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07.05.2008 Regional News

MASS ESCAPE FROM BAWKU...to flee from curfew

By A. A. Mbord, Bawku - newtimesonline.com

HUNDREDS of residents, including public-sector workers, women and their children took advantage of the two-hour break in the curfew at Bawku yesterday to flee the area following the renewed gun-fighting after a prominent businessman was shot and killed on Sunday.

People left in articulated trucks with their belongings as a 22-hour curfew temporarily ceased at 7 a.m.

Some headed towards the Togo and Burkina Faso borders, while others went towards Bolgatanga.

Ethnic clashes between Mamprusis and Kusasis, erupted in January this year and have been characterised by sporadic fighting in which many lives have been lost and dozens of houses burnt down.

Eye witnesses told the Times yesterday that the exodus began as early as 7 a.m. when a 22-hour curfew imposed on the area ended.

The curfew, has imposed serious social and economic hardships on the residents as they have only two hours to go about their activities being confined to their homes.

The problem is compounded by the fact that shops and other sale outlets cannot operate under the prevailing circumstances.

The scene at the Bolgatanga Goil Station where most of the 'refugees' disembarked around 9 a.m. yesterday was very pathetic.

A few who spoke to the Times said they did not know where to go or what to do next but noted that it was better for them to be free than being incarcerated in their houses without water and food.

It is feared that the long curfew hours could affect the security personnel deployed to the area as they buy their own food from the open market.

Besides most houses in the municipality do not have water or toilet facilities, a situation likely to create dire health problems.

The fate of students who are writing this year’s WASSCE hangs in the balance as they risk terminating their education because they cannot go to the examination centres to write the ongoing examinations scheduled to end on May 20.

Commenting on the flight of the people in the conflict area, Kwamena Bartels, Minister of the Interior, said it is a natural reaction by people in a conflict area.

He told the Times that 'this is naturally to be expected in a conflict area, naturally because nobody wants to be hurt'.

What is needed to be done now, he said, 'is to bring the conflict under control to earn the confidence of the people so that they will return'.

He told the Times that following the deployment of more security personnel to the municipality, calm has returned to the area. Mr Bartels was, however, quick to add that efforts need to be made to ensure that the fragile peace is made permanent.

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