General News of Friday, 11 April 2003
Close associates of ex-President Jerry John Rawlings have hinted that one of the highlights that Ghanaians should expect from Rawlings when he appears at the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) is his defence of the 1979 executions.
They gave this hint in a chat with The Daily Dispatch over various statements made by the former Chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). These include: that he (Rawlings) had no regrets about the 1979 executions and that the executed officers had incomplete trials. The 17th anniversary celebration of the 31st December Revolution in 1998 provided an opportunity for the ex-President to make one of the most unfortunate statements about the 1979 executions. He said “I have no regrets about it. We had to take responsibility for it. The point is that the bigger criminals were around and are still around. You can go and quote me”.
The former Chairman of the AFRC made another startling revelation in 1981 that the trial of the eight senior military officers who were executed “was incomplete. This, was because the AFRC did not complete investigations into the assets of the eight”. The then Flt-Lt made this statement when he testified at the Supreme Court in the Constitutional case involving a former Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr B.S.K. Kwakye on June 24, 1981. The former IGP was seeking a declaration from the court that he was neither tried, convicted nor sentenced by any Special Court established by the AFRC. He also contended that the purported sentence of 25 years imprisonment imposed on him was infringement on his fundamental human rights and inconsistent wit the Constitution.
In his evidence, Rawlings told the court that Mr Kwakye was properly tried and that since Kwakye’s name appeared on the final list compiled by the AFRC Special Court, he was convinced that the former IGP was tried. He admitted before the court that there was not enough time for the AFRC to review all the cases and that some had to go with the sentences announced at the time of conviction.
The eight senior military officers who were executed on June 16 and 26, 1979 included three Generals, who were all former Heads of Stated – Okatakyie Kwasi Amankwa Afrifa; Ignatius Kutu Acheampong and Fred William Kwasi Akufo. The others were Rear Admiral Joy Amedume (former Navy Commander); Air Vice-Marshall George Yaw Boakye (former Air Force Commander); Major-General Edward Kwaku Utuka (former Border Guards Commander); Major-General Robert Ebenezer Kotei (former Chief of Defence Staff) and Colonel Roger, Felli (former Commissioner for Foreign Affairs).
Aspects of the last moments of some of the executed officers have been revealed in a 249-page book by Colonel (rtd) Kofi Jackson, When The Gun Rules. He stated, “by 10am (on June 16, 1979), we heard the shocking news that General Acheampong and General Utuka had been executed by firing squad that morning at the Teshie firing range. By lunch time, we heard that the bodies of the two Generals had been brought to the Nsawam Prison Condemned Block for burial at the Adoagyiri Cemetary.”
Regarding the second batch of officers executed on June 26, he said, “the bodies of the five Generals and the Colonel were brought to the Nsawam Prison Condemned Block for burial cut and nailed ‘wawa’ boards into make-shift coffins for the bodies. A burial party made up of convicted prisoners under the watchful eyes of revolutionary soldiers buried the Generals and the Colonel at the Nsawam Prisons Cemetary at Adoagyiri.
The simple burial was in sharp contrast to the way the Military bury their dead, especially Generals. In normal times, during the final march into the cemetery, the captivating sound of drums dominates the air. At the graveside, soldiers’ fire volleys of farewell shots across the grave and the buglers dutifully deliver the ‘last post’ in somber notes. It is a whole solemn ritual treasured by all soldiers.”