Rear Admiral A.R.S. Nuno-Acting Chief of Defence Staff The ancient Eastern regional town of Oda was virtually turned into a ghost town yesterday when rampaging soldiers from the Jungle Warfare School (JWS) from nearby Achiase invaded the area, assaulting every youth on sight.
What started as an argument between a taxi driver and a sachet-water (pure water) selling soldier in Oda degenerated into anarchy with military personnel from the Jungle Warfare School beating up male civilians and subjecting them to soldier-style punitive drills.
It was about noon when a vehicle from the JWS approached the main lorry station near Mandarina Hotel in the Eastern regional town laden with sachet water, commonly called pure water, for sale.
Soldiers at the JWS sell sachet water in bulk and so a spectacle of these military personnel discharging the product to customers is not uncommon.
A source told DAILY GUIDE that the unit produces pure water for sale officially and that it was not an anomaly.
The cabbie was said to have objected to an attempt by the soldier to jump the slow moving traffic jam.
The soldier could not stomach what for him was an insubordination and descended on the cabbie with a slap.
The taxi driver returned the slap and the ensuing fisticuff attracted other commercial drivers in the vicinity.
Siding with their colleague, other commercial drivers joined in beating up the soldier, an assault which hit a climax when one of the drivers used a wheel spanner to hit the head of the sachet-water selling military man.
When the heat at the arena subsided, the soldier returned to his JWS base to obviously report his ordeal to his unit mates.
Within a short while platoons of soldiers mounted trucks and headed for town. Male residents, DAILY GUIDE learnt, were assaulted on sight by the angry soldiers said to be led by a certain Captain Asamoah.
News about the rampaging jungle soldiers soon permeated the tropical rainforest town and people took to their heels for fear of the frightening reprisal from the military personnel.
When DAILY GUIDE spoke to a local radio station, Radio Dyke, a reporter who witnessed an aspect of the attack said he saw only two military vehicles and a number of persons undergoing punishment as they lay on the bare ground.
He added however that the soldiers only beat male adults who took to their heels on seeing them.
But for the timely intervention of the Oda Divisional Commander, ACP Atadana and some of his subordinates, the situation could have worsened.
As soon as the Divisional Commander and his team arrived at the scene those who were undergoing the punishments as they lay on the ground injured, were picked up and taken to the Divisional headquarters where their statements were taken.
This aspect of the story was disputed though, as 38 persons arrested by the soldiers after being subjected to beatings, were eventually dumped at the Police Motor Traffic Unit in the town.
The Divisional MTTU Commander, DSP Ayanga Yakubu said the law will take its course, pointing out that nobody was above the law.
DSP Ayanga said the CIP has taken over the investigations.
It surprised many though why the injured were not immediately taken for medical attention but underwent the long wait at the Police Station even as they endured the pain of the brutalities.
“I saw adult males lying on the ground as they underwent various punishments at the hands of their aggressors yesterday,” an anonymous resident told DAILY GUIDE a few hours after normalcy had returned.
Another version of what happened was that the pure water selling soldier met an obstruction at the entrance to the lorry station.
An argument ensued between him and the driver who had caused the obstruction, a development which became nasty when the angry soldier slapped the driver.
When the driver retaliated, his colleagues came to the scene and a wheel spanner was used to hit the head of the soldier.
The soldier returned later with the truckloads of military personnel from the JWS.
“Only women were exempted from the actions of the rampaging soldiers as they beat every adult male they met on the way. They used their web belts and the butts of their rifles to assault their victims in the course of which many of the victims sustained various degrees of injury,” an eyewitness told DAILY GUIDE.
When Col. E.W.K. Nibo, Ghana Armed Forces Director of Public Affairs was contacted, he said the military is investigating the matter but explained that preliminary report had it that a soldier from the JWS had the vehicle he was driving blocked by a taxi driver.
As the soldier queried the cabbie for doing so the matter degenerated into an argument and the military man was assaulted with a wheel spanner.
Soldiers from the JWS, he said, came to the scene to rescue their colleague, adding, “The military is investigating the matter.”
The JWS is situated at Achiase in the Eastern region and as one of the training institutions in the military, it falls under the Military Academy and Training Schools (MATS).
Soldiers here, as the name of the school implies, are specialists in jungle warfare and survival in the tropical rainforest environment. As an important segment of the military, the JWS has hosted many foreign soldiers in the past especially Americans who come to engage in joint military exercises and to acquire the jungle warfare experiences from their Ghanaian counterparts.
By A.R. Gomda