Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fulani: Ghana's immigration problem

Human beings have always migrated; they are usually compelled by economic factors to do so. Until political boundaries became so rigid, migration was not as serious a problem as it is today. All over the world, human beings in search of prosperity and freedom take monumental risks to satisfy their needs, but this has not convinced us to relax the rules on immigration. Further, it is unclear whether it ever will.

Last week a Fulani herdsman was beheaded in Agogo in the Ashanti Region. This was probably an attack by some disgruntled indigenes who were angry at the herdsman for using their land. The details of this attack are not central to my argument. The point is there are cattle rearers in Ghana whose cattle graze just like the cattle of the Fulani, but nobody hears of Ghanaian herdsmen being beheaded because their cattle grazed in the wrong place. So, fundamentally, this is appears to be an us versus them battle in which the Fulani are seen as a threatening economic force in the area.

Because the Fulani are primarily a nomadic people it is hard to tell what their nationality is. Most of them are West African though. That is, they are citizens of an ECOWAS country so they cannot be classified as illegal immigrants because by ECOWAS convention, they should be able to move freely across borders (i.e. without extensive documentation eg. visas, permits, etc). This reduces the Fulani problem to one of contracts.

One reason why the Fulani are despised is because they make their cattle graze on other people's farms. That is what makes them a nuisance. I don't know what the penalties for destroying somebody's farm are but some of these Fulani herdsmen are contracted by Ghanaian cattle owners to cater for their cattle as well so the indigenes themselves may not be free from complicity. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that murder is not the best solution to the problem as there is bound to be retaliation from the aggrieved parties.

A good number of Ghanaians are always looking for a way to escape Ghana for greener pastures in Europe, America, and even Libya. Why won't they let the Fulani herdsman graze on the greener pastures they have found here?

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