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21.04.2004 Regional News

Temporary Council to handle B/Ahieftaincy disputes

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Sunyani April 21, GNA - Mr. Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, Minister of the Interior said on Monday that the Government was concerned about chieftaincy disputes in Brong Ahafo and was making great efforts to help resolve them.

He said pending the institution of a permanent council or body to handle the situation, the Government in collaboration with the Brong Ahafo Regional House of Chiefs, had adopted innovative ways and means to handle the issue.

The Interior Minister was answering a question at a press briefing after a meeting with the Brong Ahafo Regional Minster, Nana Kwadwo Seinti, his Deputy Mr Yaw Adjei Duffour and security agents in Sunyani at the start of a two-day tour of the region.

Mr Owusu-Agyeman, who is MP for Koforidua North, later visited Gonokrom, a border town, where he inspected border installations and structures.

He was accompanied by Mr Edwin Barnes, Chief Director of the Ministry, Mr. William Asiedu, Acting Director General of the Ghana Prisons Service, Mr. Emmanuel Adugbire Atenga, Acting Chief Fire Officer and Ms. Elizabeth Adjei, Director of Immigration Service.

The Minister explained that the permanent council would not only handle chieftaincy issues in Brong Ahafo but the nation as a whole, adding that "the council will oversee chieftaincy issues at the national, regional and district levels".

Mr Owusu-Agyeman said the delay by the Government to have the Council in place was due to the understaffing position of the Attorney General's Department under whose ambit the council would operate.

r Owusu-Agyeman in response to another question on the resurgence of armed robbery in some parts of the country, admitted that the logistic needs of the security agencies, especially the police, were woefully inadequate to enhance their work.

He, however, noted that the situation had existed for a long time before the New Patriotic Party Government took power. "The state of neglect in the Police Service for the last 20 years before we assumed power makes things difficult to transform the system over night", he said.

The Minister added that the government was gradually trying to streamline and equip the Service to enable it to play its traditional role of maintaining law and order.

He said the Government had acquired a 12-million-dollar loan from India to purchase equipment for the Service.

The Government was also spending one million dollars in providing accommodation and other amenities for personnel of the Service, Mr Owusu-Agyeman said.

The Interior Minister announced that the numerical strength of the Police Service had increased from 16,000 to 20,000 thus improving the ratio of one policeman for 500 people during the NDC regime to one for 200 now.

He said another batch of police recruits were under training at various training centres in the country to be absorbed into the system to beef up the number.

"The security of the state is paramount and the government will not negate that responsibility," the Minister added.

Commenting on recent criticisms by some opposition parties on the mode of importation of ammunition into the country, Mr. Owusu-Agyeman said, "it is the prerogative of the security agencies to bring in ammunition to protect the state and that is exactly what is going on". He said the operations of some Fulani herdsmen in the country was a headache to the Government despite operation "Cow-Leg" and others, adding that the Ministry had formed sub-committees to deal with the situation.

r Owusu-Agyeman noted: "At first we thought the herdsmen would let common sense prevail but as things are going, I think the security has to be ruthless in efforts to redress the situation".

He said the security had started operations in some parts of Ashanti after which it would be the turn of the Eastern, to the extent of crossing rivers to reach target points.

The message of the operations was to tell the offending herdsmen that they better obey the laws of the land, since those of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) did not guarantee or insulate misbehaviour in any form by people from neighbouring countries, who might enter the country.

The Interior Minster cautioned chiefs who accepted herdsmen in their areas to operate to desist from the practice, since the law would deal firmly with such chiefs if found implicated. The Chiefs should rather advise the herdsmen to construct kraals to keep or confine their cattle instead of allowing them to roam and destroy farmers' produce. 21 April 04

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