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General News of Friday, 21 June 2002

Source: Graphic

4 AK-47 Rifles Were Retrived from Ya-Na's palace

THE driver of the military armoured vehicle stationed at Yendi, Sgt. George Cobbina told the Wuaku Commission yesterday that a team of soldiers that went to rescue the late Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II on March 27, this year, retrieved four burnt AK 47 assault rifles from the Gbewaa Palace.

The witness, who tendered the four guns in evidence, could, however, not tell how and when the guns found their way into the palace.

Sgt. Cobbina, who is attached to the Recce Regiment of the Three Garrison at Sunyani, was testifying before the Wuaku Commission inquiring into the Yendi crisis.

He told the commission that they could not move to the palace in time for the rescue mission due to the faulty battery, which prevented them from starting the Mowag.

Sgt Cobbina, who spoke in Twi for translation into English and Dagbani, said when they were conducting their normal patrols, the Mowag was in good shape. Led in evidence by Mr G. K. Owoo, counsel for the commission, the witness said on March 26, he detected that the battery was faulty so he reported it to the Commanding Officer of the Yendi Detachment, Lt. Billa, who advised that it should be sent to an electrician for charging.

Sgt Cobbina said it takes 24 hours for the battery to charge so he asked his Commanding Officer to see the District Chief Executive (DCE), Mohammed Habib Tijani, if he could be in the position to provide a new battery.

He said the DCE managed to get them a new battery in two hours to start the Mowag. They then continued their routine patrols in the Yendi township on the orders of the Commanding Officer until 3 p.m. that day.

Sgt Cobbina said around 8 p.m., they heard firing of gunshots and his commanding officer asked the Mowag team to go and find out what was happening but when he attempted to start the vehicle, it could not kick. The witness said at dawn on March 27, he woke up early and went to the electrical shop for the battery but he was told that the electrician had fled in view of the tension in the town.

He said on the orders of his commanding officer, he went to see the DCE who gave him a big padlock so that he would go and break into the electrical shop, take the battery, and lock the door with the padlock, adding that the DCE said he was ready to face the consequences if the electrician complained.

Sgt Cobbina said with the support of the DCE and his commanding officer, he and two other soldiers went to take the battery and fixed it to the vehicle, after which the officer told them to start the Mowag and move to the palace with three other soldiers to rescue the Ya-Na.

He said before their departure, the commanding officer told them to go with a certain man who was at the barracks, and on reaching the palace, the three other soldiers alighted with the man and entered the palace, where they brought two people alive. They later sent them to the military barracks. Sgt Cobbina said when he asked the two people about the whereabouts of the Ya-Na, they told him that he had gone to the police station. Asked by Mr Owoo whether the palace was burning when they reached there, he answered in the negative.

Sgt Cobbina stated that on the instructions of the commanding officer, they traced the Ya-Na to the police station but he was nowhere to be found. He said they went back to the palace where they collected the four AK 47 assault rifles when the building was in flames.

The witness said they tried to fire warning shots from the Mowag to scare the combatants, but the gun on the vehicle did not fire. He said they returned to the barracks to check what was wrong with the gun and it was detected that the firing pin was faulty.

Asked by Mr Owoo whether they checked the gun that morning, he answered in the affirmative and said it was in good condition but stated that the fault could occur at any time even in the course of war.

Asked by Prof Kwesi Yankah, a member of the commission, how many batteries the Mowag uses, the witness said two heavy12-volt batteries.

Probed further to find out how many of the batteries were faulty, the witness said both of them were and attributed it to an electrical fault.

Prof Yankah remarked, “This is the first time I am hearing this. So the DCE who helped you out also gave you two batteries,” to which the witness answered in the affirmative.

Prof Yankah expressed surprise because, according to him, the DCE and other witnesses who had testified before the commission mentioned only one battery. In an answer to the statement, Sgt. Cobbina said they might have said so because they did not know anything about the Mowag. To a question posed by Mr Justice I. N. K. Wuaku, chairman of the commission, whether the DCE brought a saloon car battery, he said they were two heavy duty batteries from the assembly’s refuse truck.

