11 June 2012

Ghana: Man Killed, Reporter Assaulted in Frenzy Police Raid

Ho — Confusion made its masterpiece at Ho, the Volta Regional capital yesterday, following the shooting to death of 24 year-old Atsu Mensah, a Senior Secondary School leaver, with no known record as a criminal.

The police claimed they conducted a dawn swoop at the Anlo Kodzi area, a suburb of Ho, near the Metro Mass Transit station, following complaints by passengers and the general public that criminals attacked and collected money and other belongings of travelers.

The raid, which occurred on a market day, put fear in some people, particularly women, who were peacefully transacting their business. The police extended their activities beyond the metro bus station to arrest suspected criminals, amidst the shooting of live bullets into the air.

Many market women abandoned their wares and ran helter-skelter, together with buyers and window shoppers.

The death of Atsu, who has no criminal record, infuriated the youth in the Anlo Kodzi area, who mobilised themselves and besieged the Ho Central police station, where they threw stones at the police to express their anger at the death of the young man.

The large number of the youth who gathered at the Central Police Station, obviously made some of the police personnel jittery, as a number of live bullets were shot into the air, including warning shots, while others attempted to drive the youth away from the vicinity of the station.

Police blocked three major roads leading to the police station - the Civic Center Road, the Residency Road and the main Ho-Aflao road - creating a vehicular traffic situation.

After the show-down with the youth, the police went back to the metro bus area and arrested some people suspected to be criminals, while shooting indiscriminately into the air. Many innocent people were manhandled in the exercise, including the Daily Graphic correspondent in the Volta Region, Mr. Victor Kwawukume, who is also the Volta Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association.

An eye-witness account said Mr. Kwawukume received two hefty slaps, as well as two heavy knocks on his head, without any provocation, after which his camera was seized.

The reporter then went to the Ho central police station and lodged a complaint with the Municipal Commander of Police. Chief Superintendent Samuel Berko issued him with a medical form to go to the hospital

All efforts to speak to the Volta Regional Police Commander of Police proved futile, as calls to his cell phone did not go through. Calm has, however, returned to the regional capital, after hours of tension.

The Chronicle later learnt that Mr. Kwawukume then received his camera, but was instructed to delete all the pictures in it, which he complied with.

Eye-witnesses at the scene, where Atsu Mensah was killed, narrated that at about 5:30 a.m., police personnel stormed the Anlo Kodzi area, and three of the police men with arms saw three young men under a shed and ordered them to kneel down.

Just as the police ordered the three to kneel down, they saw four other men from a room who walked passed the police.

According to the eye-witnesses, as the four young men walked past, the police ordered them to stop, but they took to their heels, and at this point, the three, who were kneeling down, also stood up and started running away. It was at this stage that one of the police shot and killed Atsu Mensah, who, they said, had recently completed his Senior High School (SHS) education. .

Atsu's death was a blow to the youth in the area, because he had never involved himself in any criminal activity since he completed school, and expressed surprise about the conduct of the police.

The Ho Central Municipal Commander, Chief Superintendent of Police Berko, who is popularly noted for his high level of professional conduct and discipline in the region, declined to comment on the issue, stressing that the Regional Police Commander, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP) Mr. Alex Bedie, would brief the media later.

Meanwhile, the police were not satisfied with the 130 personnel who were called to the Ho township as reinforcement, and positioned around the Ho Central police station, as well as vantage areas in the town, and still called for military support from the 66 Artillery Regiment, who were also patrolling the town.

Meanwhile, just after calm returned to the Ho township, the Volta Regional Security Council (REGSEC) in a press statement signed by the Chairman, Mr. Henry Ford Kamel who is also the Volta Regional Minister stated that members of REGSEC's attention has been drawn to the unfortunate shooting the young man during police operation at Anlo Kodzi, a suburb of Ho.

Mr. Kamel said the members of the Security Council commensurate with the beraved family and called on the citizens of Anlo Kodzi to exercise restraint and remain calm adding that REGSEC would like to assure the citizens that a transparent and dependent Committee of enquiry would be formed to investigate the unfortunate incidence.

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