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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Columnist: Asante, Kojo Pumpuni

Bole?s DCE and DISEC, Have a Serious Case to Answer

I could not resist the temptation to comment on the news reports carried on the attack by Ivorian rebels on the village of Saru in the Bole District of the Northern Region.

I wish to congratulate Anas Aremyaw Anas of the Crusading Guide for once again uncovering serious human rights violations as well as a potential violation of the sovereignty and territory of Ghana. I do not intend to preempt the report of the Armed Forces Council but from the confirmed reports the Bole DCE and DISEC, have a lot to answer for.

The sequence of events, as most people familiar with the story will know, begun with a report to the Bole DCE to the effect that soldiers believed to be Ghanaians crossed over to Saru from Ivory Coast and kidnapped Saruwura, Chief of Saru village, and two other people and took them across the border to Ivory Coast. Promptly, the DCE arranged a District Security Council (DISEC) meeting and approached the Bolewura, Chief of Bole to assist in sending a delegation to the rebel held area. The delegation headed by the son of the Bolewura was able to secure the release of the kidnapped persons. The Bolewura?s son, who was head of the delegation, reported that a Ghanaian Captain with the UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast had assisted the rebel leader at Bouna to kidnap those citizens of Saru with the explanation that they were dealing in arms.

At that stage, the DCE and DISEC had to be commended for their prompt intervention in securing the release of the Saru citizens and Dr. Addo Kufour, the Defence Minister was on point when he acknowledged this fact.

What transpired afterwards is what is of grave concern to me. Certainly, the Ministry of Defence is particular worried about the involvement of the Ghanaian peacekeeper. We are yet to know whether he had any mandate to enter Ghana with Ivorian citizens to make an arrest of a Ghanaian. I believe he also has a lot to answer for. But coming back to the subsequent actions of the DCE and DISEC.

Simply, the DCE decided not to report the matter to the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) because the Regional Officer of the BNI stationed at Wa had informed him that the operation had been sanctioned in Accra. This is where I have a bone to pick with him.

Even if the operation has been sanctioned by Accra, didn?t the DCE find it worrisome? That the Ministry of Defence had authorized an operation involving a rebel group from Ivory Coast assisted by a UN peacekeeper to kidnap a local chief and a citizen of his district for which he was the political head. Didn?t it occur to him that even if it was an order it was wrong in every sense. Article 243 (2)(c) of the 1992 Constitution makes it clear that the DCE is ?the chief representative of the Central Government in the District? and therefore a decision of this sort bothering on the security of the District and the country should have been communicated to him and the DISEC. Especially, when such an exercise involved the violation of his citizens? right to personal liberty and respect for human dignity under Articles 14 and 15. Why would the DCE take such matters lightly? Though Dr. Addo Kufour asked a valid question; why the DCE would believe that such a thing would be sanctioned by Accra, my contention is what if? The reasoning and actions of the DCE and DISEC was as if to say that if the violation was sanctioned by the Ministry or the State then its fine. In other words, it did not matter if a Ghanaian was tortured and deprived of his personal liberty by nationals of another country as long as it was sanctioned by the State. This for me is problematic and dangerous.

Further, is it the policy of the DCE and DISEC to ignore security threats and violations involving the people of Bole as long as it is sanctioned by Accra? Because the reports indicate that these incursions have been occurring and therefore could not be said to be a one ? off incident.

The DCE and DISEC have a duty to protect the people of Saru and seek redress of any violations committed against them especially when the violation is fundamental. Whether or not it has been sanctioned by the State, it has to be subjected to the scrutiny to ensure that it falls within the Constitution. Any position that seeks to treat violations of citizens? rights sanctioned by the state as prima facie under lawful authority is fundamentally wrong. The violation of any citizen?s right is the exception rather than the rule and must always be subjected the strictest of examinations. The DCE and DISEC should have reported this matter to REGSEC as well as conducted their own inquiries as to the rationale behind such an exercise involving nationals of another country to ?lawfully? violate the rights of Ghanaians if that was the case.

As an aside, if it is established that the Chief of Saru and the two others were dealing in arms across the Ivorian border, I strongly recommend that they should experience the full force of the law. For sometime there have been reports of a flourishing arms trade involving Ghanaian and Ivorians helping to fuel the civil war in Ivory Coast. With the spate of armed robberies and gun related crimes, the proliferation of small arms is unquestionably a serious issue and therefore anybody who is caught should not only be dealt with accordingly but also made a scapegoat.

I await the outcome of this inquiry.



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