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Tamale’s slow and steady descent into crime and political violence


For those of us who bask in the charm and glow of Tamale and unapologetically call it our beloved hometown, this maybe hard to contemplate, let alone to digest; Tamale is slowly, but steadily sliding into uncontrollable chaos.

Let us be clear-eyed here; the citizens of Tamale are experiencing a nerve-racking spike in violent crime. And anyone who doubts that Tamale, once an oasis of tranquility is in a vise-like grip of organized criminal gangs, opportunistic petty thieves and violent political youth groups, should take a long, hard look at the grim statistics I am about to trot out to contextualize my assertions.

  • A 20-year old female student of the University of Development Studies was allegedly viciously stabbed and nearly strangled to death by unknown assailants in her apartment.
  • A 44-year old teacher was allegedly shot dead and his motorcycle stolen and his pockets picked clean by unknown attackers.
  • Two young men affiliated with the ruling NDC and opposition NPP were allegedly killed in what police authorities described as politically motivated murders.
  • The spate of shootings in the metropolis has increased exponentially.
  • Snatching of motorcycles is now at an all-time high.

Though sparse and anecdotal, evidence that crime and related violence are on the up surge in Tamale is irrefutable. But more crucially, given this sordid background, one is compelled to pose the most obvious of questions; what went wrong and where does one lay the blame for the rise in violence?

There aren’t easy answers, but there is always the temptation to ascribe the rise in violence to the rapid urbanization of Tamale in the last two decades. The population explosion in Tamale has been anything but stunning as rural folks have decided that the city offers more in terms of jobs and economic opportunities than the villages and small towns they left behind.

However, rapid urbanization, though fundamental to economic growth and prosperity, has its drawbacks among which are high unemployment and increase in poverty rates. Consequently, those who – new residents and old residents – find it difficult to land jobs are forced to engage in anti-social activities such as petty thievery and armed robbery.  

Rapid urbanization aside, the other driving force behind the surge in violence is the gullibility of Tamale youth and their inability to resist the goodies unscrupulousTamale politicians dangle before their eyes. I have written on this issue before, but I thought revisiting it will serve the singular purpose of refocusing attention once more on the plight of the hapless young men in Tamale who have become easy pawns in the hands of Tamale politicians.

The recent politically motivated killings of two young men supposedly NPP and NDC diehards, and the ensuing violence which culminated in the looting of a radio station and the burning of cars speak volumes of the poisoned political atmosphere in Tamale. And despite threats by security authorities to come down hard on those who break the law, don’t bank your hopes on the NPP and NDC youth groups abandoning their desires to pummel each other senseless at the least opportunity anytime soon.

As crime and violence spike in Tamale, so do the consequences. It is fast losing its hard-won reputation as a bastion of peace and calm and inviting snide comments from our southern counterparts who have never been enamored with anything northern in the first place; local and foreign investors are becoming weary of pumping their money into an urban area where there are no guarantees that their investments will be safe and more importantly, residents of the city live in constant fear of falling prey to goon squads in the streets. 

At  the pain of  sounding dramatic and alarmist, let me state emphatically that the economic and political violence we see unfolding in the city’s streets, will  ultimately achieve the dubious distinction of keeping Tamale’s sons and daughters living and working in other regions of the country and outside from retiring there, if not brought under control.

What then, in view of the mounting crime and violence, should be done to combat this evil? The first solution that comes to mind is the establishment of sub-police stations in the outlying suburbs of Tamale. The only police station located in the central part of the city is not adequately resourced to fight crime.

Sub police stations in Lamashiegu, Estates, Sakasaka, Vitin and Nyohini will go a long way to reduce crime as they will be able to file reports of crime from citizens and also immediately descend on scenes of criminal activity without heavy reliance on the central station.

Then of course, there is the issue of our city politicians preying on the ignorance and innocence of the youth to score political points. Edged on by their political paymasters, young men in Tamale are more than willing to draw blood, commit political violence and generally flout the law.

Our Tamale politicians should as a matter of urgency put a screeching halt to the manipulation of our young men and instead create employment opportunities that will absorb the thousands of young men who wake up every day with dim economic prospects.

There is no need belaboring the point that Tamale as an urban area is not immune from the hazards of urbanization, but there is also the point that Tamale is a precious economic and social enclave for thousands of people from varied ethnic backgrounds. Its preservation from crime and violence should therefore be the paramount concern of city leaders and all those who have its welfare at heart.


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