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Opinions of Saturday, 7 February 2004

Columnist: Atiemo, Ansah F.

Response: Open Letter to Ansah Atiemo, AFRC Member

Mandate Of The People Vrs Political Armed Robbery

This is in response to Obeng-Diawuo’s open letter to Ansah Atiemo posted on GhanaWeb a few days ago. But first, I would like to take this opportunity as a member of the erstwhile AFRC to repeat here with emphasis our apologies to the innocent sons and daughters of Ghana who were harmed in 1979 during our pursuit to terminate the illegal military government and hold to account the wreckers of the previous Constitutions, and corrupt public officials who destroyed the economy of Ghana.

To them those who were harmed, we say once again that we are very sorry. Those abuses which have come to our notice through the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) hearings were not sanctioned by the AFRC. But all the same we take full responsibility for them. And that our responses to any attempts to kick us in the groin as a proof of our guilt for issuing an unqualified apology to our brothers and sisters who were hurt, must not be seen as a effort to take the apology back in the manner that has been suggested by some people.

Now back to Oben-Diawou. In November 2003, some of us, the living members of the AFRC, voluntarily attended a hearing of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) on a petition majority of the AFRC members had submitted to the Commission in October 2003.

As we had anticipated, our appearance at the Commission and the thrust of our presentation have triggered an interesting line of response originated by the Network Herald, and now being latched on by all those who have reasons to be worried by the implications of our presentation which focused on anti-constitution coups.

Following the presentation most of the print media, including the Daily Graphic, the largest circulation newspaper in Ghana, chose to highlight our apology to those who were wrongly caught in our rushed pursuit of available ends of justice in holding to account all the political armed robbers ie. those who had been involved in creating, managing, and profiting illegally from anti-constitution coups in Ghana since 1966.

A few newspapers chose to concentrate on our invitation to the former president, Mr. Jerry Rawlings, to appear at the Commission or face trial at the International War Crimes Tribunal for ordering the murder of the late L/C Sakodie Addo, a former member of AFRC in 1983.

The Network Herald stood alone in its response. It dismissed the whole presentation with a screaming headline: "Boakye Djan Failed To Impress" at the Commission, contrary to what mainstream opinion of Ghanaians thought about our conduct and performance at the Commission.

About a month later the Network Herald hit the news stand with another attention grabbing front-page headline: "Boakye Djan Lied" to the Commission which was belatedly posted on GhanaWeb, seven clear days after its publication in Ghana. Then in the latest development, not surprising to many of us, one Obeng-Diawuo tries to draw on the Network Herald story to respond to a feature article I had submitted on the issue of anti-constitution coup fever that had gripped Ghana at the time of my writing.

The trouble with Obeng-Diawuo's open letter on GhanaWeb was its attempted deception. Obeng-Diawuo announced in the very first paragraph of his piece that his real focus was to be on my analysis of the "conduct of Ghana's two main political parties and their attitudes towards constitutional rule and coups d'etat" and my "gloss over a few historical truths" that he needed to tell.

But then his whole letter from paragraph two to the end concentrated exclusively on the "half-truths" he claimed we told at the National Reconciliation Commission. There was nothing in his open letter that addressed the original anti-constitution theme of my article which he had accepted in the very first paragraph of his piece.

But more to the point, Obeng-Diawuo tried to establish what he claimed to be AFRC half-truths by first dredging up and rehashing the second story of Network Herald in support of his claim. Secondly, he went on to dig-up and list a catalogue of smear allegations that had been thrown at the AFRC and its key players since 1979; the very allegations we had ourselves addressed in our petition to the NRC under the broad heading of "Playing Politics With AFRC Rule".

There was nothing new in his refurbished list except that surprisingly they were even shorter than our list of the allegations that we had already dealt with at the Commission. But for the record we shall attempt a brief recap of his list.

1. Personal abuse. We have had a fair number of expletives directed at us jointly and severally. But Obeng-Diawuo’s piece is clearly over the top. He still does not think much about the mental make-up of all AFRC members especially its Non-Commissioned Officers like my self (an MBA holder, a book publisher, and former Executive Vice President of a bank) whom he dismissed as a bunch of idiots in a low station in life and therefore unintelligent to handle complex affairs of state.

