Story: Albert K. Salia & Mary Mensah
UNDOUBTEDLY, global attention is currently on Ghana. The land of gold, the abode of peace, the home of hospitality, the gateway to Africa and the country championing African excellence, is hosting 15 other countries in a biennial soccer fiesta.
The Ghana 2008 event is not just bringing in the 15 teams and their supporters, but is also drawing dignitaries, tourists and lovers of football across the world to Ghana in the January 20 to February 10, 2008 event.
Even without such events, criminal activities have often threatened the serene atmosphere of the country. And with large numbers of people coming in, some with varied aims, it is important that the security agencies rise up to the task to sustain the soaring image of Ghana and live up to the standards of the world football governing body, FIFA’s standards.
It is in that vein that the security agencies, led by the Ghana Police Service, have masterminded an operational strategy to ensure a peaceful and enjoyable Ghana 2008. The Ghana Police Service has re-structured its operational strategy from the routine law enforcement and keeping the peace to a proactive paradigm that calls for an increased police visibility and accessibility through day and night patrols with the view to preventing crime.
The strategy, known as the multi-agency approach, has been adopted as the security management style of the tournament. The ultimate objective of the strategy is to stem the tide in all violent crimes, especially armed robbery, reduce the fear of crime and to make all commuters safe.
To operationalise the multi-agency approach, the security agencies have already collected, collated, analysed and disseminated intelligence among themselves and continue to do same as and when the intelligence is made available.
Fortunately, the managers of Ghana 2008 security have involved the security officers of participating countries, stadium management staff, the National Ambulance Service, stewards and volunteers, ball boys and private security companies in their operations.
Under the strategy, the security agencies will be providing security for VVIPs and VIPS; providing security for the arrival and departure of match officials, teams, supporters, tourists and visitors coming from outside the country at all entry points and escorting match officials and players to their hotels.
Security is also to be provided at hotels, training pitches, the four stadia, venues of social activities and the site of the giant screen. General security for spectators during and after matches would be ensured while traffic management and day and night patrols at the four match centres would be carried out to ensure safety for all people.
Highway patrols on major routes to the four match centres would also be undertaken throughout the day and night to make the highways safe while contingency plans have been made to provide security services throughout the country to ensure a successful tournament.
For those who fear that criminals and other unscrupulous persons from other countries may have easy access to the country to perpetuate crime, the good news is that the International Police Organisation (Interpol) is sending an Interpol Major Event Support Team (IMEST) to support their Ghanaian counterparts before, during and after the tournament.
The IMEST will be based at all the entry and exit points of the country and equipped with state-of-the-art technology to help track down any criminal as well as traffickers of both human and other illegal commodities such as drugs and weapons. Another group of the IMEST team would also operate from the Security Command Room located at the Ohene Djan Stadium. An IMEST team would also join their counterparts from the Ghana Immigration Service and the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to patrol all the entry points where they would be in close communication with the IMEST Control Rooms at the various stadia.
As part of the security management for the tournament, personnel of the various agencies, namely the Ghana Police Service, the Ghana Armed Forces, the Ghana National Fire Service, the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), have undergone a lot of training, both local and abroad, to ensure the successful management of the security strategy for Ghana 2008.
In furtherance of their determination to enforce maximum security, the agencies have established a command structure at three levels to facilitate communication.
A Gold Control Room will be established at the Police Headquarters with the Director-General of Police Operations, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr Patrick Timbillah as the Gold Commander.
The respective Regional Police Commanders for Accra, Ashanti, Western and Northern Regions have been designated Silver Commanders while the various divisional and district commanders under them would serve as Bronze Commanders. The Bronze Commanders will be supporting the Silver Commanders in discharging the various security responsibilities.
Their responsibilities include conducting searches on all spectators in the stadia to detect unauthorised materials and prohibited objects such as fire crackers, firearms, knives, narcotic drugs and alcoholic beverages.
The personnel would also be checking “ambush marketing” by non-accredited sponsors by any group of spectators especially supporters unions, both local and foreign.
The security agencies through their combined efforts, would also provide adequate security at all vantage points and at all the sites of large screen for the live show of the matches and co-ordinate with other stakeholders before, during and after the matches.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr P. K. Acheampong, admitted in an interview that the Ghana 2008 tournament would create more security challenges to the police.
He, however, assured the nation that with the comprehensive security management planning in place, supported by the series of training, both locally and abroad, the police would measure up adequately to the task and thereby ensure a successful tournament.
