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General News of Wednesday, 14 July 2004

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NRC ends on a low note

Poll shows 80% believe commission did not reconcile nation.
Accra, July 13, Sapa-dpa - Ghana's National Reconciliation Commission on Tuesday wound up its official sessions right where it began 18 months ago - under a hail of controversy.

With the Commission's nine members now beginning to write their report, the question reverberating everywhere is whether their work has moved the West African country anywhere near reconciliation.

The overall objective is to help heal the wounds of the past and write an accurate historical record, said Ken Attafuah, Executive Secretary of the Commission.

He said aggrieved people were given the opportunity to narrate their stories, adding that there had been expectations that the Commission's recommendations on grievances and reparation, if implemented, would bring about healing.

"If in the course of the hearings some reconciliation took place, that was a bonus," Attafuah said.

But a large majority disagrees with him, saying the Commission has been a waste of time and money and that its work rather created a deep wedge in the population.

The chairperson of the Commission, former Supreme Court judge Kweku Etrew Amua-Sekyi, has been criticised for his abrasive style which has not helped the situation.

A poll conducted by an Accra radio station, although unscientific, showed that about 80 percent of respondents believed the commission had not reconciled the nation.

And this was evident in the dramas that unfolded during the commission's sittings, with alleged victims and perpetrators trading accusations and counter accusations.

The commission heard cases mainly of torture, disappearance, murder, seizure of property and abductions which occurred mainly during the military regimes of former president Jerry Rawlings in 1979 and between 1982-1992.

The main focus was Rawlings's first government of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, during which seven senior army officers, including three former heads of state, were executed.

The other period included the first few years after his second coup in December, 1981, when there were alleged extra-judicial killings, disappearances and serious human rights violations.

Rawlings, who appeared before the commission to briefly answer a subpoena, has been accused by some of his bitterest enemies of involvement with his former security adviser, retired Army Captain Kojo Tsikata, of being behind the murder of three High Court Judges and an army officer in 1982. They have both vehemently denied the charges.

As expected, Rawlings's National Democratic Congress (NDC) objected to the Commission's work throughout, saying it was a ploy by the government to win political points in the run-up to the December 7 elections.

Kwesi Prempeh, a lawyer with the Centre for Democratic Development, said this was a critical time for the commission to go through the testimony and make the appropriate recommendations.

"The commission was born in the throes of some political controversy, there wasn't consensus on the formation of the commission and this continued to follow its work," he said.

Prempeh said that some of the partisan wrangling over the commission's work was not entirely unexpected, adding the adversarial incidents at the commission should not be taken to mean that its work cannot cannot reconcile the country.

"Let's keep our fingers crossed about what happens with the commission's report," Prempeh said.

Reconciliation Commission ends sitting - Ghanaian Times

  • 4,311 PETITIONS
  • 2,129 LISTED

    The NRC ended its hearing of petitions about human rights violations yesterday, after exactly eighteen months of sitting.
    Of the 4,311 petitions it received, 2,219 were listed for hearing in public. The remainder of the petitions were determined by the NRC to be ?non-jurisdictional,? i.e. beyond its legal mandate.
    A significant proportion of the petitions were filed by dismissed public officers, traders whose goods were seized under similar circumstances all over the country, victims of market fires and members of churches who claimed to have been ill-treated by soldiers.
    Closing the hearings, the Chairman of the NRC, Justice K. E. Amuah-Sekyi said that the interest shown in the work of the Commission by all sections of Ghanaian society indicated that Ghanaians genuinely desired reconciliation.
    He expressed the hope that the work of the NRC would contribute to achieving that goal.