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Bid to end deadly Ghana clashes

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Ghana's President John Kufuor has invited community leaders for talks on Thursday after at least 13 people were killed in ethnic clashes.

Ghana's Interior Minister Kwame Addo Kufuor and the police chief have travelled to the north-eastern town of Bawku, where the violence occurred.

The clashes are the latest in a long dispute between two rival groups.

Security forces have struggled to end the violence in Bawku, where there has been a curfew for several months.

With elections due at the end of the year in Ghana, there are calls for the violence to be addressed more urgently in order to ensure peaceful polls.

The BBC's Will Ross in Ghana says the country may have a reputation for peace but the news from Bawku is of hatred and violence.

There are fears that a long-standing chieftaincy dispute between two ethnic groups, the Kusasi and the Mamprusi, is spiralling out of control despite a heavy military presence and a dusk-to-dawn curfew which has been in place since the beginning of the year.

Military clothes

Over the weekend, a man from the Mamprusi community was apparently looking for a missing animal when he was set upon and killed by a mob from the rival Kusasi ethnic group. According to residents of Bawku town, some Mamprusi disguised in military attire set out to retaliate.

It will take back the credibility we have earned since 1992 in the nurturing of a democratic system
WANEP's Emmanuel Bombande

Fearing they were soldiers, men ran away leaving mostly women and children in the hands of the mob.

They were butchered with machetes. At least 13 people were killed including women, children and a six-month-old baby.

Emmanuel Bombande from the West Africa Network For Peacebuilding (WANEP) has been working to reconcile the rival communities for several years.

He says it is an ominous sign that for the first time women and children have been targeted. The use of military uniforms is also a dangerous development.

"If other groups of people can now wear the military uniform to attack, then nobody knows anymore what is happening on the ground.

"And that is sending panic and people are leaving their homes. There is a complete deterioration in confidence - even in the military to be the protector of civilians."

Security forces have made dozens of arrests but there is fear of a vicious cycle of revenge attacks.

Fears

There are a number of other chieftaincy disputes in Ghana which have yet to be resolved.

Being an election year makes the situation even more volatile, our reporter says.

Unless the government tackles the disputes with more urgency Mr Bombande fears Ghana has a great deal to lose.

"It will take back the credibility we have earned since 1992 in the nurturing of a democratic system that is beginning to admired. So for me dealing with these conflicts becomes a national priority."

Our correspondent says Ghanaians are proud of what is a relatively peaceful country.

But the news of violence in Bawku is for some people a sign that the peace should not be taken for granted.

He says the example of what happened next door in Ivory Coast proves that a reputation for stability can all too easily be shattered.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Ghana
25 Jun 08 |  Country profiles

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