The 66 Artillery Regiment of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) rounded up 21 people suspected to be linked to the separatist Homeland Study Group Foundation (HSGF) from a secret training camp at Kpevedui, near Dzodze in the Ketu North municipality in the Volta Region, yesterday.
The recruits, made up of 20 males and a female, were busted in a dawn raid on the training camp in a valley, buried deep in a thick forest at Feivu, near Kpevedui, where they had allegedly been taken through military training for the past one week.
Until the arrest, members of the group, who are mostly in their early 20s, were said to be undergoing military drills and physical training.
They were airlifted to Accra and placed in the custody of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) for further interrogations.
The Commanding Officer of the 66 Artillery Regiment in Ho, Lt Col Bernard Baba Pantoah, told journalists who joined the military to the secret training camp that the raid followed intelligence the military picked up about activities at the secret training camp.
“We got the information on Sunday afternoon that the secessionists were training in a secret camp, so we put a plan in place and launched the operation in the night.”
“By dawn, we had already surrounded the training camp with our 40 men from the 66 Artillery Regiment and two crime scene investigators,” he said.
He said the initial intelligence the regiment gathered was that there were 25 recruits undergoing the training, but some managed to escape.
“We are convinced that they are members of the Western Togoland secessionist group, but we will leave it to the investigative bodies to get to the details,” he said.
The Second-in-Command of the 66 Artillery Regiment, Major Jalali Din Ibrahim, who led the operation, said they closed in on the recruits in the dead of the night when they were asleep.
“We used the cover of darkness to enter the training camp. We surrounded it, went at them and captured them. We did not find any weapons, except a cartridge case that we believe was used here,” he said.
Major Ibrahim said they were still on the heels of the escapees and were also on the look out for any other such group elsewhere.
The military team and journalists who went on the trip had a hectic time getting to the location of the camp.
After a 20-minute drive from Dzodze, the team had to park and get down from the vehicles because the road was inaccessible. The walk to the camp took more than an hour.
And when the team got to the location, the recruits were surrounded by soldiers who kept an eye on them to ensure that they did not escape.
The recruits wore black shirts over tracksuits and trainers.
The Daily Graphic team observed that the place had been designed for physical training purposes, akin to what the military does.
Logs used for physical and endurance training were seen at the camp, while the base of trees served as sleeping places for the trainees.
There was also a makeshift kitchen where cooking utensils, water and foodstuffs were kept.
The personal effects of the recruits, including their bags, were seen at the training camp.
Some of the recruits the Daily Graphic interacted with said they had been recruited from areas such as Akatsi, Hohoe and Dzodze in the Volta Region; Kadjebi and Jasikan in the Oti Region; Abuakwa in the Ashanti Region, as well as Dodowa and Ashaiman in the Greater Accra Region.
They said they had been hoodwinked into believing that they were being recruited into the GAF, only to realise, on arrival at the camp, that it was not what they thought.
They said they paid GH¢800 to some persons who acted as the recruitment officials, on the recommendation of other people and friends.
Twenty-year Christian Agbeko, from Hohoe, said when they got to the camp and realised the situation they found themselves in, they wanted to retreat, but the camp managers said it was a journey of no return.
“They seized our mobile phones and threatened us with death if we attempted to leave the camp. As we sit here, the managers of the camp have done some charms and said if we go beyond a certain boundary, snakes will bite us,” he said.
Another recruit, Enus Agbenyo, shared similar concerns and added that he paid his money for the forms because someone known to him only as “Red” encouraged him to do so.
“They brought us here in the night and we do not even know our way out. When the soldiers came and fired warning shots, the trainers know the training area well so they managed to escape and we could not do so,” he said.
The only female in the group, Justin Abotsi, from Anlo Afiadenyigba, however, had a different story, as she claimed she was lured to the place under the guise of being given a job in a Chinese company.
“As I am here, I cannot train. I told my parents that I will call them when I get to the company, but I don’t have a phone any longer. Now they don’t know where I am,” she said.
Meanwhile, some of the recruits who paid their money for the recruitment through mobile money said the recipient’s name popped up as Samuel Gafa.
The HSGF, a group championing the secession of parts of Ghana along the border with Togo, declared independence for the territory they call ‘Western Togoland’ on November 16, last year.
The leader of Western Togoland independence, Charles Kormi Kudzodzi, announced the separation of Western Togoland from Ghana after a meeting in the Volta Regional capital, Ho.
After that announcement, some members of the group were arrested after they were alleged to have engaged in activities to champion the cause of the group.
On December 30, 2019, the Northern Regional Police arrested 18 people suspected to be part of the separatist group.
The arrest followed intelligence that some members of the alleged separatist group from Kpassa were holding a meeting in a primary school in Bimbila, with the aim of recruiting some youth to assist in their secessionist activities.
A joint military and police team was then deployed to the scene to arrest the 18 people.
On December 1, last year, the police in the Upper East Region also arrested 10 people said to be connected to the secessionist group.
The suspects were rounded up in an operation in Tumu in the Sissala East District.