May 5, 2008 / 7:31 PM / 11 years ago

Ghana sets curfew after five killed in tribal clash

(Adds confirmation of five dead, army reinforcements)

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA, May 5 (Reuters) - Fighting between rival northern tribesmen in normally stable Ghana has killed five people, prompting the government to send in hundreds of troops to impose a local daytime curfew, a minister said on Monday.

The clashes between the Kusasi and Mamprusi tribes erupted in Bawku on Sunday after a prominent Kusasi man was shot dead on his way home from mosque late on Sunday, Interior Minister Kwamena Bartels told Reuters.

"As a result of this, violence exploded and there was burning of houses and other properties. So far I can confirm five people dead," he said.

Bartels said Bawku had calmed after hundreds of soldiers and police reinforements had been drafted into the area to enforce a curfew between 9 a.m. on Monday and 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

But Jagri Pio, a student who was staying in Bawku when the violence began, said hostilities continued on Monday afternoon, when he saw around 30 armed civiilans shooting in the town.

"They are all over the place. Many of them were shooting from the gutters along the roads and from in between houses," Pio told Reuters by telephone.

Ghana is one of West Africa’s most stable nations and though many people are poor it enjoys relative prosperity thanks to thriving cocoa farms and Africa’s second biggest gold industry, both centred far to the south of Bawku.



RUMBLING CRISIS

Bawku, which lies on Ghana’s borders with Burkina Faso to the north and Togo to the east, has seen outbreaks of violence in recent months between the Kusasi and Mamprusi tribes.

An overnight curfew was imposed earlier this year when the government sent in scores of extra police officers and soldiers.

The worst violence began in late December when a dispute over land rights triggered fighting between rival groups of youths during a tribal festival in the town.

More than 1,000 people were killed in ethnic clashes in Ghana’s less developed north in the mid-1990s.

Rivalry over land rights and disputes over lines of succession to the traditional chieftaincies, which hold significant influence in many African societies, have been triggers for previous violence.

President John Kufuor, due to stand down following elections in December after the maximum two terms in office, met Kusasi and Mamprusi elders in March but failed to halt the violence.

Local newspapers quoted police officials at the time saying that 17 people had been killed during weeks of sporadic clashes.

The Bawku unrest is at odds with the investor-friendly image Ghana has cultivated as one of West Africa’s most politically calm countries, with a steadily growing economy to match.

Ghana’s debut international sovereign bond issue last year was oversubscribed, economic growth is targeted to reach 6.5 percent in 2008, and the country is due to begin its first significant oil production in the next two to three years. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com) (Writing by Alistair Thomson; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Richard Balmforth)



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