In Summary
  • A joint police and military operation cracked down this month on a group that said it was preparing to declare its own nation in the eastern Volta region bordering Togo.
  • The separatists, members of the innocuous-sounding "Homeland Study Group Foundation", or HSGF, call their dream country "Western Togoland".
  • Police say the group not only has an anthem, constitution and flag, but is also training a militia force.
  • Historians reject a claim by separatists that in 1956 the people of Togoland were promised another referendum after 50 years.

ACCRA,

With his white hair and walking stick, Charles Kormi Kudzordzi does not look like the leader of a revolutionary separatist movement seeking to forge a new West African nation.

Even his supporters call the frail 85-year old "Papavi", or grandfather.

But Ghana's security forces are not taking any chances.

A joint police and military operation cracked down this month on a group that said it was preparing to declare its own nation in the eastern Volta region bordering Togo.

Soldiers blocked roads and stormed houses, arresting 89 people across the region, most of them around the town of Ho, 150 kilometres (93 miles) northeast of Ghana's capital Accra.

DREAM COUNTRY

The separatists, members of the innocuous-sounding "Homeland Study Group Foundation", or HSGF, call their dream country "Western Togoland".

"We are not leaving anything to chance," said Prince Dogbatse, Volta region police spokesman. "We're on high alert... to protect the territorial boundaries of Ghana."

Police say the group not only has an anthem, constitution and flag, but is also training a militia force.

The Volta region is also a stronghold of Ghana's main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

DEATH PENALTY

A video taken by a local journalist of the arrests shows Kudzordzi leaning heavily on a carved wooden stick, flanked by men in combat helmets and automatic rifles leading him towards a military helicopter.

The retired teacher pauses, as if out of breath, before getting in.

Kudzordzi was flown to the confines of the high-security walls of Ghana's Bureau of National Investigations in Accra, accused, with seven other men, of being the group's leaders, and charged with treason.

They risk the death penalty if found guilty.

Kudzordzi -- who was granted bail but could not meet the conditions -- will next appear in court on May 22 with his co-accused.

A further 81 supporters have been released on bail on illegal gathering charges.

NO VIOLENCE

Separatists say the Volta area has a unique history and culture and warrants being its own country, but reject accusations of planning violence to achieve their goal.

"Our activities have always been in the open," the fugitive secretary of HSGF, George Nyakpo, told AFP.

Local lawmaker Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor accused police of heavy-handedness.

"We are in a democratic state, and you don't just arrest people because you think they have an intention to demonstrate," said Dafeamekpor.

"It's a storm in a tea cup."

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