The Ashanti Regional Minister Simon Osei-Mensah, has appeared before the Ministerial Committee of Enquiry probing the recent disturbances at Ejura, which has claimed the lives of three people.
The Committee was put together by the Interior Minister, Mr. Ambrose Derry to look into the circumstances that led to the shooting of two civilians by military personnel during a demonstration that followed the death of one Ibrahim Mohammed, alias Kaaka.
The Committee is chaired by Justice George Kinsley Koomson, an Appeals Court Judge with Prof Vladimir Antwi-Danso, a Security Expert and Ms Juliet Adiema Amoah, Executive Director of Penplusbyte, a Civil Society Organisation as members.
Ms Marie Louise Simmons of the Attorney General’s Department is the Secretary to the Committee.
The Regional Minister in his testimony submitted a video in which some angry youth were seen chasing away a Police Water Cannon, which, he said, could have triggered the shooting incident.
He said the Police driver retreated as the rampaging youth charged on the vehicle and that it was at that point that the military stepped forward, resulting in the shooting.
The Minister who is also the Chairman of the Regional Security Council, however, said the identities of the person who shot the two persons were yet to be established.
He also refused to disclose the identity of the source of the video, arguing that the disclosure could endanger the life of the source and also discourage others from volunteering information in the future.
Not even the assurance of members of the Committee to engage the witness in camera would convince the Regional Minister to produce the source, insisting that they should consider him as the source of the video.
The Chairman of the Committee then reminded the Minister that the Committee had the mandate to protect such witnesses but the Minister only told the Committee that he would consult the source whether he was willing to appear before the Committee in camera.
Narrating how news of Kaaka got to him, Mr. Osei-Mensah told the Committee that he received a call on June 28 that the victim had been clubbed by unknown persons and had been rushed to hospital.
He said he travelled to Accra that same day for a Regional Ministers’ meeting and that he was in Accra when he received a call that Kaaka had passed on.
“I later picked intelligence that Kaaka’s death could cause problems with some youth planning to cause mayhem in Ejura,” he told the Committee.
The Regional Minister said he called the Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion Infantry, Lt Col Kwasi Peprah to dispatch some members of Operation Calm Life to protect the Ejura Township that night.
He said the team after spending the night at Ejura, left the town on June 29 but there was another intelligence that the youth were planning to attack the Ejura Police Station and the houses of the two suspects who had been picked by the Police for allegedly attacking Kaaka.
According to the Minister, he once again requested the Military Commander to dispatch another team to Ejura based on the new intelligence to avert the impending attack by the youth.
“I took this decision in line with the Security and Intelligence Act 1030, section five that establishes the Regional Security Council, section six that provides for the membership of the Council and section seven that talks about the functions of the Council,” Mr Osei-Mensah emphasized.
He said later that day while he was still in Accra attending the meeting, he received the unfortunate news that there had been shootings in Ejura, leading to the death of two civilians.
The Regional Minister said he convened a REGSEC meeting on June 30 where the Council was briefed about the situation in Ejura and proceeded to the town on July 1 to have first-hand information on the disturbances.