Feature Article of Friday, 3 June 2016

Columnist: Isaac Owusu Nsiah

June 4 Uprising: Justifiable coup in Ghana’s political history

The political and historical analysis of the Ghanaian setting has been quite remarkable. From the early period of decolonization, through the various republics and the politics and history that characterize these periods leave much to be desired.

For the first time in Ghana's political history a civilian government was toppled by a military government on 24th February 1966. The National Liberation Council (NLC) took over reins of administration.

The second republic which captured the Busia administration in 1969 was also ousted by the national redemption council from the military camp which brought Acheampong and its subsequent supreme military councils (SMC I &II) in power.

Several writers attack the intrusion of the military in the political affairs of a country and thus opine that the military is not the solution to the nature of incompetence on the part of civilian government (see Boahen 1989).However the case of the AFRC was quite different from the intents of these previous military government.

In 1978, General Akuffo and a group of senior officers dismissed Acheampong and placed him in military custody.it was too late for a senior officers reshuffle mutiny was in the air. On May 15, 1979, less than five weeks before constitutional elections were to be held, a group of junior officers led by flight- lieutenant jerry john Rawlings attempted a coup.

Initially unsuccessful, the coup leaders were jailed and held for court martial. That is Flt LT.Rawlings and some of his men were tried before at the Burma hall, Accra, for their part in the attempted coup.

On June, 1979, however sympathetic military officers overthrown the Akuffo regime and released Rawlings and his cohorts or accomplices from prison fourteen days before the scheduled elections. The coup leaders turned out to be mutinous junior officers and NCOs, with wide support in the ranks of the armed forces. (Atiemo 2005)

A fifteen member armed forces revolutionary council was formed with the following as major constituents

Flt. Lt J.J Rawlings ………………… chairman
Capt. Boakye Djan …………………official spokesman
Major Mensah Poku
Major Mensah Gbedemah
Lt Commander H.R Apaloo
Warrant officer Class II Obeng
Private Owusu Addo
Corporal Owusu Boating
Staff Sgt. Alex Adjei
Leading Aircraftman Gatsiko
Lance Corporal Peter Tasiri
Lance corporal Ansah Atiemo
Lance corporal Sarkodie Addo
Corporal Sheik Tetteh
Lance Corporal P.T Amuzagbo.

The tenure of the supreme military council (SMCII) was short, the situation had gone too far, and the collective frustration of the rank and file exploded on June 4 1979 in an armed forces uprising, which brought the AFRC to power. There have been several arguments on the justification of the June 4 coup. This work seeks to provide a brief reflections on the arguments that build up the justification of the coup that occurred in June 4 1979.

Justification for the coup d'état: 4th June 1979

Wells (1974) defines coup d'état as a forceful seizure of government by a group of people normally the military (junta).The following reflections provide justification for the 4th June uprising.

To begin with the 4th June coup d'état that was led by flight lieutenant jerry john Rawlings was seen and can be seen as a decisive action to solve the country's economic difficulties and to establish a democratic system of government. The economy under the supreme military council 1 &2 and even the national redemption council (NRC) mismanaged the economy and led the country into huge debts. These military governments repudiated about $95million.ghana reputation was at all-time low in the international arena.

Profiteering become a common place. There was excessive bribery and corruption, high inflation as the cedi lost its value. There were several shortages of essential commodities and consumer goods and thus smuggling became rampant.

Industries produced under capacity, due to lack of maintenance and shortage of raw materials. With the adventurism of the AFRC and the establishment of a civilian government the 1979 constitution came into effect which help embrace politics again and thus helping restore order and stability in the country.

Also ,the 4th June uprising can be defended on a very sweeping analysis that ,the AFRC according to chairman Rawlings was committed to setting into motion a transformation in the minds of the ordinary Ghanaian that they had the right to stand for their rights.

The reason behind this was that, the government of Acheampong and Akuffo saw to the perpetuation of arbitrariness and stamping on the fundamental human rights of the individuals as the regimes arrested and detained people without trial.

Students of tertiary and secondary schools were subjected to inhuman treatment in the wake of student unrest arising from their unpopular policies. Increasingly there were denial of human rights, anti-union government supporters were inhumanely and harshly treated. The coming into effect of the AFRC helped restore and provided security for the vulnerable.

Furthermore, and more justifiable, as Ghana had witnessed series of military regimes since 1966,Professor Mike Oqauye opines that the SMC rule in Ghana brought the image of the military before the populace to its lowest nemesis political ambition destroyed the military discipline. The general public came to view the military with much distrust. The 4th June uprising was therefore an attempt to get rid of corruption within the armed forces and in the political and social life of the country.

Due to this a rigorous investigation of senior military officers and public servants was conducted to determine their honesty and public accountability.

This was known as the “house cleaning exercise”. With this exercise several military officers were tried before the special military courts. Those found guilty were sentenced to prison terms or to death by firing squad.

Several generals and commanders including former heads of state were executed for what were said to be economic and political crime. Initially there was support for this position but through public opinion within and outside Ghana began to express doubts about the usefulness of executions.

Last but not least, politically the 4th June uprising can be reasonably defended on the basis that the military should not be a permanent structure to steer the affairs of a state and thus should be an interim one and thus stabilize the country and pave way for a civilian government.

The Acheampong and Akuffoi regimes were accused of trying to impose themselves as permanent heads of states. For example with Acheampong's idea of union government UNIGOV the various societies such as the Ghana bar associations, and other bodies as a matter of fact put pressure on these governments to hand over power to a democratically elected government but this pressure was to no avail. Due to this the AFRC came to the rescue of the nation to help restore a democratic system.

The 4th June uprising has been challenged with the bloody posture of the AFRC with respect to dealing with enemies of the state. Even though military regimes are not in any case to intervene in the constitutional environment of a country even though there are other means to solve issues that pertains to ousting a government due to incompetence as seen in the case of previous military governments, the AFRC was different in this approach with respect to the explanations given above.

Even though several one or two approaches were not pleasant the above reasons elaborated provide justification to a larger extent, as it toppled a military government and made clear that the function of the military was not to be in government but to stabilize the country and pave way for a democratically elected government.

Long live Jerry John Rawlings!!!

Long live June four!!!!!

Long live Ghana!!!!!!!!!!!

Owusu Nsiah Isaac (050135 7211)

KNUST

isaacnsiah88@gmail.com