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General News of Wednesday, 19 June 2002


Restore confidence in the Judiciary -JAK to Judges

President John Agyekum Kufuor on Tuesday asked Judges to endeavour to restore the confidence of Ghanaians in the Judiciary. "I hope by your competence, conduct, probity and consistency, you will help reclaim the belief of the citizens in the country's judiciary," he said.

President Kufuor made the call when he presented the instruments of appointment and administered the oath of allegiance and judicial oath to 17 newly appointed and promoted Judges to the Superior Courts at the Castle, Osu.

They were made up of 10 Judges to the Court of Appeal and seven to the High Court. Appointments and promotions to the Superior Courts are done by the Judicial Council and approved by the President.

President Kufuor said "in all that we seek to do, be it the transformation of the economy, modernisation and strengthening of the institutions of the state and the restoration of hope to the people, much depends on the confidence of the people that there shall be fair, unbiased and speedy dispensation of justice by the courts "I have every confidence that you, the new batch of judges, will rise to the challenge and help restore the Bench to its proper place of respect and trust among the citizens, " he said.

President Kufuor reiterated government's pledge to scrupulous adherence to the Constitution and respect for the independence of the Judiciary. He said within the constraints of the economy, the tools needed for the speedy and transparent administration of justice would be made available and the conditions of service enhanced to suit the status of Judges in the society.

President Kufuor said the Judiciary like other institutions in the country had undergone traumas and the instinctive belief of Ghanaians in the integrity of the Judiciary had been severely tested and undermined.

"It is also true to say that the events of June 30, 1982, the abduction and murder of some Judges of the Superior Courts and the subsequent wholesale dismissal of Judges put off many an able lawyer from going to the Bench in the past two decades. Now we hope the position has changed for the better, " he said.

Mr Justice A. Asare Korang, a newly promoted Appeal Court Judge, on behalf of his colleagues, gave the assurance that they would not fail the nation but strive to positively change the image of the Judiciary.He said this was the first time Judges appointed and promoted to the Superior Courts had been sworn into office by a sitting President of the country.

Other Judges appointed and promoted to the Appeal Courts were, Mr Justice R. T. Aninakwah, Mr Justice K. Tweneboah-Koduah, Mr Justice E.A. Addo and Mr Justice John Augustus Osei. The rest were Mr Justice Joseph Bawah Akamba, Mr Justice Eric Kwasi Piesare, Mr Justice Samuel Kwadwo Asiamah, Mr Justice Samuel Yaw Anim and Mrs Justice Henrietta Abban.

The Judges to the High Court were, Mr Justice George Afflah Aryeetey, Mrs Justice Avril Anin Yeboah and her husband Mr Justice Anin Yeboah The rest were Mrs Justice Mabel Maame Yamoah, Mr Justice Francis Gyafiiry Kobieh, former Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development in the National Democratic Congress government, Mr Justice Jones Dotse and Mr Justice Samuel Kofi Marful-Sau.


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Witness denies assuring Ya-Na of lifting of curfew

Sunyani (Brong Ahafo) 19 June 2002- Alhaji Ibrahim Mahama, a Tamale-based legal practitioner, on Tuesday denied ever assuring Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II, Paramount Chief of Dagbon that the former Northern Regional Minister, Prince Imoro Andani, would lift the curfew imposed on Yendi.

He was testifying at a sitting of the Wuaku Commission probing into the Yendi crisis as the 28th Commission witness in Sunyani. In an answer to a question by counsel of the Commission, Mr George Owoo, Alhaji Mahama denied that he visited Yendi in connection with the curfew and said, "it was absolutely false that his arrival was announced on the local radio station".

He maintained that it was only after the conflict that he got to know that the curfew was short-lived, adding that he did not influence the former Regional Minister to lift the curfew imposed by the Yendi District Security Council. Alhaji Mahama, however, admitted causing an announcement to be made on Radio Savanna, a Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) FM Station in Tamale that the Ya-Na Andani was not dead.

He said that announcement was made after the GBC had announced the death of the Ya-Na to calm the nerves of the people of Dagbon Traditional Area. Alhaji Mahama stated that he was shocked to hear from the GBC that the Ya-Na was dead and "the purpose of my announcement was to calm the storm".

When asked by the Commission whether he now believed that the Ya-Na was dead, witness replied in the affirmative but gave a reply to another question that he had not announced Ya-Na's death. Alhaji Mahama, however, said he had given indications about the death of Ya-Na Andani through interviews he granted to some radio stations. He added that he made the counter announcement about the death of the Ya-Na in his own capacity as the nephew of the Ya-Na.

At this juncture, the Commission informed witness that it had been alleged that he accompanied all witnesses to give statements to the Police in connection with the conflict. Alhaji Mahama replied that he never did so and added that announcement was made inviting people to give statement to the Police and they complied.

He stated that he only visited elders of the Andani Gate after the conflict since the former Regional Minister asked him to do so to summon them to meet a government delegation led by Mr J. H. Mensah. Alhaji Mahama told the Commission that some of the elders escaped to Tamale during the conflict and only saw them again on Thursday, March 23.

Asked whether he was protecting the interests of the Ya-Na, witness said the biological children of the Paramount Chief were staying in his mother's house.

To another question, Alhaji Mahama replied that he did not know the number of wives, children nor subjects currently staying with his mother in Tamale, whom he (Mahama) was catering for.

