In Ghana, President John Kufuor’s government has imposed an indefinite curfew in the upper West of the country after reported violence left at least four people dead and scores wounded following clashes between two ethnic groups. Each has accused the other of starting the attack. Some political observers blame President Kufuor’s government for ignoring the tension in the area and failing to find a lasting solution despite repeated warnings from various intelligence groups.
But the government dismissed the accusations as baseless and without merit. Frank Agyekum is Ghana’s deputy information minister. From the capital, Accra he tells reporter Peter Clottey that the government is committed to finding a lasting solution to the unrest.
“It’s hard to tell except that it is just the re-ignition of the old tensions between the Kusasis and the Mamprusis. As you know, for sometime now there has been tension in the area, and government has tried to bring some calmness and normalcy to the area by sending a dispatch of police and soldiers to maintain the peace. And that seems to have been holding until yesterday when for some unknown reason one Kusasi praying in the Mosque was believed to have been shot by some assailants, believed to be a Mamprusis and that is what seems to have ignited the fighting again,” Agyekum noted.
He said the government reacted appropriately to quell the unrest.
“So, immediately, government put in place some security measures and imposed a 24-hour curfew. And that seems to be holding now, and as we speak, we can tell you for sure that now there is some quietness and normalcy back in Bawku,” he said.
Agyekum said tensions between the two ethnic groups could be traced to ancient times.
“The tensions even though has been brewing now are things that go as far as back as the 16th century. It has got to do with settlers in the region and the area, who came first and therefore, who was the first to be a chief. And now that a chief has died and they need to install a new chief it has reared it head up again. And that is the problem that we are facing. So it is not something that can be dealt with in just a day or two,” Agyekum pointed out.
He said previous governments have been unsuccessful in resolving an age-old impasse.
“It’s something that has been dealt with looking for a long-term solution and that has alluded all governments so far and that has come up. So it is not as if the government is not trying. All governments have tried, but then you are able to maintain the peace for sometime and if some recalcitrant citizens decide to take the law into their own hands, this is the sort of thing that happens,” he said.
Agyekum said the curfew would continue until peace is restored in the area.
“Unfortunately, I’m unable to foretell when the curfew is going to be lifted. But I can just say that if even the 22-hour curfew is relaxed, some amount of curfew would remain in that area for as long as it is needed to keep the peace. But I can assure you that the 22-hour curfew will be holding again today (Tuesday) because we need that to ensure that there is no movement of persons, and no movement of vehicles. We need to make sure that people who have just made up their mind to disturb the peace and not to let the people there go about their normal duties, do not have the opportunity to do so,” Agyekum noted.