You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2011 06 24Article 211867

Opinions of Friday, 24 June 2011

Columnist: Asante-Yeboah, Joseph

Let discipline and good governance flow

The year was 1979. It was a Saturday, time 6.10 am. The date was the sixteenth of June. That was the day the ousted Chairman of the Supreme Military Council, General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, and his Commander of the Border Guards, Brigadier Utuka, were executed by firing squad at the Teshie Military Range for allegedly engaging in corrupt practices. The executions were carried out by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council which had overthrown the Supreme Military Council, headed at the time by General F W K Akuffo, on 4th June 1979. The AFRC was headed by Flt-Lt J J Rawlings with Captain Boakye Djan as the spokesman. The military junta went ahead with the executions despite pleas by HM Government, the then US President Jimmy Carter, and other world leaders.
Ten days after the first executions, on Tuesday 26th June 1979, five more senior military officers were executed, again for alleged corrupt practices. They were Gen Akuffo, Rear Admiral Amedume, Yaw Boakye, Col Roger Felli and Robert Kotei. General Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa was also executed.

General Afrifa had long retired from the military at the time, and it has been a puzzle as to why he was included in those executed. He was one of the men who overthrew Dr Kwame Nkrumah on 24th February 1966 and was appointed Chairman of the National Liberation Council when Gen Ankrah resigned from that post. After the NLC had decided to hand over power to a civilian government and Afrifa retired from the Army, he joined the United National Convention and was elected to Parliament.

At the time of the executions, radical students from the universities yelled: “Let the blood flow” in their excitement. A huge crowd of people who did not expect anything like that to happen in their life time and were bemused in the confusion thronged Teshie Military Range to watch the first executions on the 16th of June. The crowd was smaller on the 26th of June because much of the excitement had turned into anxiety.

It is thirty-two years this month, June 2011, since the eight men were executed, but Ghanaians have not been told why that barbaric act was committed other than the rhetoric by the military junta that the men had been engaged in corruption. Or rather Ghanaians, as a people, have not pressed for an answer. Still on the month of June, we remember the three high court judges and the retired army officer who were brutally murdered on 30th June 1982. Other people have lost their life in similar cruel circumstances: Amartei Kwei, Brigadier Odartey Wellington, Gyiwa, and many others. As a nation, we must grieve for the loss of all of them, show that we valued their life, and search our conscience as to why we let that happen.

The truth must come out. There must be evidence, hard facts or documents somewhere that Ghanaians must see to clear our conscience. Those who committed the atrocities are alive and I have a feeling that, one day, they will voluntarily tell the story of what actually transpired between themselves, say to Ghanaians whether they were at the height of their emotion, and acknowledge that things should have been done differently. I will not give up hope that that day will come.

There are people who will say that we should forget the past and look to the future. After all, there has been the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But this was a painful past that cannot be easily forgotten. It becomes even more hurtful when June 4 continues to be celebrated by some people. So long as that day is celebrated, I will not be able to consider blotting out the sixteenth, the twenty-sixth and the thirtieth of June that are marked on my calendar.
To achieve the goal of not letting the fourth of June hold us back, it is important that we as Ghanaians continue to work hard towards the advancement of democracy, despite the impediments. The Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition continues to be in the forefront of this advancement. In concrete terms, this means the NPP.

In a speech at the NPP third international conference in Hamburg in early June 2011, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo repeated what he had said on 16th May 2008 that “strong democracies are built by strengthening the institutions of democracy, rather than the power of men. He added that what Ghana needs is “a public service that frowns upon the culture of corruption and provides the people with a quality environment of law and order, physical infrastructure, social services, sensitivity and quick responsiveness that allows free and fair competition.” I believe that he and the NPP will be given the chance in 2012 to work hard to uproot corruption and take our democracy forward.
I want to add, on the 32nd anniversary of 16th and 26th June 1979, that corruption is fought by strong institutions, not by executions. Out goes “Let the blood flow”. In comes “Let discipline and good governance flow.”

Joseph Asante-Yeboah
I dedicate this article to the memory o f my dear mother, Hannah Yaa Dedaa, who died on 17th June 2009.