Earlier, Kwadwo Ngula, a 40-year-old farmer, also testified before the Commission as the 27th witness and said that more of the men in the Gbewaa

Palace fired back at the Abudus although they had local and single barrel guns. The Commission told Ngula his claim was untrue since some witnesses at the palace had testified that they also fired.

He said that the Ya-Na told his men not to use their arms but to seek peaceful means to resolve the misunderstanding between them and the Abudus. Ngula alleged that after he and one Zibia Ila had been rescued to the Yendi Military Camp he saw the Yendi District Chief Executive, Mohammed Habibu Tijani, wearing a local bullet proof attire.

He said Mr Tijani, who removed the local bullet proof attire he and Ila were wearing, asked whether they preferred the curfew, which was imposed earlier to the conflict that was then raging on. At this point, leading counsel for the Abudus, Nana Obiri Boahen, requested the Commission to send Alhaji Ibrahim Mahama, who was to give evidence away from the hall.

After some deliberations, Alhaji Mahama was prevailed upon by the Commission to leave after he made it known that he was prepared to give evidence to answer some allegations made by some witnesses. In an answer to a question by Nana Obiri Boahen, Ngula told the Commission that he and his men did not use their weapons to protect the Ya-Na because he (Ya-Na) did not order them to do so.

After being asked a series of questions by leading counsel for the Abudus, Ngula told the Commission that Nana Obiri Boahen was going too far. This, the leading counsel for the Andanis, Charles Hayibor, thought was not fair and cautioned Ngula that such retorts could land him in trouble since "it could be contempt of the Commission."

The Chairman of the Commission reminded Ngula about the oath he had sworn to tell the truth about what he knew adding; "a lot of evidence that you have given are lies and your own people will bear me out. "He told the Commission that the Ya-Na asked them to frighten the Abudus and not to kill them in an answer to a question, adding that he only saw dead bodies in the main hall of the palace and nowhere else.

Mahamadu Michael, 59, Registrar of Dagbon Traditional Council, who also gave evidence recounted events in Yendi on Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, 24 March and the imposition of the curfew and its subsequent lifting by Mr Prince Imoro Andani, ex-Northern Regional Minister.

He told the Commission that the Ya-Na, having told the ex-Minister of the importance of the Fire Festival, added that he had no problem with anybody in Yendi. The Ya-Na, therefore, gave assurance to Mr Andani that there would be no cause for alarm and the festival would be celebrated in peace, Mr Mahamadu said.

He said on Monday, March 25, however whilst at the hall of the Gbewaa Palace with Ya-Na, he heard a gunshot directed at the palace and when he inquired, he was told that the palace was under attack.

Witness said between 0900 hours 1000 hours there was a telephone call from Joy FM in Accra, in which a woman's voice asked about events in Yendi, to which he replied that the Ya-Na's palace was under attack. Mahamadu said the caller wanted to know if the Police and the DCE were there but he replied that neither of them was there.

Mahamadu answered in the affirmative when the Commission asked if people were firing back from the palace on Tuesday morning. Defence men were returning fire at that time, he said. The Registrar indicated that whilst in his house, which was about half 800metre away from the palace on Tuesday, March 26, he received a message through one Mahamadu Patina, an employee of the Yendi District Centre for National Culture that the firing exchanges had intensified.

He said as he had been sick since Friday, 22 March and could, therefore, not do anything, his children took him on a motorbike at 1130 hours to Gushegu and he left for Tamale after two days. When asked by Commission's counsel if the two gates celebrated the Fire Festival separately, he replied in the affirmative.

Mahamadu explained that the two gates used to celebrate the festival together on the same day until a division erupted between them in the 1950s. But in answer to another question, he replied that, it was nevertheless celebrated differently on the same day last year.

When asked what created the division between the two gates, he said he did not know. At this juncture, proceedings were halted for more than 30 minutes as the Commission found a lot of inconsistencies in his answers. The cause of the problem was that whilst the Commission saw two letters, one dated March 30 and a second dated April 12, as "figments of Mahamadu's own imagination", witness insisted that he wrote them under the instruction of the elders of the Dagbon Traditional Council.

The Registrar alleged that some people he had mentioned in the first letter had before the Yendi tragedy conspired that, the time was ripe to overthrow the Ya-Na. The names in that letter were, however, not disclosed at the sitting. When the Commission wanted to know as to the last time that the Dagbon Traditional Council met before the tragic events of 24, 26 and 27 March in Yendi, witness said he could not tell.

At this juncture, the Commission Chairman asked of his age and told him "I expect you to speak the truth as the Registrar". When the Commission, therefore, continued with a question about the first time the Dagbon Traditioal Council met after the tragedy, he responded as 1 April.

Meanwhile, in response to questions by Nana Obiri Boahen, Counsel for the Abudus, Mahamadu told the Commission that since he left for Tamale from Gushegu, he had not been to Yendi again and had even been operating from an office in the premises of the Northern Regional House of Chiefs in Tamale.

The Commission pointed out to witness that his claim that elders of the Dagbon Traditional Council held a meeting and authorised him to write those letters to the Regional Police Commander was his personal initiative. He replied in the negative as he had earlier responded to a similar question by Nana Obiri Boahen. Sitting was adjourned till Wednesday.