Key actors in-charge of security at Ejura Sekyedumase, have taken to their heels, distancing themselves from the involvement of the personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces whose gunshots resulted in the murder of the two residents and the injury of many during a recent protest over the killing of a social media activist; Macho Kaaka.
The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of Ejura, Mohammed Salisu Bamba ,who is the Chairman of the security committee of the area, as well as the Ejura District Police Commander, DSP Phillip Hammond, have both denied inviting the military hit squad as reinforcement when situation got out of hand.
Meanwhile, the lack of expertise on the Commission of Inquiry set up by the Interior Ministry to probe the circumstances leading to the shooting is beginning to show daily in the line of questioning and attempts to shift blame at the hearing, and blaming the media for sparking the civil unrest, the military shootings and killings in the area.
In the case of the military involvement, the Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei-Mensah, had defended the military involvement in the tensions in Ejura, which saw soldiers kneeling and aiming at the protestors with their guns, killing two and injuring four.
The admission of the Regional Minister that he called in the military reinforcement is thus beating everyone’s imagination as to why the source of the military’s involvement is being further demanded by the Commission of Inquiry.
DSP Phillip Hammond, had told the three member committee probing the Ejura disturbances that he did not call for military support; he only called for reinforcement, but that did not mean that the soldiers must intervene.
Asked by a member of the Committee Dr Vladimir Antwi Danso whether the Police lacked the capacity to control the crowd for which the Military stepped in, he said “We requested for reinforcement, but it is not me personally as the District Commander who requested for the Military. I only requested for reinforcement and they are the team that were brought to me.”
On his part, the Municipal Chief Executive, said that being a practice in the town, whenever there seems to be a situation that could not be handled entirely by the police, they always called in backup from the nearest division at Mampong.
He, however, explained that when his regional minister informed him that support was coming in, he did not know it was the military that was being sent in.
He made this known during his testimony at the Commission of Inquiry.
When asked “Were you told who ordered the military to move to Ejura?” The MCE responded in the affirmative “Yes; the regional minister.”
“The regional minister? He told you or some other person?” the MCE said “No, he told me that he has requested for them to come and beef up security.
“Did he disclose to you why he had to get the military to move to Ejura?” The MCE stated “No!”
When asked “Did you find it necessary to ascertain why knowing that you had requested for backup from division and the region? Did you find it necessary? Why are you defending the military?” He responded “No, I didn’t ask why he [was] sending the military “He’s your boss?
The MCE stated “Not exactly. Because he has been on the grounds for some time and we all know the situation in Ejura whenever it goes out of hand, it’s mostly difficult for the police to handle.”
Asked “But at that stage, were you aware that the police could not contain the situation without backup that you had requested?” the MCE stated “I wouldn’t say so that the police couldn’t contain but the police force was in Ejura, whenever there’s a problem, we always call for support from Mampong; whenever.”
Interestingly, the Chair of the Committee who is also a Court of Appeal Judge George Kingsley Koomson, for his part is asking the media to accept criticisms from other members of the Ghanaian society.
He said inasmuch as the media have the right top criticise, others also do have the same right to subject their work to scrutiny.
His comments come after the Battalion Commander Lt Col Kwasi Ware Peprah, said no media house has spoken to him on the disturbances that occurred in Ejura, yet several reports have been filed.
“As we speak, no media house has spoken to me as the Battalion Commander,” he said.
In response to what he said, justice Kingsley Koomson agreed with his concerns regarding the media and said among other things that we also have the right to criticize the media.”
Lt Col Kwasi Ware Peprah, further told the committee that the aim of the Military was not to kill anybody during the upheaval.
“There was no plan to kill anyone during the Ejura disturbance. “The aim was not to kill, it was just unfortunate. If the aim was to kill then hundred people would have died.”
Meanwhile, Justice Kingsley Koomson, has recommended to the military to apply for plastic bullets to use in controlling crowds in Ghana.
He rejected the use of live bullets to disperse crowd since this can be fatal.
He said this when the General Officer Commander- Central Command, Brigadier General Josephs Aphour, appeared before the Committee on Wednesday July 7.
“I think the Military will put in application for plastic bullets we are talking at human lives, don’t be applying fire to live bullets,” Justice Kingsley Koomson said.
Brigadier General Josephs Aphour, while answering questions posed by members of the Committee said “My Battalion Commander called me the day of the incident that was happening in Ejura, the incident that we all know.
“Then I had a call from the Chairman of REGSEC that the situation was getting out of control and that there was the need for us at Operations Calm Lives to move inside, if not things will get out of control.”
Earlier, taking his turn before the three-member ministerial committee probing the violence in Ejura, the Ashanti Regional Minister was belligerent, saying his decision to request military presence was in line with the Security and Intelligence Agencies Act 1030.
“I’ve used this strategy all this while. This is the first time we have had casualties, and I think we should continue with it,” Mr Osei-Mensah said.
He, however, added that “there must be more education and communication between the various security agencies as to how to act under such circumstances.”
According to the Minister, the deployment was informed by intelligence that the youth planned to destroy the Ejura Police station and a house belonging to two suspects arrested in connection with the death of a social activist, Ibrahim Muhammed.
“So based on this information, I ordered the police and military to go to the town and maintain law and order, and I did so as Chairman of the Regional Security Council because the law grants me that power,” Mr Osei-Mensah explained.
The Ashanti Regional Minister, also refused pleas by the committee to disclose the identity of his informant, who he claims had told him of a plot by the angry youth to set the District Police Station ablaze.