Whoever Obeng-Diawuo is, it does not appear that he has learnt any lessons from the June 4 Uprising led by Junior Officers and the Ranks of Ghana Army. For that exercise has destroyed in Ghana the notion that low level of life can be equated to lack of intelligence and understanding of the needs of a people and country and how to develop them, or at least comprehend the basic rights endowed in the Constitution to the citizens of Ghana.

The successful termination of the then illegal military government by the popular June 4 Uprising has taken care of that misconception for ever. In any case, the AFRC did not come to rule Ghana. It took upon itself the sacrificial duty outlined in the Constitution for every citizen of Ghana to do whatever is in his/her power to restore the Constitution after it has been suspended, overthrown, or abrogated. The AFRC responded to that call to duty of the day.

2. Speculation and Hearsay. In the absence of any firm data and evidence from our detractors such as Obeng-Diawuo, they tend to fall back on speculations to attack the AFRC and our positions, although legal tradition of which they are so enamored with objects to its use at any level of litigation.

This does not appear to stop them from using it. In fact Obeng-Diawuo has attempted to repackage it with his bottled up self-willed genie Rawlings argument. Assuming without admitting that we let out of the bottle the genie on June 4, the fact is that we put him back in the constitutional rule bottle on 24th September 1979 when we handed over the administration of the country to an elected civilian administration without running away from it. And that those who let him out of that bottle on 31st December 1981 must take the full responsibility for the havoc the genie thereafter wreaked on Ghanaians including the murder of three High Court Judges and an Army officer, and young men like L/C Sarkodie Addo, Mawuli Goka, Kyeremeh Djan, Majors Ocran and Twumasi Anto who elected to fight the genie and died in the process.

The attempt by Obeng-Diawuo to prove a linkage between AFRC and PNDC where there is none is an extension of this genie speculation. In any case it has no basis in fact, in law, and even in fiction. It is purely a self-serving fabrication and another attempt to discredit the AFRC by those who benefited from the PNDC while the going was good but are now refusing to accept their responsibility for what went wrong under the PNDC they and or their cohorts created, and aided and abetted its management and continuity.

The evidence available to Obeng-Diawuo and others on determining individual rather than collective responsibilities for the execution of senior military officers is based on hearsay and rumors which are also not admissible evidence in law. Strangely no documentary proofs have been provided to back their rumors and hearsays in which they fervently believe while rejecting our declared reasons for the executions because, in their opinion, they are not backed by any documentary proofs. What a double standard! But worse still he is selective even on the available range of hearsay evidence and rumors particularly on the inclusion of his apparent hero Afrifa on the list of those executed officers.

It has been publicly and previously claimed that Major Courage Quarshiga was responsible for the inclusion of Afrifa's name on the list. Dr. Tony Aidoo has publicly accused General Hamidu of being responsible for including Afrifa's name. Wing Commander Tagoe has in fact claimed on the floor of the NRC that 13 named individuals, who do not even include Boakye Djan, were responsible for drawing up the list of the officers to be executed at the Air Force Station where Squadron Leader Dargbe, Chairman of the people's Court, has admitted the trial began.

In the face of all these rumors and hearsays why single out only those made against Boakye Djan who, together with other AFRC members, has all along, stated that the executions of the senior officers was a collective council decision and responsibility?

3. Rejectionism. Obeng-Diawuo has firmly clambered on board of the carriage of those who reject what they choose to call our justification of June 4 at the NRC. They attempt to do this at three main levels.

First is their use of the new buzzwords of afterthought and rationalisation. They seek to establish this position because we did not use our arguments earlier than now. Our answer is simply that there was no appropriate platform and opportunity to do this before the NRC was set up. And the proof is that Osahene Boakye Djan, along with Major Mensah Poku, and Capt. Baah Acheamfuor, has been hinting at our position all along with his calls in 1980 and 1981 for a Commission of Inquiry of some sorts into the AFRC time in office.

In any case for those who have conveniently chosen to ignore it or do not want to know, our publicly declared one-liner defense of the AFRC since 1979 has been: "However regrettable some of its conduct might have been June 4 Uprising was necessary and unavoidable under the law". If a commission of Inquiry had been set up in 1980 or 1981, our position then would have been our position today. Delay in its delivery today, through no fault of ours, cannot therefore be allowed to be constructed as an afterthought or rationalization.

