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30.07.2004 Regional News

Haggle Over Price of Tomatoes, Youth Knifed to Death

By Chronicle

... 4 Others Escape Narrowly

Ten tears after a haggling over the price of a guinea fowl had culminated in an ugly war up North, a big-boned, huge framed, six-foot youth, eking out a living by buying tomatoes at a farm gate at Derma, in the Bechem district of Brong Ahafo for retail, was stabbed in the back of the head and run over with a vehicle, leading to his death and a subsequent explosive stand-off between tomato queens and their drivers and subjects in Accra and the various regions, and tomato farmers in the area.

Four people were injured, according to the reports, one very seriously, all from stabs and cudgels.

The incident occurred at about 9.30 in the evening when the whole community was virtually asleep.

Blood was still trickling down from the gory wound at the back of the head of the deceased when this reporter raced to the Sunyani Government Hospital to certify the case.

The corpse had lacerations around the waste-line and a distended lower abdomen. The pathologist was, however, yet to do his professional duties at the time of going to press.

No arrests had been made at the time of writing the story, but police had given indications that they were descending on the farming community Tuesday morning to arrest suspects, after having had a handful of drivers and traders write out their statements.

Eye witnesses told the Chronicle on Saturday that, late last week Wednesday, the deceased, Moses Kwablah, alias Taller, became a victim of circumstances when he tried to intervene in an incident in which a female trader was being manhandled by unidentified youth from the town allegedly over rates she had paid for a carton of tomatoes.

The unidentified female trader had allegedly haggled over the price of a carton of tomatoes with an unidentified farmer and paid for it when "the real owner" heard the report and decided he or she was not going to accept that offer which was lower by some ten thousand cedis.

The "real owner" made quite some noise about the issue and raced to the outskirts of the town in protest. Some youth who were taken in by the protest took sides and began pummeling and stabbing the deceased who had by this time aided the defenceless woman to escape death.

One account had it that the stab was going in the direction of her abdomen when she swerved in fright and clutched her driver, who also, in panic, sped off. The traumatized woman, who received a deep cut in the thigh, is back in Accra, licking her wounds, but police indicated she would be needed in Derma to assist with investigations.

The driver having sped off, the deceased was left alone, together with a driver at the mercy of the assailants.

A chop on one leg with a cudgel flattened him to the ground, as the blood oozed from the punctured head. The paper learnt that in falling down, he went half way under the vehicle. The goons, apparently on drugs and perceiving that the Taller chap was dying, turned the heat on the driver who was simultaneously being assaulted, to jump into the seat and drive off, so he would run on the helpless body and leave the world guessing the real cause of the death of the 27 year old trader.

It was not clear whether that driver, Abas Mohammed, 35, who also received a stab, knowingly or unknowingly or, for fear of his life, was the same person who did run over the helpless body in an escape bid.

Nana Owusu Asante II, Chief of Derma, who was in a funeral mood, stated through a linguist that he was prepared to hand over the culprits, if they really were men from his town and if investigations proved that Derma had been trading with Accra, since 1971 A worried tomato queen, Madam Afoley of the December 31st Market, told the paper the leadership of the tomato traders association were getting increasingly worried about recurring reports of assaults on their people, especially by farmers in that particular districts, and hoped the security agencies would act promptly before the situation degenerated into an unmanageable conflict.

As the paper went to press, tons of tomatoes were either going waste on farms in the communities or being sold at prices far cheaper than the rate that led to the murder of the 27 year old Taller as a result of the stand-off.

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