Many great feats accomplished in history were the outcome of either political or economic integration. For example, in reaction to exigencies of the evolving Cold War and Russians’ aggression in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] was formed in 1949. Also, in response to the economic challenges of West Africa, the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] was formed in 1975 to commit to bolstering economic development through free movement of people in the West African sub-region. Thus, diversity in integration and development are bedfellows. That is why I am grappling to catch the drift of the opinion that division could accelerate development [highly debatable though]. Ghana as a member of ECOWAS is ruled by a constitution framed and shrouded in a puritan egalitarian ideals [that all men are created equal] and Albert Venn Dicey- coined rule of law. Per Ghana’s constitution, anybody born in Ghana before independence and, regardless of his/her nationality is a Ghanaian. This somewhat elucidates why I think Fulani stereotype in Ghana must stop! From my novice commonsensical convictions, “Operation Cow Leg” is nothing otherwise than an act of animal cruelty. What have cattle got to do with constitutional infringement?
Animal cruelty refers to an overt and, deliberate acts of violence towards animals. Killing of animals in inhuman manner is an example of animal savagery. Animals are sentient creatures and their lives cannot be wasted in a manner that operation cow leg team killed cattle belonging to the nomadic herdsmen at Agogo in Ashanti Region of the Republic of Ghana. In the religion of Islam, a special prayer is said before an animal is slaughtered. In the Hare Krishnan faith, there are strong beliefs that eating meat is eating a life created by Krishna (their God) and thus, imperative need for members to remain vegetarian. Far from dabbling in animism, paganism and totemism as derogatorily used to describe African traditional religion, killing pregnant animals could have spiritual implications on the killer. Admittedly, some aspects of animism, paganism and totemism are held by African traditional believers. Nevertheless, paganism and animism or totemism cannot suffice as substitutes for African faith. Such claims are borne out of ignorance.
Anyhow, my late paternal ground father in my village, who was a great hunter told me the following anecdote. He said a certain hunter went on his usual hunting mission. This hunter saw a female chimpanzee on top of a tree nursing the young chimp. The hunter was terrified with the presence of the animal and decided to kill them. All attempts to kill the animal and the young chimp were unsuccessful because the gun did not even trigger, let alone shooting! The man ended his hunting expedition and went home with a belief, that pregnant/nursing animals are protected by some spirits such as dwarfs and forest monsters. I know the story will sound weird and superstitious to many readers because it came from an African believer. To those skeptics: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4). “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long” (Deuteronomy 22:6-7).
I am without a modicum of desire to construct the niches of security in Ghana, even so, I am humbly calling for alternative interventions and operational strategies, devoid of prejudice against the Fulani to eradicate nomadic herdsmen menace in the farming communities. Let us assume that nomadic herdsmen have breached the laws of Ghana. What then have their innocent animals got to do with rule of law? The killing of cattle belonging to the herdsmen is very despicable. In some parts of the globe animal welfare legislations prohibit citizens from engaging in animal cruelty. In USA, the 1966 animal welfare act is enforced by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In California State, an individual can be convicted into 12 months imprisonment and a fine up to $ 20,000 for offences of animal cruelty. In 2009, Canada introduced code of practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle.
Besides, in Egypt, anyone who intentionally kill any domesticated animal may be jailed. Animal cruelty offence is punishable by law in Sweden. Animal owners who intentionally kill their animals in Sweden risk having their rights to own animals revoked. There is a proposed Universal Declaration on animal welfare at the UN to prevent cases of animal cruelty. As of today, there is no clear-cut UN accord frowning upon violence towards animals. Predictably, the Fulani Association of Ghana complaining at UN against Ghana government (Source: peacefmonline.com, January 20, 2018), is dead on arrival. Nonetheless, whoever master-minded mass killing of cattle as a solution to Agogo crop farmers-nomadic herdsmen conflict goofed, big time! Ghana rather needs to introduce cattle ranching laws or enforce the existing laws. Sensitive cases like this must be tackled devoid of emotions. Modern cattle ranching best practices workshop should be organized for the herdsmen and cattle owners.
2016 Human Development Index report by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) ranked Ghana 139 out of 188 countries. Food security is an integral part of human development and poverty reduction. In 2015, Professor Gabriel Ayum Teye of University of Development Studies averred that 90% of meat products consumed in Ghana were imported from Burkina Faso and Europe. Certainly, beef import cost a Ghanaian tax payer huge sums of money. We need to encourage best cattle rearing farming practices to revamp livestock industry to balance the country’s meat deficit. Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Ministry reports indicate that cattle is predominantly reared by either Ghanaian local farmers or Fulani herdsmen in Ghana. Beef represents about 33% of all locally produced meat in the country. Cattle are kept for either beef or milk. Three types of cattle in Ghana are beef cattle, dairy cattle and dual purpose cattle (Source: MoFA, Ghana).
World Health Organization (WHO’s) findings indicate that an average African consumes about 36kg of milk annually. This is far below the WHO’s recommended annual consumption of 200kg of milk per person. Per UN trade records, Ghana spent more than $80 million importing milk and milk products every year since 2011. Thus, killing cattle equally does not only risk endangering food security in the country, but also imperil staggering Ghana under a huge financial burden. Needless to say, I do not support the alleged atrocities committed by the nomadic herdsmen at Agogo. I am not unaware of reported cases of militant nomadism as in Northern Nigeria. All that I am suggesting is that we must marshal enough evidence to confirm the belief that murder, bush rape are truly perpetrated by the Fulani nomadic herdsmen. What about the murder and rape incidents reported in other parts of Ghana? Are they committed by nomadic herdsmen?
We must not hide behind the Fulani stereotype and preach hate against them. Our leaders must avoid creating mess for the police and the military. May the soul of the security men who lost their lives during operation cow leg rest in peace! We must not pretend not to know the real owners of the cattle in Agogo. We have every right to protect the lives and properties at Agogo, but mass killing of cattle is very unfortunate. Let us look for herdsmen who violate others’ rights and punish them in accordance with the law.
Let us not destroy cattle because of nomadic activities or because they belong to Fulani herdsmen. Fulani herdsmen are our fellow Africans. It is very unfair to discriminate against them. Economic activities are products of culture. Many cultures mean more economic activities. Cultural diversities come with diverse experience and technologies. Let us embrace multiculturalism for development. Show some love to Fulani minority in Ghana! We can conceive of a future without high-rises. But a humanity without music and love is not just inconceivable; it is impossible –George Leonard. Arrest Fulani herdsmen who are criminals only! Say no to animal cruelty. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana!
By Nana Yaw Osei, Minnesota, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org