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Opinions of Friday, 14 March 2008

Columnist: Bernard, Afreh Manu

RE: Rawlings-The Idi Amin of Ghana.

‘No touchstone can test the heart of man, the temper of his mind and body till he be tried in the practice of authority and rule’.

The principles of intellectualism enjoins us to condone every submission and as a known believer in cross-fertilization of ideas, I should have chosen silence in the face of the wild shots one Kumasi Abrantea chose to direct at the ex-president, but some bare-faced lies necessitate for comment. Why would a man supposedly telling the ‘truth’ hide under the veil of a pseudonym to express his fetid opinion? I believe such Machiavellian opportunism has no grounds in this arena that is known to be a melting pot of ideas. It would have made a positive impression on me if his submission had divest itself of the toga of hypocrisy. Before I redress that submission in parts, let me quickly dismiss the presumption that I am a lickspittle of the ex-president. I try my best out of nationalism to speak the truth; not minding whose sleep is murdered.

In my last article, I never meant to rationalize the 1979 revolution nor did I impress on readers to see the ex-president as a paragon. I intended to advice columnists against the mudslinging that is fast becoming a norm in this arena. Coup d'états, the world over has never lived up to expectation and the common denominator has been needless repression, arbitrary detentions, arrests, tortures and confiscation of properties. I have always believed that material worships have eaten deep into the fabric of the society partly because most hearts are traumatic effects of greed, avarice and easy virtues, while the descriptions of power is vested in a person rather than the people. Listening to those heart-wrenching accounts given by aggrieved hearts during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I bet, one with lachrymal defect would not be able to draw back the tears.

For starters, it is quite pertinent to note that on June 4, 1979, a group of soldiers fought its way to release Rawlings from custody, reorganized an aborted putsch, and made him chairman of the emergent Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Kutu Acheampong was widely seen as a despot, who had shut the gate of mercy on mankind, it was therefore little surprising it prompted great jubilation on our streets when the young radical soldiers seized the apparatuses of government. Fast forward to this current dispensation. You are forced to yawn at how time flies and changes. And grinds inexorably.

Here, we need not mince words. There is no contradicting the fact that the young Rawlings was a stonehearted man who bogeyed and bullied the people to a point that an eerie silence enveloped the land. Then, the fear of Rawlings, not the law, was the beginning of wisdom. I believe in spite of all his shortcomings and past mistakes, he came unto the political terrain to provide the much-needed glue for those crevices in our national edifice. Tragically, some intellectuals find themselves on the side of those jackals known to bellow endless stream of violent phrases and words against the ex-president.

That armchair critic croaked: ‘…………We are demanding a measure of justice for the thousand of victims who met their ultimate fate in the wake of Rawlings' misguided junta. Rawlings and his men massacred thousands of Ghanaians with impunity. Remember that some of those generals, who were massacred by Rawlings' AFRC thugs, had constitutional protection from any prosecution. Their constitutional protection meant very little to their murderous intentions. Now Flt.-Lt. Rawlings, who denied others their constitutional, basic civil and/or human rights, is at the mercy of the same constitutional protection.’ To think that the constitution provides an indemnity clause to shield the ex-president is quite unfortunate because I believe in the rule of law and the very people of Ghana through a referendum held on 28th April 1992 authenticated the constitution. In Article 57, clause 6 of our constitution, it reads: ‘Civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted against a person WITHIN three years after his ceasing to be President, in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him in his personal capacity before or during his term of office notwithstanding any period of limitation except where the proceedings had been legally barred before he assumed the office of President’. The inevitable question I am forced to ask: Why was the ex-president not tried WITHIN three long years that the constitution allows? Where are those who proclaimed from the rooftop: ‘Away with Kutu Acheampong Now’? Where are those traitors who kept shouting in our streets about ‘Junior Jesus’? Such is life. Now, they lick the boots of those at the helm of affairs and gather chutzpah to consign the ex-president to the ugly pages of history.

The gospel preacher continues: ‘…immediately, after the murders of Generals Afrifa, Acheampong and Akuffo, (all Akans), on June 16, 1979 or thereabouts, the Rawlings brigade, in a thirst for more "human blood", had to get non-Akans to be sacrificed. Hence, Felli, Awudome, Utuka, Kotei, etc., were executed to satisfy Rawlings' "tribal balancing" act. Where in civilized society is a person sacrificed, at will, because someone from a different tribe had been killed, to prevent a revolt?’ This quote sicks me the most. It was one intended to provoke tribal sentiments. True to his type, he analysed and concluded along narrow tribal lines. How sad! That is part of today’s callowness. It starts making those of us with an unshakable faith in the Ghanaian ideal look more like an endangered species. I call on nimble minds to condemn in no mean words this calculated antic of reducing the foregoing issue to a tribal trifle. How on earth would anyone shamelessly fan the embers of ethnicity to satisfy his ulterior motives?

He decants: ‘…the comparisons with Idi Amin are apt. Some segments of our culture see things differently. I wonder if some derive a measure of innate satisfaction from Rawlings savagery in Ghana’. I wish to restate forcefully that no refined person derives satisfaction from gory acts and to think I wittingly or unwittingly support barbaric acts is to actually insult my integrity. It is also perhaps the worst verse on the ex-president to have placed him squarely in that chilling league of homicidal maniac Idi Amin and warlord Charles Taylor. Popular history recalls how Idi Amin slice open pregnant women and munch on the testicles of enemies. We also keep in mind how nine years under his iron hands, this emperor bastardized the polity and unleashed canons on opposition. This was surely the grimmest and most frightening script ever to be played on our continent. When Idi Amin was forced into exile, it was greeted with a sigh of relief and outburst jubilation. After he died in Saudi Arabia, the incumbent president (Yoweri Museveni) said ‘I would touch his corpse not even with a long spoon’. With all honesty, compare and contrast and you come to a conclusion that it is FAR FROM THE TRUTH to label the ex-president as the Idi Amin of Ghana. That cannibal has a well-deserved place in the panoply of ruthless dictators but Rawlings paid his dues and went ahead to enshrine his name in the good books of history. It behoves on us to lay appreciation where necessary and stop the needless brandishing of verbal rifles.

To round off this piece, I advise that before we put pen to paper, and whichever lens through which we analyse issues, let us encase our tribal emotions in fireproof chests, secure with a padlock, and throw them into the Caspian Sea. The destiny is in our hands!

Afreh Manu Bernard,