Tight security at Apremdo - Riots erupt over festival

BY: Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu
Some of the victims who sustained acid and machete wounds
Some of the victims who sustained acid and machete wounds

The police have beefed up security at Apremdo in the Effia-Kwesimintsim municipality in the Western Region after a simmering chieftaincy dispute boiled over, leading to massive injuries to people and the destruction of property.

The violent clashes were triggered by a disagreement over the celebration of the Kundum Festival.

Many people suffered acid and machete attacks and were hospitalised, while a house was set ablaze, destroying property worth thousands of Ghana cedis.

Although the riots were quelled, there is uneasy calm in the town and the increased police presence is to prevent further attacks.

Nine in custody


The Kwesimintsim District Police Command arrested nine suspects in connection with the violence, while the protagonists of the two factions have been invited for questioning.

The suspects have been identified as Kofi Arhin, 21; Edward Johnson, 21; Evans Amoah, 30; Solomon Wuru, 50; Jona Odum, 25; Joseph Essien, 43; John Baidoo, 47; David Osei Yalley, 24, and John Banasco, 35.

Speaking to the media, the Western Regional Police Public Relations Officer (PRO), Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Ms Olivia Ewuraabena Adiku, said preliminary investigations pointed to a chieftaincy problem as the underlying factor for the riots.

Don’t celebrate Kundum

Prior to the violence, she explained, there had been a disagreement between the Chief of Apremdo, Nana Egya Kwamina XI, and the queenmother, Nana Mozu VII, which was not resolved.

That led to tension in the town, as all pointed to potential violence if the Kundum Festival was to be celebrated in the town.

The Kundum Festival is celebrated by the coastal ethnic groups in the Western Region, one town after another, over a four-month period between August and November every year.

The major points of observation include stool cleansing, propitiation of the gods, ancestral prayers and drumming and dancing.

DSP Ewuraabena Adiku said to avoid any violent situation, the factions were invited to a meeting at the office of the municipal chief executive, where they were advised to shed the celebration of the festival this year.

However, she said, about 7.20 p.m. last Wednesday, a group suspected to be members of Nana Kwamina’s faction were seen drumming, dancing and singing at the Kundum grounds at Apremdo to signal the beginning of the celebration of Kundum.

Reaction

The PRO stated that suddenly, another group of people suspected to be supporters of the queenmother, led by one John Nat Panyin, attacked those purported to be supporters of Nana Kwamina and sprinkled some substance suspected to be acid on them.

Nana Kwamina’s faction, the PRO said, became offended and mobilised for a counter-attack and later made a fruitless attempt to attack the leader of the queenmother’s faction.

She said the angry group of men numbering about 40 surrounded Panyin's house at Apremdo and set it ablaze.

The occupants of the house managed to escape unhurt but were unable to salvage their belongings.

DSP Ewuraabena Adiku said the police moved in to maintain law and order immediately a distress call came through to the Kwesimintsim District Police Command.

At the scene

She said when the police got to the scene, the group had set a house ablaze, with the occupants narrowly escaping death, while those who sustained injuries were rushed to the Kwesimintsim Government Hospital and other health facilities.

DSP Ewuraabena Adiku said the team of police, army and Fire Service personnel managed to contain the crowd and the raging fire after some hours.

At the hospital

“Our men then proceeded to the hospital where 14 people, including children, were on admission with various degrees of injury from acid and machete attacks,” the police spokeswoman revealed.

Two of the victims, identified as Dominic Yankey and Joseph Baidoo, suffered acid burns on their faces and were in critical condition, while a third person, Ignatius Yankey, also had a deep machete wound on the head.

The PRO said others were rushed to the Effia-Nkwanta Regional Hospital and the medical centre at the military facility at Apremdo for treatment.

She explained that the queenmother, later on Wednesday night, reported a case of assault and arson on her relatives against two persons named as Papa and Yankey.

She said the general situation on the ground was calm but the police would remain there to avert any possible reprisals.

The police seized drums, knives, machetes and talismans from the rioters.