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Opinions of Thursday, 1 June 2017

Columnist: Sulemana Braimah

Captain Mahama’s death: The failure of our Police and the culture of impunity

Since Tuesday, the nation has been mourning the death of Captain Maxwell Mahama of the Ghana Armed Forces who was callously lynched by a group of persons at Denkyira-Obuasi in the Central Region.

I first read the story of the young captain’s death at a news website. The late captain was not related to me, he was not a friend, I hadn’t met him before and I hadn’t heard of him before. But my body and mood switched into one of grief and sorrow when I started reading the story of his death.

My week has since been devastated. I haven’t had the courage and fortitude to read or listen to any updates about his gruesome murder. I just can’t. Hearing anything about him pierces my heart and tears me apart. I don’t remember the last time I felt this way and I pray I overcome it soon.

Here was an obviously handsome, intelligent, smart young man who opted to be a defender of our nation and died in the service of our nation. He did his part. We failed him.

But captain Mahama did not only die in the service of our nation. He will be remembered as a gallant soldier whose death exposed us as a people and a nation that tolerated and befriended impunity until we were consumed by it. Yes, such is the character of our nation today.

Quite obviously and sadly, instances of persons being lynched on suspicion of being thieves or armed robbers had been on the rise. Such cases have always been reported. Unfortunately, because of who the victims of such cases are, their deaths are usually simply reported in the media and concluded with promises of investigation by the police. That’s it! Next will be another report of mob justice and another round of promises from the police. The cycle has continued unabated.

For those who may have forgotten and also for emphasis, below is a list of some instances of reported lynching of suspected thieves and armed robbers in 2017 and 2016 all of which the police promised to investigate:

1. January 2, 2017: A man suspected to be an armed robber lynched at Nuaso Odjadomya in Odumase Krobo District

2. January 19, 2017: A man suspected of stealing a donkey lynched at Gabisi near Bolgatanga

3. February 1, 2017: A suspected thief lynched in Zaare near Bolgatanga

4. March 16, 2017: A suspected thief in his 20s lynched at Community 4 in Tema and later tied to an electricity pole

5. April 28, 2017: A suspected thief lynched in Wassa Akropong

6. May 12, 2017: A suspected armed robber in his 30s lynched at Kosoa Old Timers

7. May 15, 2017: A suspected armed robber lynched at Fetteh Kakraba

8. May 22, 2016: A young man suspected of being an armed robber lynched at Tema

9. May 31, 2016: A suspected robber lynched at Asem in Western Region

10. July 22, 2016: A man in his 30s suspected to be an armed robber lynched at Inchaban in Shama District

11. August 4, 2016: A suspected robber believed to be in his 30s lynched at Abesim near Sunyani.

12. August 27, 2016: A suspected robber believed to be in his 20s lynched at Opia Traffic Light in Takoradi

13. September 6, 2016: A suspected thief lynched at kejetia

14. September 22, 2016: A suspected armed rober, 25, lynched at Zammse near Bawku

15. October 14, 2016: A suspected motorbike thief lynched at Oduman near Ablekuma in Accra

16. October 31, 2016: A suspected robber lynched at Donsoman in Accra

The list can go on and on. Can the police tell us the status of their investigations into these cases and who were punished? What action did we take on these cases as a nation? We kept quiet. Why? Because the victims were not soldiers, they were not MPs, they were not NPP and NDC executives. They were ‘ordinary’ Ghanaians, so matters didn’t matter.

Apart from the cases of mob justice, we also know of several cases of murders that have happened in the recent past. In all the cases, the police promise to investigate. Can we know who have been punished?

The truth is that the culture of impunity for serious crimes in our country is as tragic as the lives we lose. And the failure of the police in combating the culture of impunity has been catastrophic. The situation is simply alarming.

The reality is also that a culture of impunity anywhere constitutes a serious threat to security everywhere. The biggest threat facing us as a nation is, therefore, the culture of impunity for crimes that has engulfed us. The solution is not presidential visits and assurances of justice to bereaved families. The solution lies in the rule of law, ending impunity and letting justice be seen to have been done at all times.

As a gallant soldier, Captain Mahama will by now be resting in the heavens. He will only be wondering why our nation and our police had tolerated and glossed over similar acts of mob justice perpetrated against other citizens for so long. He will be wondering why a culture of impunity has engulfed our country. He will be praying for those of us who are alive to survive the insecurity of our culture of impunity.

For Captain Mahama, justice will not only mean punishing his murderers. Justice will also mean punishing all others who have, and will commit similar crimes against others regardless of the status of the victims. Justice will be about rule of law in Ghana.

May you rest in perfect peace, Captain Mahama!

By Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director, MFWA