Mr Acheampong reminded the populace that security, peace and safety issues and concerns were no more the preserve of police organisations the world over.
He said policing or security issues were now a shared responsibility between the security services and the community.
“Against this background, therefore, the Police Administration wishes to appeal to all and sundry to see themselves as active stakeholders in providing security for themselves as well as the communities within which they live,” he said.
The Director-General of Operations, Mr Timbillah, appealed to all visiting teams, officials, supporters and tourists to endeavour to respect the laws of the country and not to hesitate to contact the police for any assistance or provide any useful information which would promote peace and a successful tournament.
He said the Sekondi venue was expected to pose the biggest security challenge relative to other match centres because the venue would be hosting next-door neighbours, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.
Mr Timbillah said as a result, the Central Region had been drafted to support the security operations of Western Region while the Upper East and West regions would support the Northern Regional Command.
He said the other regions had been drafted to support the security operations of the venue nearest them.
He expressed the hope that Ghanaians would continue to display the legendary Ghanaian hospitality, generosity, care and love for the visitors and also cheer up the national team with a high level of decorum and respect the rule of law.
Mr Timbillah urged supporters to submit themselves to searches and desist from smuggling any unauthorised materials into the various stadia.
The acting Ashanti Regional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Seth Oteng, has assured that the police in Kumasi would team up with other security apparatus to provide efficient and effective security to participating players, team officials and soccer fans who would be in Kumasi for the Ghana 2008 tournament to make the event memorable, George Ernest Asare reports from Kumasi
He told the Daily Graphic in an interview that as part of their efforts to enhance security in Kumasi, 500 policemen from the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) had been specially trained to build their skills to enable them offer effective protection to players, team to officials and spectators who would converge at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium for the Ghana 2008 soccer fiesta.
Elaborating on preparations made so far by the police to enhance adequate security at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium and other parts of the Kumasi Metropolis during the tournament, he said 200 others had also been trained to be in the stands to ensure that sanity prevails during matches.
Such policemen, he said, would be in mufti to prevent any form of identification by the soccer fans and potential troublemakers.
Mr Oteng said the stadium is well equipped with cells and other facilities that would make it possible for the police to arrest and detain anyone who attempts to cause trouble and create any chaos.
He said all the 27 entry points at the stadium would also be manned by policemen and women who would check soccer fans entering the stadium to prevent any form of ticket fraud, possession of offensive weapons and drugs, among others.
“Policemen who would ride on horses would also be at vantage points and streets to offer security to the public during the tournament.
Mr Oteng said they would also be at the training grounds and hotels of the players and team officials to create a serene atmosphere that would enable them to offer their best to make the tournament memorable.
“ We have tested our men and found that they are combat ready to offer the requisite protection that would create a serene atmosphere in Kumasi for the tournament to be very successful and memorable”, he added.
Michael Donkor reports that the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) have mapped out strategies to support the Local Organising Committee of the Ghana 2008 soccer fiesta to make it a success. The GAF has divided its role among its three arms, namely the Ghana Army, the Navy and the Airforce.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in an interview at Burma Camp in Accra, the Deputy Director of the Ghana Armed Forces Public Relations Unit, Lt. Col. Mbawuni Atintande, said the army would deploy troops at all the stadia and playing grounds where the participating teams would be training to ensure their safety.
He said the army would also provide escort for the officials of the tournament as they travelled across the country while operation “calm life” which seeks to clamp down on the activities of armed robbers would be intensified.
He said the Armed Forces Band would also play the national anthems of Ghana and other participating countries before and after the start of every match.
Lt. Col. Atintande said the 48 Engineers Regiment would display fireworks during the opening and closing ceremonies and the Recce Regiment would also provide horses, some of which would be used for dispersing crowds.
The army, he further stated, would provide medical personnel who would be on standby at all the stadia in case any medical emergencies arise.
He said it was only when the case was very serious and critical that the injured would be carried to the hospital.
Lt. Col. Atintande said the Air Force would provide air transport to carry any casualty to the hospital as well as give support to the army in maintaining security.
The Navy, he said, would also intensify its sea operations to ensure that criminals did not take advantage of the occasion to engage in nefarious activities at sea, while the naval personnel would patrol the territorial waters of the country constantly to ensure security.
He, therefore, called on the public to co-operate with the GAF to ensure that they had an incident-free tournament.