Accra, Ghana (PANA) - A clash between two communities in the Volta Region (VR), the latest in a series of worrying communal clashes over the past month in Ghana, and a strong call for peace, especially as the country prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections in December, were some of the stories highlighted in the media this week.
At least three people died and several houses and vehicles were burnt when the people of Hohoe in the Gbi traditional area of the Volta Region and residents of the settler Zongo community, carried out reprisal attacks against each other early this week.
The clashes occurred when the youth of Hohoe, about 220 kms north of Accra, exhumed the body of the Imam of the settler Zongo community, who was buried on Sunday.
The burial was in defiance of a ban slapped by the paramount chief on the Zongo community, who are mainly Muslims, until the Zongo youth apologised for assaulting some staff of the Hohoe Government Hospital whom they accused of negligence leading to the death of one of them.
The Zongo youth, who saw the exhumation as sacrilege, stormed the palace of the paramount chief, vandalized it, burnt two of his cars and went on rampage through town torching houses.
The youth of Hohoe in retaliation descended on the Zongo and burned down their houses and shops.
The development triggered a flurry of mediation activities involving politicians, including vice president John Mahama, chiefs, top police and military officers, the Chief Imam and civil society organizations.
The indigenes gave the Zongo community until Friday to return all stolen regalia or face their wrath but this has since been relaxed.
“Mayhem in Hohoe,” was the headline of the state-owned Daily Graphic on Tuesday.
The story said two persons were reported to have been shot dead in Hohoe, while an unspecified number sustained injuries during reprisal attacks between members of the Zongo community and indigenes on Monday.
The palace of the paramount chief of the Gbi traditional area, Togbega Gabusu, the Hohoe market and lorry park were burnt down, while the outpatient department of the Hohoe Municipal Hospital was vandalized.
The Graphic said the entire Hohoe town was held hostage as residents remained indoors, while many travellers could not enter or leave the town. The streets of the municipality were deserted with a tense atmosphere prevailing.
The Graphic said the swift response by the police and military reinforcement averted the escalation of hostilities and a possible bloodbath.
The headline of the state-owned Ghanaian Times read, “Hohoe Muslim youth go on the rampage.”
It said a group of Muslim youth in the Zongo community at Hohoe on Monday went on the rampage and destroyed property and goods worth millions of Ghana cedis.
They burnt down the palace and three vehicles belonging to Togbega Gabusu VI, the paramount chief of the Gbi Traditional area, and destroyed shops and goods belonging to traders.
The Graphic also reported under the headline “Hohoe residents flee for fear of reprisal attacks” that for fear of further reprisal attacks, residents of the Zongo community in the Hohoe municipality have fled to Jasikan, about 40 kilometres away, to seek refuge.
More people fled to neighbouring towns and villages in view of the insecurity in the Hohoe area. About 6,000 people have been internally displaced.
According to the police, the displaced people have been registered at Jasikan, where the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) has provided them with relief items.
The Graphic said in spite of the heavy police and military presence in the Hohoe municipality, three houses at the outskirts of the Zongo community were torched at dawn on Tuesday during curfew hours.
It said there was heavy armed police and military presence in Hohoe.
The Graphic, in a story under the headline “Let there be peace - Chief Imam,” said the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osumanu Nuhu Sharubutu, had called for peaceful coexistence between the people of the Zongo community in the Gbi Traditional Area in the Volta Region and the indigenes.
He expressed deep regret and concerns over the incident and asked the people of the Zongo community to calm down to give peace a chance when he attended a meeting with the Volta Regional Minister, the leaders of the Muslim community and the chiefs of the Gbi Traditional Area in Hohoe on Monday as part of efforts to broker peace between the feuding parties.
Sheikh Sharubutu said as a member of the National Peace Council, he was an advocate of peace and was, therefore, prepared to play any role to ensure that peace was restored and prevailed forever.
“Volta Region House of Chiefs, REGSEC appeal for calm,” was another headline of the Graphic.
It said a delegation from the Volta Region House of Chiefs and the Volta Region Security Council (REGSEC) had appealed to parties in the Hohoe conflict to exercise restraint and resolve to live in peace.
It further appealed to the people to defer the deadline set for the replacement of traditional regalia, which went missing from the chief’s palace during the reprisal attacks between the indigenes and the Zongo community.
The president of the Volta region House of Chiefs, Togbe Afede, who made the appeal during a visit to Hohoe said they should draw lessons from the incident and forge ahead to make the best out of situations.
The Ghanaian Times in the story with the headline “VR House of Chiefs mourns with Gbi” said Togbe Afede reminded the two communities that the violent conflict had a lot of implications for the entire country if it escalated.
The Graphic, in its story with the headline “Police, WANEP warn Ghanaians on peace,” said the Police Administration and the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) had warned Ghanaians not to take the prevailing peace and stability in the country for granted.
They noted that Ghanaians must brace themselves up for a tougher task in the run-up to the December 2012 general elections if the pockets of violence across the country were anything to go by.
They, therefore, reminded Ghanaians that development and democratic politicking could only take place on the platform of peace and security.
They called for “a non-partisan and holistic approach” to resolve the differences in ethnic, chieftaincy, land and political issues in the various communities.
-0- PANA MA/VAO 16June2012