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Politics | Nov 23, 2004

Violence Looms Over Bawku

Chronicle

... 7 injured, Hawa calls for calm Chronicle -- Violence is raising its hideous head again in the Upper East Regional town of Bawku Central in the electioneering campaign ahead of the December 7 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

The area remains tense, following recent acts of hooliganism displayed by some loyalists from the camp of some aspiring parliamentary candidates vying to unseat the incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP, Madam Hawa Yakubu.

Currently, there are five candidates, including an independent vying for the Bawku Central seat. These are from the NDC, NPP, CPP and the PNC.

The incident, which took place on November 14, left seven supporters of the MP, including the driver of an NPP pick up with various degrees of injuries. The matter was reported to the Police in Bawku.

Three weeks earlier, Madam Yakubu, returning from a funeral around 6:15 PM was allegedly attacked upon approaching the area of the independent candidate.

A heavy metal was thrown at her ECOWAS diplomatic vehicle, completely damaging the door.

Madam Yakubu compared the impact of the metal on the car to that of a car crash.

Two weeks afterwards, a Nigerian-registered vehicle with a Nigerian driver who was returning from delivering some building materials to the MP in Bawku but incidentally ran into a little girl right in front of the NDC candidate's house, was allegedly beaten up mercilessly. She said one of her party vehicle's windscreen, was damaged in the process, whilst her personal security, a policeman was also slapped.

This incident occurred whilst the MP, a member of the ECOWAS Parliament based in the Nigerian capital, Abuja was said to be heading to that country.

Madam Yakubu told The Chronicle on Friday at the Kotoka International Airport, just before her departure to her troubled constituency that she had to cut short her visit to Abuja due to the situation.

She described the incidents as major violence and appealed to the security agencies to intensify their presence in Bawku to curtail any attempt to disrupt the election process in the area.

The 'Iron Lady' said heavy security in Bawku would make all the candidates feel secure.

Violence erupted in Bawku following the announcement of the 2000 election results, which saw Madam Yakubu retaking the seat she had lost in 1996, from the National Democratic Congress MP. Her home was burnt down in the process and she had to flee to Accra.

“I want a peaceful election,” she said. “I have appealed to my supporters to remain calm, I do not want them to inflict any injury on any of the supporters of my opponents, because I am a woman of peace.”

Madam Yakubu, who was recently named in Nigeria as the only female peace envoy in West Africa, told The Chronicle that although she was not around when the attack on the Nigerian driver took place, she hoped this time, the police would take a serious view of the matter to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The MP said she could not understand why people could administer instant justice to someone involved in an accident without referring the matter to the police.

She said without trying to defend the driver, in such a case, it was for the police to arrest the driver, impound the car or take other legal actions.

Madam Yakubu expressed worry over the people taking the law into their own hands and said it was time the police took a firm decision on this issue.

She recalled an incident when she met the independent candidate, an NPP breakaway, in a convoy while she was traveling to one of the communities in her constituency. She said she had parked on the right side of the road to give way for the convoy to pass but instead, they stopped and barricaded the whole road.

Madam Yakubu said upon seeing her security, however, they left and went to her area where she alleged they fired three warning shots to the hearing of security personnel detailed there.

Madam Yakubu said even though the attack on her while she was returning from the funeral had been reported to the police, up to now, no action had been taken.

“I received a lot of these things when I was in opposition, in government it is still happening. I am not saying government structures should be used to harass people but the law should take its course,” she insisted.

She continued: “Names have been mentioned, we saw the people who did that, and reports have been made. It was my personal security that went to make the report. You see, these are the difficulties.”

She said the only frustration she was faced with was the inability of the Police in Bawku to act on these assaults and crimes that were being committed by people.

Told that her critics thought it was time for her to leave the seat for others to contest, Hawa said the reason she contested was to bring peace to the area because she was like a compromise candidate for the people and, being the hub of peace, until she saw a strong contestant who could unite the people, she would remain in contention.

“See how long politicians elsewhere stay, they stay as long as the issues remain relevant.”

Madam Yakubu said all she wanted was a free and fair election in the area and appealed to the Electoral Commission to take note of the indelible ink; saying the ones that were usually sent to her area were diluted and this made it easy for people to remove it and double vote.

She suggested that the ink used in South Africa be used here. She, however, called for the presence of more international observers in Bawku, to ensure that the election there was free and fair.

She said even though the security agencies were doing their best, there was the need to increase their presence.

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