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General News of Wednesday, 8 May 2002

Source: .

Reconciliation Commission begins sitting on 1 July

The nine-member National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), inaugurated by President John Agyekum Kufuor last Monday, would start its sitting on 1 July, possibly at the Old Parliament House in Accra.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Attorney General and Minister for Justice who announced this at a press briefing on Tuesday, said the date was chosen because of its symbolic significance as the country's Republic Day.

He referred to the National Reconciliation Act, Act 611, and said Parliament would decide on funds to be allocated to the Commission from the Consolidated Fund for its operations. Other sources of funds for the work of the Commission would be donations and grants.

Nana Akufo-Addo said the Commission, which has a 12-month period to operate from the date of its first sitting, with an extension of six months would be reviewing its areas of operation in June, adding, "this time period should be adhered to and issues tackled with a sense of priority".

He said the process would not be an examination of history but rather focused on the unconstitutional governments with the main objective of forging the unity and reinforcement of Ghanaians. The Attorney-General referred to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and said as much as the process would not spare perpetrators of human rights abuses, it would be a confrontation of history to make amends.

He, therefore, called on people who had been offended to be prepared to forgive, saying without such a stance, which aggrieved people adopted in South Africa, the story during the reconciliation process would have been radically different.

On religious representation and the status of the Most Reverend Charles Palmer-Buckle, Catholic Bishop of Koforidua, on the Commission, Nana Akufo-Addo said members were not in any representative capacity. "They are individual people with independent minds in whom Ghanaians had confidence and trust that could do the job, based on the dictates of their conscience without any interference".

On the membership of Lt-General Emmanuel A. Erskine, former Commander of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL), who was a member of the National Redemption Council (NRC),one of the military regimes, whose human rights record would be examined, Nana-Akufo-Addo said General Erskine's involvement with the regime would not constitute a reason for disqualification, because there was nothing to prevent him from doing his job effectively.

Nana Akuffo-Addo said anyone who had any grievance against Lt-Gen. Erskine as a person, should report to the Commission, and such matters would be investigated to see if they warrant his disqualification.

The Minister of Justice, said former President Rawlings, whom people had perceived as the prime target of the exercise had indicated that he was prepared to work with the Commission and the opposition parties describing the exercise as necessary.

On the extent and limits of press coverage, especially the electronic media, on the proceedings of the Commission, Nana Akufo-Addo said, these and other issues such as the trauma management of aggrieved persons and security for offenders were being discussed by the Commission within its one month review period. The Commission is under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Kweku Etrew Amua-Sekyi, a retired Supreme Court Judge.