Some 275 Burkinabe nationals have fled their country to the northern part of Ghana as refugees in the wake of an ongoing chieftaincy-related clash in the French-speaking West African nation.
Ghana’s National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) is responding to the needs of the asylum seekers at Widnaba, a community in the Bawku West District of the Upper East region.
“There is one chieftaincy issue in neighbouring Burkina Faso involving two royal gates and resulting in the mass exodus of people from Zouga, a village in [Burkina Faso], into the Bawku West District. As I speak to you, 275 survivors of that chieftaincy dispute are in Widnaba,” said the Deputy Upper East Regional NADMO Director in charge of Operations, Paul Wooma, on Thursday.
Mr. Wooma told a meeting of officials from the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Ghana Health Service (GHS) as well as traditional authorities, sanitation experts, government officials and representatives of civil society organisations that the Burkinabe displaced persons included 176 children, 32 men and 67 women.
“NADMO has not sat aloof watching this development. The Deputy Upper East Regional Minister who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) of the area, the District Chief Executive (DCE) of the area, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the police—NADMO District Director worked with these people to screen them and got these figures for us.
“We have also given relief items, ranging from rice, mosquito nets, blankets, basins, mattresses and buckets to assuage the pains of these survivors. We are still counting on the support of other development partners to come to their aid. We are told the [clash] is not over. Houses have been burnt. The survivors are afraid to go back to their country as they could become targets. So, we have to contain these people for a while,” Mr. Wooma added.
NADMO’s statement on the cross-border flight comes after two policemen were wounded and one civilian was killed in a renewed chieftaincy-related clash in the Upper East regional capital, Bolgatanga, last week. An episodic gunfire erupted this week again in the capital and government has, at the rear of the development, imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew at Atulbabisi, the commercial core of the municipality where two disputed chieftains and their factions have remained submerged in a power struggle since 2013.
Bawku Traditional Council Donates Food Items to Refugees
With the battle in Burkina Faso not looking like what will go away now, more asylum seekers are expected to flood the nearby Bawku West District in the same manner excess water, spilled perennially from the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso, takes refuge in Ghana and floods some parts of the north.
In fact, reports coming in from NADMO just before filing this report indicated that eight more persons had taken flight from the fight and joined the 275 refugees in the district— raising the number to 283.
Meanwhile, the Bawku Traditional Council has donated ten bags of maize, two bags of rice and a cash of Gh¢1,000 (182 US dollars) to the displaced noncitizens. A branch of the Assemblies of God at Widnaba also has made a donation of two bags of rice and a cash of Gh¢100 (18 US dollars) to alleviate the misery of the survivors.
A UNICEF team, according to NADMO, is set to visit the refugees on Friday (today) to assess the situation particularly the wellbeing of the affected francophone schoolchildren. The immigrants need more than a few tents to provide some privacy and safety, but NADMO has secured just one tent so far.
“This seems to be the opium of the moment: chieftaincy conflict here; chieftaincy conflict there. There is a need for development partners to have a roundtable on such issues so that we can prevent them from occurring because we know about the hotspots. And if local authorities cannot deal with the matter, the international bodies like the United Nations can help out so that lives are not lost,” Mr. Wooma emphasised in an interview with Starr News.