When questioned by Nana Obiri Boahen, leading counsel for the Abudus about the number of Mowags at Yendi, Sgt. Cobbina said it was only one.

Further asked by the counsel whether there was any point in time that the DCE joined the Mowag, the witness answered in the affirmative and stated that he joined them at the barracks to the palace during their second trip to the place. To another question by Nana Boahen as to whether the DCE joined the soldiers when they were entering the palace, he said he alighted from the Mowag but could not tell whether he entered the palace.

Sgt Cobbina said at the palace, he did not see people exchanging gunfire. Answering a question from Mr Charles Hayibor, leading counsel for the Andanis on the purpose for the “Operation Gong-Gong,” witness said it started in the Northern Region in 1992 during the northern conflict.

He stated that they do not keep records on the maintenance of the Mowag except when they are purchasing major parts for it.

Another witness, Kula-lana Abdulai Yahaya, a member of the Council of Elders under the late Ya-Na Andani, narrated how the Regional Minister, Prince Imoro Andani, went to Yendi to lift the curfew on March 24.

He said after the lifting of the curfew, the Ya-Na asked his elders to celebrate the fire festival, but when the Abudus started shooting on March 25, the king ordered them to stop the celebration.

Yahaya said during the shooting, a bullet hit the son of one of the elders and the Ya-Na asked him to send him to the Yendi Hospital, where he was treated. He said on March 26, Musa Abdulai was hit in the waist by a bullet and he sent him to the Yendi Hospital from when he was referred to the Tamale Hospital and again referred to a hospital in Accra, where he is still on admission.

Yahaya said on Tuesday and Wednesday, he was at the Yendi Hospital taking care of some Andanis, who had been wounded, when he heard drumming, which according to their custom, meant something bad had happened.

The witness stated that people were running helter-skelter, saying the Ya-Na had been killed so he rushed home where he was told two men in local bullet proof attire had come in search of him in order to kill him so he escaped on his motorbike to Tamale. He lodged a complaint with the Tamale police.

To a question by Nana Obiri Boahen, whether he found out from the DCE why the curfew was imposed, Yahaya said it is only the Ya-Na who has power to ask such a question.

In an answer to another question as to whether the Regional Minister was hooted at when he went to the Bolin-Lana’s palace to inform the Abudus about the lifting of the curfew, he said it was the Regional Minister who told them. Witness, however, became impatient as Nana Boahen posed more question to him but the lawyer advised him to exercise restraint, as they were all interested in finding out the truth of the matter.

Nana Boahen suggested that one Diba who was killed came to Yendi purposely to fight for the Andanis since he was not a native of Yendi, to which he said he could not tell.

In answer to another question by Nana Boahen, the witness said the Andanis were not at war with the Abudus, else the Ya-Na who is the overlord of Dagon could have marshalled all his forces to fight.

Asked by Mr Justice Wuako whether the Andanis fought back when the Abudus were firing, Yahaya said they did not fight because they did not have guns. To another suggestion by Mr Justice Wuako that as an elder of the Ya-Na who is always at the palace, he should be in the position to know all people who came to the palace, he answered that he could not recognise everybody who came to the palace, as they were many.

The third witness for the day, Ishahaku Wumbei, a security guard at the Northern Region Rural Integrated Programme (NORRIP) at Yendi said 70 people took refuge at the organisation’s guest house at Yendi, and he took down a list of their names.

He said the organisation fed them free of charge for the three days that they were at the guesthouse.

Asked by Mr Hayibor whether he knew the people who sought refuse at the guesthouse, witness said he knew some of them who were Abudus. He said he did not notice anybody from the Andanis side among the refugees. When Mrs Florence Brew, a member of the commission asked whether the NORRIP guesthouse was owned by anybody from the Abudus Gate, he said the organisation is an NGO supported by the Ministry of Economic Planning. Sitting continues.