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Opinions of Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Has Boakye-Gyan Exonerated Rawlings?

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
June 5, 2011

One of the damning allegations hurled at Rawlings by his detractors is that he is a “murderer,” in an apparent reference to the shooting to death of Ghanaians under his rule, especially in the period of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) at the eruption of the June 4, 1979, “revolution.”
No amount of explanation will persuade those detractors that he is no murderer. Now, one of the architects of the June 4 event and a pillar in the AFRC has made utterances that contain enough food-for-thought and may give us more insights into what really happened. With these insights, we will be better placed to judge whether Rawlings is the “murderer” that his detractors have painted him.
In his strenuous efforts to gain recognition for his place and role in the tumultuous events of June 4, 1979, that gave birth to the AFRC, retired Army Major Boakye Gyan made some revelations that touch on the very food-for-thought that I mentioned above. His attempts to gain credit for the running of affairs under the AFRC exposed several issues that must be factored into the national discourse on Rawlings’ role in what went wrong or right during the 100 days’ rule by the junior Army Officers constituting the AFRC.
Speaking on Adom TV’s morning show “Bedwam” on Multi TV on his thoughts on the commemoration of the June 4 uprising, Boakye Gyan said he was the chief executive officer of the AFRC and hence the de-facto President during the three-and-a-half month’s rule of that administration (See\
Boakye Gyan said he was the head of government and official spokesperson through a bicephalous arrangement, and that Rawlings was only a ceremonial head of state.
He revealed more: “I was the one in-charge; it was what I said that was law…. If we wanted to take a decision; it was I who made them and for the commissioners of state to endorse at the Castle where I had my office….”
Now, comes the main substance: “Osahene Boakye Gyan, as he is now referred to, says he was the architect and brain behind the June 4 uprising that saw the killings of four heads of state during that era of the nation’s history.”
This claim is what raises serious questions. I want Boakye Gyan to tell us more about how the AFRC came by the decision to execute the three Heads of State and five senior Military officers, not to talk about all others who perished under the AFRC’s watch. Why is Rawlings carrying the blame, then?
On the basis of his claims, he was reported to have “chastised ex-President Rawlings for his penchant for the celebration and asked that it be discontinued with.”
There is no dispute about Boakye Gyan’s leading role in organizing and masterminding the revolt that was to topple the Supreme Military Council 2 headed by Lt. Gen. Fred W.K. Akuffo. Of course, at the time that the revolt began and soared into a full-fledged overthrow of that government, Jerry Rawlings was behind bars, locked tight in one of the cells at the BNI headquarters. He was awaiting the verdict of the Court Martial that had been trying him for mutiny.
Rumours had it that he had been slated for conviction and to be subsequently dragged to the Kpeshie range that Monday June 4, 1979, to be executed by firing squad. But as his Fate would have it, the action initiated by Boakye Gyan and the Free Africa Movement succeeded and led to the liberation of Rawlings, who was subsequently whisked away to announce the overthrow of the SMC in the GBC studios. If Rawlings is still alive today, he owes it to the Saving Grace of the action launched by Boakye Gyan.
There is no controversy surrounding the place of Boakye Gyan in the AFRC. As he himself put it, he was designated as the SPOKESMAN.
What raises controversy, however, is the exact ROLE that Boakye Gyan played in the workings of the AFRC for which he is today asking for recognition and credit. According to him, he was not a mere Spokesman but the decision-maker of the AFRC. Will he tell us, then, whose decision it was for those high-ranking military officers to be executed? What was Rawlings’ input for which he should be blamed as the murderer of those officers?
By admitting his role, Boakye Gyan has made incontrovertible claims that place the execution of those military officers under his doorsteps. Is that what he is owning up to? Is he saying that it was at the instigation of Jerry Rawlings alone that those high-ranking military officers were executed?
Ghanaians need Boakye Gyan’s confirmation because anything of the sort will go a long way to help them unpack the circumstances that surrounded happenings under the AFRC.
On several occasions, Boakye Gyan has made it clear why he parted ways with Rawlings. He has not hidden his abhorrence for Rawlings in the sense that Rawlings’ overthrow of the Limann government was a clear breach of the undertaking that they (members of the AFRC) had reached not to either encourage any further military intervention in Ghanaian politics or to carry it out themselves.
