Police in the Brong Ahafo Region are yet to make any arrest hours after some unknown assailants fired gunshots into a thick crowd of Japekrom inhabitants at Drobo.
Two persons have so far been confirmed dead, while 14 others are in critical condition over the incident which occurred on Wednesday.
The 14 people are currently on admission at the Sampa Government Hospital receiving treatment.
The Public Relations Officer of the Brong Ahafo Regional Police Command, Chief Inspector Augustine Kingsley Oppong, in an interview said security has been beefed up in the rival towns of Japekrom and Drobo to prevent any reprisal attack.
“Stray bullets started coming in from different angles and 15 people were injured through that. They were immediately rushed to Sampa hospital where one was pronounced dead. During the patrols with the military in town, we also spotted a certain taxi in front of the district assembly and found somebody also suspected to have died. Immediately we sent the body and he was pronounced dead at the Drobo hospital.”
He said the place is currently calm, and that police and military personnel have been stationed at vantage points to forestall further attacks.
“The prevailing calmness in Drobo and Japekrom will continue. We have not arrested any person. Prior to the incident, police were there to help the people to organize the festival in peace. And when this incident occurred we added more men and military too come to support. We have enough men at Drobo to protect the citizenry,” he added.
Japekrom and Drobo, both twin towns, are said to have a long history of rivalry over land.
A 42-year old native of Japekrom and a father of five in the Jaman South District, Wofa Sina Atta, died earlier on Wednesday after the shots were fired from the unknown gunmen in Drobo.
The deceased, who is well-known as the Mbrantehene (Youth Leader) of Japekrom, was among those leading the townsfolk including chiefs, as part of activities marking their Munufie Festival when the shooting took place on Wednesday afternoon.
The gunmen were reportedly hiding in a storey-building, believed to be the Palace of the Drobo Chief, where they shot from according to the Police.
Chief Inspector Augustine Kingsley Oppong, said natives of Japekrom as part of their festival, had visited a Crocodile River at Mpuasu, to perform some rituals when the incident occurred.
“According to them [Japekrom natives], it’s their spiritual River and they had to go and have a spiritual bath. And the same tradition also goes that when they’re coming back from the River they should walk. So gathering people in a bus from Japekrom to the Mpuaso area and coming to their town, on reaching a section of the road in front of the Drobo Palace, they got down from their vehicle and were about to walk. Ahead of them they saw a certain barrier. For that matter they were moving in convoy; they reached there and there was an attack from a storey-building which is the palace of Drobo.”
“From the shooting that came from the top of the storey-building, we’ve gotten about fifteen victims so far; and one has been pronounced dead,” he said earlier on Wednesday.
Chief Inspector Augustine Kingsley Oppong said they are investigating the incident to ensure that the culprits are arrested and brought to book.
“We’ve put our intelligence on the ground, and we believe that we will be able to arrest those who committed this heinous offence,” he added.
Meanwhile, a native of Japekrom, Alhaji Amadu Osman Rafat, who survived the attack, said that the injured persons could not be treated at the Drobo Government Hospital which is closer, for fear of their attackers.
As a result, they had to be driven for about one hour to a Hospital in Sampa. He thus fears the death toll may rise.
Alhaji Amadu Osman Rafat, who’s a younger brother to he deceased youth leader, described the shooting experience as a “war zone”, saying he was yet to locate some of his family members, as virtually all the residents of the town had run for their lives.
He added that the entire town is in a state of shock and fear, although military personnel and police officers have stormed the area.
He however wondered how some police officers, who had led them to the River, were suddenly nowhere to be found during the shooting.
Ruling on disputed land
Some reports say in the year 2000, the relationship between the two towns grew sour following a Sunyani High Court ruling in a land dispute.
The court ruled that the matter be referred to the Stool Lands Boundary Demarcation Committee, which is the body empowered with jurisdiction over the matter.
The chief and people of Japekrom supposedly regarded the High Court’s decision as a victory and jubilated in the town, a situation which nearly led to a clash between the two towns just after the ruling.
It is however unclear whether this attack is linked to that rivalry.