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Opinions of Monday, 29 February 2016

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Ghana marks 68th anniversary of the Crossroads shooting

Yesterday marked the 68th anniversary of the February 28 Crossroads shooting in which three Ghanaian ex-service men were gunned down by the British colonial police at Osu in Accra. Although the shooting to death of Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey sparked off nationwide protests which led to a hastening of Ghana’s independence from British colonial rule, not many Ghanaians know the full story.

It is for this reason that during anniversaries of the February Crossroads shooting, an animated movie recounting the story is sometimes screened for the benefit of the country’s youth. The animated movie seeks to present the story in an interesting manner to Ghanaian children and youth, so that they may learn about three of their country’s unsung heroes.

The movie was produced by Parables Productions, promoters of students’ and children’s literature through the medium of folklore. It was co-directed by Justice Jones Abban and Nana Asihene, and produced by Joseph Gyebi.

It catches the sequence of events leading to the gunning down of Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey, all former members of the Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force, which fought on the side of the allied forces during the Second World War.

The action starts with the return of the war veterans to the Gold Coast, their decommissioning, and the subsequent assurance by the British colonial administration, that they would be paid all war benefits and resettled.

For unexplained reasons, the British colonial administration reneges on the promise, leaving the ex-service men poor, hungry and angry.

After several petitions to the Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Gerald Creasy, received no response, the retired soldiers of the famous West African Frontier Force decided to deliver the petition personally to the governor.

They chose Saturday, February 28, 1948 to present the petition to Sir Creasy.
As the film camera pans across Sergeant Attipoe’s poorly ventilated single room crammed with furniture, we are able to picture the emotional state of the war veterans that fateful morning.

Before leaving home to join an assembly of his former colleagues of the West African Frontier Force in central Accra for the ill-fated march to Christianborg Castle, Sergeant Adjetey is eating a meal of kenkey in the crowded room in stone silence:

Mrs Emma Adjetey: “Adjetey,”
(Adjetey does not respond.)
Mrs Adjetey (apparently offended): “This is not fair. I am talking to you.”
Adjetey: (Speaking almost inaudibly through a mouth full of kenkey): “Yes, I know. My mouth is full.”
Mrs Adjetey: ‘I thought the matter was settled.”
Adjetey: (Pauses to look at her in surprise): “Look at me! Look at this kenkey! Look at the children! Is this how you want us to live?”
Mrs Adjetey: “We can still struggle together to make life better. At least, your small business is picking up, isn’t it?
(Adjetey glances at a stack of car keys in the corner of the room and shakes his head)
Adjetey (To himself): Ah ah ah! Mi Adjetey paa neh? I can’t believe I’ve had to settle for this.
Mrs Adjetey: Well, at least ehaa wor da-nmaa! (It supplies our daily bread.)
Adjetey: What? Driving that old scrap metal of a car for a living? How much do I make at the end of the month? It all ends up in someone else’s pocket!
Mrs Adjetey: I’d prefer your driving for a living to your marching out there this morning to protest …
Adjetey (Cutting in sharply): I’ve told you it’s the only way to press home our demands and our rights. I worked too hard to live this low.

I toiled…oo! You are lucky to have me alive. We risked our lives for their country and see how we get treated!
Mrs Adjetey: Efeee noko, eh? Efeee noko Adjetey.
(It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter Adjetey)
Adjetey: Efeoh noko naa! Efeoh noko!
(It matters!)
Adjetey soon joins an assembly of the war veterans in Central Accra, and they begin a peaceful march to the Governor’s office at the Christianborg Castle.
At the Crossroads near Christianborg Castle, they are intercepted by a contingent of heavily armed policemen, led by Superintendent Imray, a British Police Commander, and ordered to disperse.
They staunchly refuse to disperse, whereupon Superintendent Imray orders the police to open fire on the unarmed ex-service men.

When the indigenous members of the police contingent refuse to open fire on their countrymen, Imray himself seizes a rifle from the nearest policeman and fires at the defenceless protesters, killing Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey.

The scene moves to the series of chaotic events which followed the killing of the three that morning. Within minutes, the news had spread across Accra, leading to rioting, arson and a total breakdown of law and order in the city and the rapid spread of anti-colonialist sentiments and the chaos in other parts of the country.

Following pressure on the government from anti-colonial forces, the British government instituted a committee to investigate the shooting and the riots, and to make appropriate recommendations for a restoration of order.

The movie recounts how the committee eventually made a recommendation that was to change the destiny of the country.

It recommended independence for the Gold Coast. Further agitation was to lead to the granting of independence to the Gold Coast in March 1957.

The soundtracks in “28th February — the Crossroads” include 1940s and 1950s classic tunes like legendary E. T. Mensah’s “Ekuusen baadon”, “Tea, tea, tea” and “Yen ara asase ni.”

As part of activities to mark the 68th anniversary, wreaths will be laid at the war veterans’ cenotaph at Osu in Accra, on behalf of the Government and people of Ghana, the Ghana Armed Forces and other security services, the country’s traditional rulers and the Veterans Association of Ghana.