Boakye Gyan has made it clear on several occasions why he didn’t like it that Rawlings went ahead to overthrow the Limann government to establish the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) over which he presided for a decade before ushering in reforms to establish the 4th Republic. Boakye Gyan has been so incensed with this action by Rawlings that he doesn’t hide that anger or revulsion at the least prompting. He doesn’t hide his admiration for the June 4 putsch and the principles behind that event,
That’s why, unlike Rawlings, he hasn’t regretted in any way for the excesses of that period. To him, the principles behind June 4 ran counter to what the victims had perpetrated to warrant their being given the ultimate punishment. I have heard Rawlings apologize for those excesses even though he was also at pains to extend the apologies to the senior military officers except Gen. Odartey-Wellington, whom he regarded as a victim of circumstance.
In all these circumstances, we need to place happenings in perspective. That’s why Boakye Gyan must explain matters further. Much of the bitter tongue-lashing that Rawlings has had from his “haters” has been based on their perception of him as a “murderer.” It is common knowledge that people call him as such at will in reference to the events of the June 4 era.
If Boakye Gyan is now claiming to be the brain behind those executions, does he exonerate Rawlings? Does Boakye Gyan finally put the lid on this open accusation of Rawlings as the “murderer” of the senior military officers? We want Boakye Gyan to help us close the chapter on this sordid part of our country’s history. That is why he must come again.
The onus is now on him to clarify matters. Not until he does so, the controversy surrounding his role in the affairs of the AFRC will remain; and the recognition that he is looking for will not materialize. We expect him to clear the air, and all other issues will fall in place. Not until the chips fall into their proper places in the spectrum of the AFRC’s rule, Boakye Gyan will still remain in the shadow of Rawlings.
We acknowledge the fact that both Rawlings and Boakye Gyan have different attitudes to the issue of military involvement or otherwise in Ghanaian politics. Both are divided by what, for want of better ways to qualify it, I will simply describe as “material gains.”
It is on record that when the AFRC handed power to the Limann government on 24th September, 1979, one of the clearly subversive statements that Rawlings made in his address on the occasion gave a clear indication that “we will come back” if things didn’t go the way the House-cleaning exercise had led Ghana to that point. By so saying, Rawlings was giving signals that the AFRC had set standards that the civilian administration must not lose sight of.
Limann read deeper meanings into that veiled warning or threat and duly went ahead to find ways to pre-empt any interruption in his administration. He made overtures to members of the AFRC, which were to go a long way to determine the personal values of Boakye Gyan and Rawlings.
According to the report that some of us heard, the overtures included a 100,000 Dollar cash payment to each member of the AFRC so that they would retire from the military and go outside the country into other departments of life. We heard that Boakye Gyan and Baah Achamfuor bit that bait, took the money, and left for Britain where, unfortunately, they couldn’t “grow” that capital.
We heard that Boakye Gyan, for instance, squandered his part and ended up being a taxi driver but couldn’t return home because of his stiff opposition to Rawlings at the time of the PNDC—which turned him into a self-imposed exile.
On the other hand, Rawlings rejected Limann’s overtures and decided to hang on. He might have been determined to remain in the country to play his monitoring role—which was to lead to his overthrow of that government. Indeed, when he refused to accept the overtures, Limann went ahead to retire him and General Arnold Quainoo from the military. There and then, the game of hide-and-seek began, which ended to the advantage of Rawlings as he managed to kick Limann’s government out of the way to make himself the “strongman” that he has been ever since.
That aspect of Ghana’s history must be told and recognized. That’s why if anybody associated with the events that shot Rawlings into the limelight makes a contentious utterance, he must be urged to clear the air. Boakye Gyan has this charge to help us. Will he come again or remain at the fringes to fight desperately for an honour that has eluded him because he chose to play single fiddle to the “Chairman” of the AFRC by being satisfied with the role of a “Spokesman” for the AFRC?
The story hasn’t been properly told that on some occasions in those heady days, Rawlings had had to go down on his knees to beg for the lives of some officers to be spared. Is that characteristic of the murderer that his detractors continue to portray him? Boakye Gyan should help us know the truth.