Ghana on Monday dropped treason charges against nine alleged separatist leaders accused of seeking an independent state for the people of the eastern Volta region.
The nine members of the Homeland Study Group Foundation (HGSF) were arrested in a police crackdown in May and charged with plotting to create a new nation to be named “Western Togoland”.
Multiple ethnicities live in the region, a place with a history of rule by three colonial European powers.
“The state is no longer interested in the case,” government prosecutor Winifred Sarpong told a trial hearing in Accra, prompting the court to drop the charges.
Among those released was the group’s 85-year-old leader Charles Kormi Kudzordzi, who was airlifted to the capital for the trial.
The HGSF group, which says it works to advance the rights of the people in eastern Ghana, welcomed the ruling.
“This is victory for democracy,” HSGF secretary George Nyakpo, who went into hiding from the authorities, told AFP.
“We won’t relent but we’ll get to know the next line of action when we congregate again.”
Some 80 other alleged separatists were detained in May in a police operation focused on the town of Ho, some 150 kilometres (95 miles) northeast of the capital Accra.
They have since all been released on bail or let off with a caution.
In 2017, the group’s leaders were arrested and warned not to engage in activities against the state.
Britain seized much of what is now Ghana, and Germany grabbed neighbouring Togo.
After Germany’s defeat in World War I, 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.
The separatists began campaigning in 1972 as the “National Liberation Movement of Togoland”, dominated by the Ewe tribal group.
Their calls to renegotiate borders sparked tensions between Ghana and Togo, and in 1976, Accra banned the group.