GHANA: Four dead as chieftaincy dispute erupts in violence

Monday, November 5, 2007

Four people were killed on 1 November in Ghana’s Volta Region when violence erupted in a longstanding chieftaincy dispute. The government has sent in security forces and ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the area.

One of the dead was a police officer, reportedly kidnapped by one of the rival factions after the clash. His lacerated body was found the following morning after an all-night search, a police official told IRIN.

The government has sent soldiers and at least 160 police officers to the area, which is in eastern Ghana.

Security officials said one royal family in the district of Anloga was preparing a ceremony to install a new chief, when at least 100 people from a rival family – armed with AK-47s and clubs – raided the site.

The group opened fire on the some 40 policemen who were guarding the site and the police returned fire, according to El Hadj Hamidu, assistant commissioner of police in Volta. Three of the civilians died in the shooting.

“The government views with very grave concern the rather tragic and unfortunate explosion of violence which has occurred" over the nomination and installation of a paramount chief, Ghanaian Interior Minister Kwamena Bartels told reporters on 2 November.

The two royal families, both of the Anlo people, have been fighting over who should succeed the paramount chief – the ‘Awoamefia’ in the Ewe language – who died 10 years ago.

In Ghana's complex and powerful chieftaincy system chiefs wield considerable influence. Since independence in 1957, politicians have courted their support. Experts have warned that while Ghana is among the most politically stable countries in West Africa, the intense chieftaincy and ethnic conflicts could threaten stability.

Interior Minister Bartels told reporters: “The government reiterates its position of non-interference in chieftaincy affairs. The government, however, has an overriding responsibility to ensure peace, tranquility, and law and order."

Source: IRIN