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General News Sun, 25 Nov 2001

RIOT AT POKUASE: Mob of 400 clash with police

WHAT started as a small misunderstanding between security guards of a church and two young men at Pokuase on Friday turned into factional violence when a mob of about 400 clashed with the police the next day.

The mob and members of the church, the African Christian Church, Pokuase, had earlier in the day engaged in a fierce street fight which resulted in the damage of property, including six cars and a bus belonging to the church.

Reports say there were exchanges of gunfire between the two feuding parties.

The mob were also said to have made away with a generator, an organ and other equipment belonging to the church. Part of the roof of the church was also damaged.

At the police station, the angry mob, who were said to be wielding sticks, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons, vandalised the police station and a rented police quarters and destroyed the police diary, Motorola communication gadgets, the empty armoury and also burned down a vehicle and a bicycle belonging to a police officer.

Three suspects in the cells were also set free by the mob.

Another car belonging to a policeman was also badly damaged, while the roof of the station was not spared.

The Accra Regional Police Command has deployed four patrol vehicles, two water canons and 40 police personnel to restore order in the town.

Ten people and the leader of the church, Bishop Richmond Danso, have been arrested to assist the police in their investigations.

Eyewitness account said last Friday morning the two young men in the centre of the factional violence called at Bishop Danso’s house to demand payment for services they had rendered to the leader of the church.

It said when the two, Yaw Tse, 28, and Yaw Danyo, 30, both unemployed, got to the gate of the Bishop’s house, security guards at the gate told them that their boss was in a meeting and asked them to wait.

Danyo and Tse did not take kindly to the request to wait and a confrontation ensued during which the young men claimed they had been assaulted.

The eyewitness said the security guards rather later went to the police station and reported that when Danyo and Tse came to the Bishop’s house, they attempted to forcibly enter but when they tried to restrain them, they were assaulted by Tse and Danyo.

The police effected the arrest of the two.

The eyewitness said the Bishop followed up to the police station apparently to seek a peaceful settlement of the misunderstanding.

According to the eyewitness youth of the town, who are said to have an axe to grind with the Bishop, attacked the police station in an attempt to release their colleagues.

Police reinforcement was called in to restore order and Danyo and Tse were transferred to the Tesano Police Station to avert a bloody clash.

A police source said when word was sent to Tesano that calm had been restored at Pokuase, Danyo and Tse were granted bail. Later in the night, however, unidentified persons attacked the Bishop’s residence, forcing his family members to flee.

The source said the youth of the town, acting on information that the Bishop had recruited machomen to engage the residents in a street fight later on Friday, again attacked his residence and the chapel, causing considerable damage to property.

The Bishop was said to have denied allegation that he recruited machomen to terrorise the residents, claiming that when news went round that the mob had attacked him, his members came to his aid.

The source said the police again managed to restore order while those who were injured in the exchanges were treated at a local hospital.

It said on Saturday, the youth of the town, this time numbering about 400, unhappy with the intervention of the police, took the law into their own hands and vandalised the police station.

The source said the police were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the mob and even the use of the water canon could not deter them.

The mob broke through the police barricades to destroy the police station.

Communication gadgets and station diaries were damaged while a vehicle belonging to a police officer was completely burnt down. The counter at the station was also destroyed and the offices ransacked.

They also chased out the police officers and their families from the station.

The source said three suspects in the cells were released and assisted by the mob to escape.

According to the source, the mob did not stop at the police station.

It followed up to the rented quarters where they damaged the property of the personnel.

The source said the police had to resort to the use of rubber bullets to disperse the mob and restore calm.

Mrs Rita Danso, wife of the bishop, confirmed that the incident began on Friday morning when two men engaged one of the drivers and a security man of the church in a fight.

She denied that her husband hired the services of machomen to intimidate the youth of the town.

Mrs Danso said those who engaged the mob in a free-for-all were members of the church.

Dr K. K. Marfo, Accra Regional Police Commander, expressed regret at the behaviour of the mob and said if the police personnel deployed in the town had not exercised restraint, there would have been bloodshed.

He said attacks on police installations have become very rampant and warned the youth not to take the law into their own hands.

Source: Graphic