Soldiers, Police clash in Upper East over camouflage

Some soldiers and police officers in the Upper East region flexed muscles Sunday in a row over a military uniform.

Tension mounted to an alarming peak where the police received strong orders amid war songs to unlock their arms depot in the regional capital, Bolgatanga, to open fire on a peacekeeping military detachment who, as a bloody showdown loomed heavily in the area, also converged at a spot to warm up for a deadly counter.

It took the Regional Minister, Rockson Bukari, who is also the Chairman of the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) to avert a rare military-police scuffle, which sparked a wave of terror through the capital Sunday afternoon, from turning the region completely on its head.

“When I arrived from church, I realised there were some soldiers moving with guns in the residency. The soldiers briefed me that they saw a policeman wearing their uniform and that they asked him to remove it. Later on, there was a scuffle. I rang the Regional Police Commander. There was tension. I overheard the police officers saying they were going to retaliate for their colleagues who were beaten. I heard the police were going to open the armoury and fetch weapons from it to attack the soldiers.

“I asked the Regional Commander to meet me at the Municipal Police Station. So, I rushed there. Having cooled the soldiers down, I also told the police to look at what is happening in Burkina Faso and how another trouble would mar the image of the Upper East. I have told them to work together as a team as we see how to resolve the matter as a family,” the Regional Minister told Starr News.

The Regional Minister also gave a strong indication that he would call a reconciliation meeting of the feuding security agencies to prevent the worrying development from disrupting the Tuesday’s Independence Day celebrations in the region.

“I will be meeting them again. The rehearsal is still going on. The Independence Day is coming. Some soldiers have come from Accra to give the region a sweet taste of firecrackers on Independence Day. There is going to be a parade. We don’t want that apprehension to be there. I’m going to meet them,” he added.

The Army’s side of the story

It all began in the morning hours of Sunday after some soldiers had arrived in the region from the national capital, Accra, to prepare the ground for the blasting of firecrackers in the regional capital as Ghana marks her 61st years of independence tomorrow.

The commander in charge of the military detachment in the capital, Lieutenant Rauf Bula, was moving through the regional capital with his driver on a spotty army vehicle when he spotted a man dressed in a military uniform but not resembling any of his men. The unfamiliar face was conversing in the street with a group of people believed to be his friends.

Thinking the stranger could be a member of the firecracker troop from Accra, Lt. Bula approached him to ask about preparations towards Tuesday. But his questions sounded strange to the stranger himself. And probing further, he realised that the supposed military officer and those around him were all policemen in casual wear.

Wasting no time further, he asked the police officer to go home and take off the uniform. But, backed by his colleagues, the policeman resisted strongly.

“He dressed like a military man, wearing a side-pocket [pair of shorts] and our green top. He said he was a police officer. I said, ‘Once you are a police officer, I will not take the uniform from you at that point. Go home and change it. You are looking like one of us and it is not right.’ He said he was a police officer. I said, ‘Yes, I know; but go and change.’ So, we moved about ten metres and I realised he was still there with a bunch of other civilians,” Lt. Bula told Starr News.

Continuing, he said: “I went back and I said, ‘Young man, go and change. You’re not supposed to be wearing those things.’ The other civilians— apparently, they were policemen—also said they were policemen, so why would I tell them to go and change. I said, ‘This is not a police camouflage. This is a military camouflage. Go and change.’ My driver got angry, saying, ‘This is not right.’ The police guys said he (the driver) was a common private and asked him to shut up. They were about six and they wanted to attack my driver. I told the driver to move the car to our base.”

“They pounced on me; my colleague ran away”— Assaulted Policeman

Lt. Bula moved to the army’s main base at the residency and returned with more men to the street to seize that uniform.

Eyewitness say a scuffle ensued at the soldiers’ second coming, with the men in khaki gaining the upper hand in the street struggle. As the soldiers managed to lift the military-dressed police officer onto their vehicle, the rest fled at a chaotic pace to the Bolgatanga Police Station to sound the alarm.

“Before we returned, he had removed the shorts but was still wearing the green top. There was confrontation. We held him and put him in the car. We drove him to his house for him to remove the uniform. We picked up the uniform. Immediately we sat in the car, the Regional Police Commander called me on the issue. He said we should take him (the police officer) to the police station and show the uniform to the charge office.

“When we got there, the police were amassing to attack us. I called my men and they all moved to my place to prevent any confrontation. Currently, the military camouflage is in our custody. The military camouflage was the bone of contention and we’ve taken it. We have no problem with anybody,” said the army commander.

When contacted through his mobile number, the Regional Police Commander, DCOP Redeemer Vincent Dedjoe, declined to comment, giving an excuse that the issue was too hot to touch on the telephone. But the police officer at the centre of the contention has been speaking to the media.

“I went to town to buy something in their military shorts because I had washed and had nothing to wear. So, I was on phone near their base when one of them approached me and asked whether I was one of them. I told him I was a police officer and he asked me to go home and remove it.

“All of sudden, some of his colleagues pounced on me and started beating me. You can even see how my back, waist and legs have been lacerated. My other colleague with me had to run away,” the officer, whose name is yet unknown, told Atinka News’s Senyalah Castro Cazo in Bolgatanga.

At present, the region looks calm as the soldiers have returned to their peacekeeping duty posts. And perhaps, there is none more relieved now than the Upper East Regional Minister who was gladly looking forward to a “Firecracker Independence Tuesday” until, whilst solemnly recapping a new hymn learnt at church on his way home Sunday, he learnt at the gates to his residence that his region had come close to something more serious in sound than a firecracker as a war-ready army repeatedly chanted “ahooo-ahoyaaa!” on his compound.

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