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03.10.2008 Regional News

Return of peace to BawkuLife improves day by day…but MCE worried over rampant stealing

By William N. Jalulah - Ghanaian Chronicle

AFTER SEVERAL months of intermittent violence in the one time business thriving town of the Upper East Region, Bawku, all seems to be getting well now, with residents of the Municipality who seem to be admitting the fact that, enough is enough, and it was about time they gave absolute peace a chance, for their own good.

It would be recalled that the December 31, 2007 conflict, which started, between the Kusasis and Mamprusis, during the annual celebration of the Samapiid Festival, left in its aftermath, loss of lives and destruction of properties, running into millions of Ghana Cedis.

The conflict did not end, but continued intermittently, until somewhere May/June this year, when the government, security agencies, religious bodies, organised groups and individuals, intervened in diverse ways, seeking peace.

It is undeniable fact that many are yet to come to terms with the loss of their dear ones and properties, while some may still be recovering from the hard times they had to pass through, like fleeing the town for safety, and languishing under long curfew hours, which sometimes lasted 24 hours.

Some people were also arrested in connection with the disturbances, with some of them released after screening, others granted bail, while others are still in prison custody.

The consequences of these, have no doubt, brought untold hardships to many families/households or individuals.

So, the best one can say, to solve this catalogue of hardships, is for the people to put the past behind and call a spade a spade, and not a big spoon. This way, they would appreciate total peace, love, tranquility and understanding, as the cardinal principles on which quality life can be realized.

The good news is that the people are now seeming to be using all possible avenues to restore these principles, that the once shared and enjoyed. This is because, they have sought God's intervention recently, through a one-week fasting and prayers, organised by the Baptist Church.

Earlier, women of the various tribes in the Municipality, including Moshis, Hausas, Bisas, Zamaramas, Bimobas, Dagombas, and the two major ones, Kusasis and Mamprusis, had staged a demonstration against the conflict.

Clean-up exercises have also been organised in recognition of peace.

To establish the level of peace, inter-tribal integration and business activities in the Bawku township, Upper East File (UEF) took a painstaking sightseeing of the Municipality, which revealed that residents were ready to cooperate for peace to prevail.

A call on the Bawku Divisional Police Commander, Superintendent Peter Mawong Bilijiba, showed that for the past few months, the level of cooperation among residents of all tribes, was very encouraging.

The Divisional Commander said the feuding factions, now move and mingle with each other, on a daily basis. This was evidenced last Tuesday, when Moslems climaxed the Ramadan fasting, with prayers at separate prayer points, with worshipers moving in buses to pray with their counterparts at different points.

Moslems leaders from other tribes also joined, and led in some prayers.

Superintendent Bilijiba said, earlier the police thought there could be some skirmishes on that day, and therefore deployed a lot of men to avert any unforeseen event, but fortunately the celebration of the Ramadan festival was very peaceful.

He was however quick to add, that the police were not being complacent in handling the situation.

Mr. Abdulai Abanga, Bawku Municipality Chief Executive (MCE), expressed satisfaction with the level of calm, integration and cooperation in the municipality in the past few months, saying; “the situation is very good now.”

His worry however, was what he described as rampant robbery and stealing in the municipality, as a result of people looking for food to eat.

This confirmed a report by a source at Bawku that there had been rampant criminal activities, and robbery/stealing within and on the outskirts of the municipality.

The source told UEF that on September 26, one Issah Seidu was robbed of his motorbike, mobile phone and an unspecified amount of money, at Atuba near Binduri.

In order to control the political atmosphere, in the run up to the December polls, the MCE said the Municipal Security Committee had met with the various political parties' leaders and agencies, to spell out the basic rules for peaceful elections.

Mr. Abanga said with the level of the prevailing peace in the area, the presidential candidates of the various political parties could carry on with their campaigns. This they should do by notifying the police, at least, five days ahead of their visits.

He advised residents, as well as politicians, who would mount political platforms in the area, to solicit support to do their campaigns, based on issues and not tribalism.

They should see political parties, as entities that individual Ghanaians have the right to join, rather than attributing a particular party to a particular tribe.

At the Bawku Presbyterian Hospital, the Hospital Administrator, Mr. Cosmas Beyuo, said almost all the required personnel needed for the hospital to be in operation, were presently at post, and that all the surgical operations within the capacity of the hospital could now be carried out.

He said they had started the running of night duties again, after it was halted during the conflict. However, despite the presence of the military at the hospital, some staff still entertained fears of running night duties, and were therefore exempted.

According to Mr. Beyuo, two permanent medical doctors and another on locum at a fee, including four Medical Assistants were at post. There is one ophthalmologist in charge of the Eye Unit.

The hospital authorities are being tactical with the staff and clients, as far as their security was concerned.

He said in the heat of the conflict, certain allowances of the staff were upheld, because there was not enough money, but had now been restored.

Unlike the past few months, when attendance at the hospital was very low, due to lack of confidence and trust in the health personnel by the locals, the administrator said things were gradually picking up, with attendance increasing every day.

Men, who mostly stayed at home when sick, now report to the hospital for medical attention.

Mr. Beyuo revealed that among the top ten diseases, that are reported at the Out Patient Department (OPD) of the hospital, include malaria, acute eye infections/cataract, upper respiratory infections, typhoid, hypertension, urinary track infection, diarrhoea, anaemia, and pregnancy-related complications.

He disclosed that a branch of the Eye Unit of the hospital would soon be established in Bolgatanga, to handle eye-related problems within that municipality, and beyond.

A check at the statistical department of the hospital revealed that in January 2007, general OPD attendance was 9,561, but reduced considerably to 4,226 in January 2008.

Admissions in January 2007 was 1,536, but reduced to 390 in 2008, while deaths recorded in January 2007, were 34, but reduced to 4 in the same month of this year. OPD recorded 10,221 in January 2007, and 8,953 in January 2008.

These comparisons revealed that there had been low patronage of the hospital, since the beginning of the year, following the disturbances.

Mr. Beyuo appealed to the general public, to build confidence and trust in the staff of the hospital, so that they can report and seek medical attention.

The General Manager of the Northern Presbyterian Health Services, Mr. John A. Abugri, in an interview, confirmed that some of the staff, were still not sure of their security, and would not participate in night duties.

He advised the hospital authorities not to put pressure on such individuals, but find those who have no fear of the risk associated with night duties, to do the work, while the others could do the day duties until they lose their fears.

Mr. Abugri's worry was that there was too much of pressure on the few doctors in the hospital. He said one of the two doctors had not recognised his posting to the hospital, and was currently on leave.

The GM said ideally, the hospital needed not less than four general doctors, to able to serve its target population, which includes neighbouring Burkina Faso and Togo.

Mr. Abugri said the management had accumulated a lot of debts, as a result of the conflict, when the revenue base of the hospital was negatively affected.

From the view point of UEF, if these several interventions to restore absolute peace are anything to go by, then the government, religious bodies, organised groups, politicians, and all-meaning Ghanaians, can still continue to preach the message of peace to support these interventions.

To the residents of Bawku, there is no sense in denting your image any further, because it is time to seek absolute peace and not a fragile peace. Our common and bitter enemy is poverty, and that is what we should fight and not ourselves.

A word to a wise is enough!

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