recently promised “aerial surveillance, electronic warfare [systems] and river crafts” as a part of a 20 million euro ($21.5 million) aid package to the military.