A combined team of soldiers and police fired several times in the air for hours on Tuesday to avert a clash in the Ghanaian northern town of Tamale between supporters of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Three people were injured, while a motorcycle and a bicycle were burnt during the clash.
Residents of the town told IRIN that trouble had been simmering for about two weeks, after the mayor of Tamale directed butchers to remove NDC flags which they had hoisted above their butcheries. They reportedly complied, but placed the flags on sheds and tables within their establishments. The mayor again asked for their removal, but the butchers refused.
Early on Tuesday, a group of people stormed the butcheries, breaking tables and chairs. When the butchers reported for business and saw what had happened, they gathered to discuss their next course of action. An armed mob started advancing towards them, but the military intervened, fired several times in the air, and called for police and military reinforcements. Using armoured vehicles and a helicopter, the security forces cordoned off the market area and separated the two factions.
A source who has been following a chieftaincy crisis in the Dagbon traditional area, where Tamale is located, told IRIN that Tuesday's near-clash had its roots in the crisis.
He said that prior to general elections in 2000, the butchers had put up NPP flags and posters. However, they switched to the NDC after the Dagbon king was murdered in March 2002 following a kingship dispute between rival clans.
A state of emergency imposed after the death of the king was extended by President John Kuffour on 17 April.