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20 arrested in separatist crackdown in Ghana

Heavily armed police forces guard the convoy of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in front of the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana, 12 December 2017. Steinmeier is kicking off his four-day visit to Africa in Ghana. Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

Police in Ghana have arrested at least 20 people accused of preparing to declare an eastern region as an independent country, police said Wednesday.

The men, arrested in and around the town of Ho, some 150 kilometres (95 miles) northeast of the capital Accra, are accused of leading a campaign for a separate nation called “Western Togoland”.

It follows the arrest of eight men on Sunday. Those arrested include the group’s leader, 85-year-old Charles Kormi Kudjordji.

They face charges of conspiracy to commit treason, as well as charges connected to the alleged training of a militia force.

“Members of the group are being picked up,” a police officer said, who asked to remain anonymous as “a joint police-military security operation” was ongoing.

“So far we’ve picked up 20 members and we hope to arrest more,” the officer said.

A member of the group, Forster Agbormenya, confirmed the arrests.

Police said the men were part of a group called the “Homeland Study Group Foundation”, or HGSF.

The group formed in 1994, and says it works to advance the rights of the people in eastern Ghana, which it calls Western Togoland.

In 2017, HGSF leaders were arrested and warned not to engage in activities against the state.

Multiple ethnicities live in the region, a place with a history of rule by three colonial European powers.

Britain seized much of what is today Ghana, and Germany grabbed neighbouring Togo.

After Germany’s defeat in World War One, the land was split between British Togoland and French Togoland.

When Britain left its empire in Africa, British Togoland became part of eastern Ghana in 1956.

But separatists say the area has its own unique history and culture, and want a country of their own.

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