A faceless group of armed men has launched an attack at Navio, a community near the Paga Border in the Upper East region, chasing away the chief of the area and setting his palace ablaze.
At least four persons have been taken into police custody and some severely injured as military and police detachments intensify patrols in the area.
Chief escaped on bike
The attackers suddenly arrived at midday Thursday, firing guns and wielding machetes. The besieged chief, Pe Adams Kwarase, raced barefoot in a smock into the bush, leaving his family and property behind.
He spent several minutes searching for a way out of the bush. He eventually came across one of his subjects riding a motorcycle along a lonely path. The rider offered him a quick ride out of the wilds straight to the Paga Police Station where he reported how he just escaped death at his palace.
Minutes later, a convoy of police and military vehicles, carrying fully armed officers, dashed to the troubled spot. The invaders had set the palace and three rooms on fire before the security team arrived at the scene.
The attackers had also stopped a saloon car driving through the area at the time and set it on fire. They mistook the car for a vehicle belonging to one of their targets in the community. The vehicle actually belonged an educationist who had come from outside the region for a meeting with his counterparts in the district.
Paga Paramount Chief fingered in attack
Details as to what prompted the Thursday’s attack have remained elusive. But the public is fully aware that there has been a conflict between the Chief of Navio and the Paramount Chief of Paga, Pe Charles Awiah Awampaga II, for about half a decade now.
The paramount chief sees Navio as a community under his control; but the Chief of Navio does not. Initial reports trailing the Thursday’s violence had indicated that the Chief of Navio had announced plans to form his own “empire”.
He is reported to have laid claim to some communities within the Paga Traditional Area as suburbs to make up his dream realm. One of such communities is Sakaa. Unconfirmed reports suggest he had planned to attack Sakaa on Thursday with an aim to conquer and claim it in the same manner empires were formed in pre-colonial times. The sudden attack he rather suffered on the same Thursday reportedly was staged by the yet-to-be-identified group to obstruct his plans.
Speaking to journalists at the police station at Navrongo, capital of the Kassena-Nankana Municipality, where he is currently under police protection, he claimed the Thursday’s attempt on his life was masterminded by the Paramount Chief of Paga.
“It’s clear. That’s the Paga Chief. He sent them. His sons were there with the mob,” he affirmed, adding: “As at now, I don’t know where my family [is]. People are even saying that they have killed me; I’m in the mortuary currently. But I’m in the Navrongo District Police Commander’s office currently. I just managed to escape. It wasn’t easy at all.”
A crowd of supporters massed up on the premises of the Paramount Chief of Paga. They strongly waved aside claims by the Chief of Navio that link the Paramount Chief to the mob raid on his palace. Nobody from Paga, according to them, was involved in the attack at Navio.
They complained bitterly about alleged brutality inflicted on them in various forms by the soldiers and the police dispatched to the scene. About fourteen crushed motorcycles, said to have been destroyed by the soldiers, were shown to the media at the palace.
“Why is it that the security people failed to go to Sakaa and Navio because the problem is between Navio and Sakaa? Why is it that as soon as you got there, you simply got down and started beating anybody you came across. Soldiers and police cannot just come down and be hitting and kicking anybody they meet. Look at these motorbikes. The destroyed them. Some were injured. As I speak, somebody is handcuffed to a hospital bed, receiving a drip,” Carl Kwotduah, an elder at the palace, lamented.
Another person who wanted to be identified only as Awiah observed: “Soldiers, upon arriving in Paga Township, ignored the conflict zone and rather started vandalising people’s motorbikes, causing destruction to motorbikes, carrying more six of them away. You can see the level of damage on these motorbikes. They arrested our people. An innocent nurse was brutally beaten up. He is not even from Paga here. All of a sudden, anybody who was related to the Paramount Chief of Paga was picked up. That means there was an informant following them. They have no knowledge of what was going on,” Mr. Awiah said.
Jerry Adua, a pub owner, said the soldiers’ attack forced his bar to close abruptly and led to the seizure of a motorcycle belonging to his younger brother. Police say only four people were arrested. But the angry crowd at Paga says the number is more.
Police “did not see” soldiers’ “brutality”
The Navio attack prompted a District Security Council (DISEC) meeting that lasted between 5:00pm and 8:00pm at Paga.
The Kassena-Nankana West District Police Commander, DSP Isaac Kojo Forson, told newsmen at the close of the meeting he did not see anyone being brutalised. He said he only saw soldiers chasing some people believed to have burnt the private car and that he cautioned them against any form of rough treatment.
“The youth went and burnt an innocent person’s car. The car that they put the fuel inside, the soldiers saw it. I was here. So, they moved there. They said they saw some of them sitting under that tree; that was why they moved to arrest. So, it’s like people were running helter-skelter. I went there to stop them, that they should not brutalise anyone. In fact, I didn’t see whether they were brutalising anyone. But they went there to make arrests. But through arrest, anything can happen,” DSP Forson said.
The commander also disclosed that the Thursday’s incident also saw members of the Sakaa community arrest and tie three people they claimed had come from Navio to attack their community.
The development at Navio comes barely a week after a chieftaincy clash erupted in Bolgatanga, the regional capital, leaving one person dead and seven others critically injured.