The second attempt to rubbish the AFRC position today flows from the assumption that we have no publications or documentation to back our claims. One of the AFRC decrees meant to cover certain aspects of the criminal justice administration has often been cited because it was silent on anti-constitution coups. Well, generally and in our peculiar circumstances of an uprising, lack of documentation or publication cannot be made to deny the existence of conduct or policy. In our case for example, the Council directed that the Kotoka International Airport should revert to its original name of Accra International Airport and that his statue should be removed as a posthumous punishment for his criminal role in the 1966 anti-constitution coup. The directive somehow was not carried out and there was no documentation for it either. And when majority of the living members of the AFRC have testified to the truth in this, must lack of documentation be allowed to overrule it?

In any case, the crime of anti-constitution coup and its punishment existed in the 1960 Criminal Code section 12 and we did not see the need to publish a decree to cover it. The AFRC also used the 1962 Armed Forces Act to put a limit on the large number of people (civilians, policemen, soldiers), who were technically guilty of the offence of High Treason under the Criminal Code and therefore could have suffered capital punishment or execution. A decree was not needed to cover that too. If anything at all, the AFRC used the existing laws then to limit that large number of executions and then hold to account only the military officers with the collective responsibility of destroying the Constitution of Ghana and managing for illegal profits, the resulting illegal but de facto governments.

The executed senior military officers faced capital punishment not because they had "proven record of corruption and maladministration" as Obeng-Diawuo is seeking to attribute to the AFRC. These military men were executed because they had proven and indisputable record of participation in the creation and management of anti-constitution coups and their continuities, in the form of a publication by the Military Secretary available to us at the time. This is what the laws then in existence demanded should be punished.

All other officers on the Military Secretary’s list avoided being executed because they played subordinate roles to their superior officers in the creation and management of the identified anti-constitution coups, their management and continuities since 1966 and in accordance with the celebrated Superior Order Rule of all Armed Forces the world over. Together with their civilian and police collaborators, this category of officers was to have their individual cases investigated for non capital punishments.

What the AFRC needed in their case was a decree to cover the nature of their "corruption and maladministration" in order to administer the appropriate punishment in the form of fines to be imposed, terms of imprisonment to be determined, and ill gotten wealth to be confiscated to the State. The problem here was the need to include the ill-gotten wealth of those to be executed in this category also for confiscation. In their case the confiscation of their property was to be automatic.

And, after the AFRC had arrived at these decisions, the Council gave appropriate orders to the relevant authorities to implement them before the first executions. In the front pages of both the Ghanaian Times and Daily Graphic editions of 16th June 1979, the day the first executions were announced it was published that the AFRC Special Courts had started sitting, facts that our detractors and some of our own operatives have chosen to ignore clearly because they are inconvenient to their special pleading or arguments.

What is therefore being complained about today is not the lack of official policy but a probable lapse or irregularity in agreed policy implementation as a result of either (a) negligent failure, (b) willful failure or (c) plain misrepresentation on the part of those in whose line of duty it was to carry out the AFRC agreed policy in this area. This is therefore an issue of facts to be determined rather than evidence to be used to deny our claims for the executions at the Commission and elsewhere..

Meanwhile the message from me and my former AFRC colleagues is that the peace Obeng-Diawuo and his line of faceless AFRC bashers are craving for cannot come through such brazen deception and distortions on AFRC records, vicious personal attacks, and arousal of the emotions of the general public and the family members of the late military officers against the AFRC.

The peace can only be achieved by an unqualified acceptance of the example of the AFRC as the only counter coup that has succeeded against the political armed robbers, ie, those responsible for the existing run of anti-constitution coups and their continuities as at 1979.

It is the only precedence available to Ghanaians that can still be used by the nation to correct any outstanding wrongs of any past anti-constitution coups, to protect the present constitutionally elected civilian government, and defend the future of constitutional rule in Ghana. That is what our efforts must be about: It is all about the Constitution, its termination and replacement with illegal de facto governments that provide the opportunity for the rape of the country at our collective expense; and that must not go unpunished under the law.

There is an old Akan saying, “Se wobo odupon mu a, egye gye wo daboni tiri mu”. Those who stand convicted under the current laws for their role in anti-constitution coups are the ones who fear the implications of the AFRC example.

F. Ansah Atiemo
AFRC Member 1979

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.