Footwear of mourners has continued to flood the doorsteps of the family of a senior high school student attacked and killed in the recent chieftaincy-related clash in Bolgatanga, the Upper East regional capital.
Sumaila Mohammed, aged 20 years, died Tuesday of gunshot wounds at the Tamale Teaching Hospital in the Northern Region, 3 days after some men had opened fire at a motor tricycle carrying him with two others towards the main lorry station in the regional capital.
There was a heavy exchange of gunfire on that Saturday night, with AK 47 assault rifles and pump action guns on display, as men from the two royal factions at Atulbabisi set houses on fire and slashed each other with machetes. Sumaila, cited as one of the extraordinarily brilliant students at the General Arts Department of the Zuarungu Senior High School (ZUSEC), was shot in the stomach after the men, yet to be identified, stopped the vehicle, widely referred to as “Mahama Camboo”, near the Golden Jubilee Park.
Another person found on the vehicle was shot in the hand. The two victims, after their assailants had fled the scene, were rushed to the Upper East Regional Hospital where Sumaila received intensive care for two days before his referral to the Tamale Teaching Hospital. His demise brings the death toll to 3 after a clash that left several people injured mostly in the head and property valued at thousands of cedis destroyed.
The body of the slain student, who though a General Arts student had dreamt of becoming an electrical engineer, was buried Thursday in front of a compound dominated by houses built with red earth at Tanzui, a rocky suburb of Bolgatanga where he lived as the second child to his parents, both still alive. Moments after the burial, members and friends of the family stood on their feet a few metres away from the grave to address the press as people streamed into the sober yard to mourn with the grieving parents.
“We call on the two gates, the two factions, to try as much as possible to [resolve] the dispute that is currently happening in Bolgatanga. We further call on the security agents to control the tension and arrest all those involved in such tensions and allow the law to take its course. We would like to add that the security agents should act professionally in reducing the deaths of innocent souls that are not involved in the dispute,” Timothy Ayine, spokesperson for the Azurebaa Family, entreated at the press conference.
Tanzui not involved in chieftaincy dispute- Bereaved family
The family of the deceased student, whilst addressing the media, dissociated the entire community of Tanzui from the protracted chieftaincy feud that took Atulbabisi, home to the two rowing royal factions, back to grim headlines at the weekend.
“There have been rumours going round that Tanzui is involved in the chieftaincy dispute. We wish to state emphatically that the alleged involvement is not true,” Mr. Ayine said.
The late Sumaila, a second-year student desirous of a holiday job so he could earn money to support himself after reopening of schools, had been attached as an assistant driver to that motor tricycle on which he was fatally shot a week before his school was scheduled to reopen. He was not behind the steers when the bullets struck in the dark. He was sitting with a passenger who also got shot in the attack.
“He wouldn’t have died if the schools had reopened on time. If the release of feeding grants had not been delayed, he would have returned to school before the time the clash happened. He wouldn’t have been around. He wouldn’t have died,” Sumaila’s cousin, Seidu Akurugu, moaned by the boy’s grave.
Further deaths could escalate conflict- Family warns
The bereaved family wrapped the conference with warnings that further deaths of natives of communities not involved in the age-old strife at Atulbabisi could heighten tension in the regional capital.
“Again, during such times (clash incidents), we ask the media to circulate information to all and sundry that at this particular time, there is tension at this place so that people would be aware and would not get close to such areas. And when this happens, it would prevent further [deaths of innocent people].
“We would also like to call on government to, as a matter of fact, try as much as possible to mitigate or solve this dispute and let the law choose the leader for Bolgatanga; if not, [more] communities would be invited to the fight. If an innocent person is killed, it further invites that family or the community of that person to the fight. So, government should try as much as possible to let the law take its course for peace to prevail in Bolgatanga,” Mr. Ayine stressed.
Meanwhile, the Upper East Regional Minister and Chairman of the Regional Security Council (REGSEC), Rockson Ayine Bukari, has called on the opposing factions to remain calm whilst the security agencies hunt the perpetrators to bring them to justice.
“We in developing countries like Ghana pay a heavy price if we allow chieftaincy, religious and land disputes to become endemic in our society, because it deters foreign investors from coming in to invest. It has been said that instability is the greatest obstacle to doing business in any society or country,” the Regional Minister stated when he met with the two factions earlier in the week.