Scores beaten as two groups clash in Upper East
There was a “schhrringgg” noise of machetes last night at Sandema over a new byelaw that forbids people from moving about in the Builsa North District capital around midnight, and those who heard the sound responded swiftly with a flight as sharp as the edges of the clattering weapons.
Members of a watchdog committee said to have been introduced recently to help stem a rising tide of night-time crime in that part of the Upper East region emerged in the streets of the busy capital without prior warning Saturday night to enforce the byelaw. And, using sticks as well as cables and bare hands, they reportedly whipped anyone found outside from 11:00pm onwards.
Eyewitnesses, speaking to Starr News, recalled how residents caught within the forbidden hours were falling on one another in the chaotic scene as the enforcers of the byelaw, regardless of the faces they met on the way, were unemotionally lashing everyone back inside. The street raid also saw a big crowd, who had gathered for an eating competition at the Sandema Community Centre”, scatter in different directions, leaving the well prepared food behind.
Some middle-aged men, scared by the street terror, scrambled with some teenagers into an empty old shop for safety. The men, identified as some of the no-nonsense grownups in the area, stressed the need for everyone inside that shop, especially the youths, to remain quiet until after the cane-wielding watchdog committee members had passed.
The hideout was firmly united in silence until the young companions began to chuckle for some reasons not clear to the frank-looking men. The elders frowned seriously at the youngsters and wagged their fingers strongly at them to avoid any breach of the agreed silence. But an unexpected outburst of laughter among the young companions gave everybody away when one of the adolescents suddenly recollected how a woman he said looked like Croatia’s Luka Modri? took flight like Argentina’s Otamendi during the street stampede earlier.
The men had wanted to serve the minors a hard knock in the head round; but, knowing the youths would shout and afraid of the grave consequences such reactions would bring upon everyone if they did that, they suspended the punishment. Nonetheless, the enforcers managed to trace the laughter to the shop and fetched them out one by one.
Some traders who could not call it a day before the watchdogs trooped into the streets locked themselves up in their shops and stayed the 'peaceful' night there to avoid battering. Provoked by the weekend incursion, a number of residents, who felt the development was an affront to freedom of movement which ought not be tolerated, mobilised themselves into an army of rebels and addressed a letter to the watchdog committee, notifying it there would be a reprisal attack if the raid of Saturday repeated itself Sunday night.
I saw somebody lying on his face; I can’t tell if he fainted— Eyewitness
At Sunday’s dawn, the warning letter was already hanging at the base of the watchdog committee. The more passersby drew near to read what was on the paper, the further the reports spread in the town that a clash between two groups was most likely Sunday night.
Alleged victims of Saturday’s “brutal” enforcement were loud everywhere about their claims of street abuse. The more they groaned with pain, the more the urge within the rebelling group to act now. And as the day slowly passed by, the agitating party became more impatient to see the watchdogs in the streets again and respond head-on.
Around 8:00pm Sunday, the dissenting troop marched with machetes to a shelter where the watchdogs use as their base and vandalised it. Two members of the committee, who were around at the time, were beaten up, according to a bystander. Four other residents, including an assemblyman and a radio presenter with Radio Builsa, also got beaten in the attack.
“I saw somebody lying on his face by the roadside but I can’t tell if he fainted after he was beaten. I rushed to the police station to tell them about the confusion in town and the officers told me they, too, heard a noise but they thought they were playing a football match and they were making noise. Actually, Manchester United and Bayern Munich were playing a match around that time.
“Thieves are breaking into shops too often these days. The robbers create openings in the roofs of shops and put somebody inside to load out the goods. The watchdog committee was formed to fight crime and they were told not to allow anybody below 18 years outside from 11:00pm going. But they were even beating those who are married and those who have children. One of those they beat went away and came back with a cutlass to attack back,” said an eyewitness who, for security reasons, pleaded anonymity.
DISEC meeting to be held Monday — DCE
Speaking to Starr News Monday morning, the District Chief Executive, David Afoko, said the District Security Council (DISEC) would convene an emergency meeting Monday (today) on the clash.
“I am not in town at the moment but I have asked somebody to go and see the Paramount Chief quickly on it. I have called my Coordinating Director and the BNI to quickly call for an emergency DISEC meeting, inviting the leaders of both groups so that we can handle the issue,” Mr. Afoko said.
The Builsa North District Police Commander, DSP Eric Agbenyega, told Starr News an hour after Mr. Afoko had spoken to the press the situation had been brought under control ahead of a meeting DISEC had scheduled for this afternoon.
“We are in touch with the leaders of the two groups and we hope to get to the bottom of the matter amicably after the DISEC meeting at 2:00pm today. But for now, the town is calm,” stated DSP Agbenyega who also oversees the neighbouring Builsa South District.
Questions as to how the watchdog committee was formed are expected to be answered among other concerns in the upcoming DISEC meeting. Meanwhile, the men who were exposed at the shared hideaway during the Saturday’s ‘cleanup’ exercise are said to be seriously searching for the youngsters to vent a raw temper on them for the beating their laughter caused them at the hands of the watchdogs.