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Opinions of Monday, 1 July 2019

Columnist: Alolga Akata-Pore (aka Sarge)

The 30th June 1982 murders: Rawlings must come clean

On the 30th of June 2019, it would be 37 years since four eminent Ghanaian citizens were abducted and murdered in brutal and disrespectful circumstances.

The victims, namely Justices Cecilia Koranteng-Addo, Kwadwo Agyei Agyepong, Fred Poku Sarkodee, and Major Sam Acquah were murdered for reasons that have, so far not been officially explained. Their deaths, at the hands of some PNDC members of government, united them into a family and forever lodged their memories into the crevices of the Ghanaian conscience.

On 30th June, we can only speculate about the numerous and diverse ways in which they would have spent their natural days. That they have not been with us for 37 years could only have been because some evil individuals in the PNDC, who had been in their courts and had not received the judgment they wanted, took advantage of their new found political power to exact vengeance of the most gruesome kind.

Their murders were purely criminal acts because the victims posed no political threat to the PNDC at the time. In the aftermath of the coup, many political players, who were arrested by the PNDC, mostly under my command, were provided the dignity of an open arrest and later released.

On the other hand, the victims of 30th June 1982, were not afforded that dignity because the motives for their abduction and murders were personal to those who wanted revenge.

May their gentle souls rest in eternal peace.

Why we don’t know all

We now know a lot about what happened that day, but we also know that there are several unanswered questions. Our greatest tribute to the martyred, would be to do everything we can to unearth the truth about their murders.

In my view, the only reason why there are gaps in our knowledge about the murders is because the former PNDC chairman who was the last person to talk to Amartey Kwei, who admitted to the murders, has refused to discuss the murders. In my view, his refusal is underpinned by his direct involvement in the murders.

I write to make two suggestions which the families and perhaps other interested parties may want to consider in the search for the truth. This is especially so because of the recent declaration of the former Chairman of the PNDC regarding the Transitional Provisions in the 1992 Constitution.

Transitional Provisions

The transitional provisions in my view, cannot restrict a review or re-investigation of these murders because the murders weren’t PNDC government-sanctioned. Those in the PNDC who were involved did so as individuals and not as PNDC officials. I stand to be corrected as I am not a lawyer, but I cannot for a minute imagine that all criminal acts which occurred during the PNDC’s era are covered by the transitional provisions. That will be a farce.

The first suggestion; Demand a new investigation

My first suggestion is that the families should demand a fresh official investigation into the murders because, initially, there was a failure to properly investigate the issue at the time.

For one thing, the PNDC was neither in a reputable position to provide a satisfactory investigation into the murders nor conduct a fair trial for various reasons.

Vested Interest

The PNDC government had a vested interest in the case because, four senior members of the PNDC (including myself) as well as the PNDC Chairman’s wife, were alleged to have been implicated in one way or another. (Although some of the allegations against these individuals have been variously denied).

The PNDC set up the public Tribunal and had influence over the makeup of the Special Investigation Board (SIB). In that case, the PNDC were the police, the judge, the jury, executioners, undertakers, and probate officials in the case.

Then there is the fact that the PNDC did not accept either the SIB’s report or the Tribunal’s proceedings as worthy records. The PNDC chairman set aside the findings of the SIB and the Tribunal and forced ‘confessions’ out of Amartey Kwei.

He did not hand this crucial piece of evidence to the Tribunal or the SIB so none of these bodies could have done their jobs properly. People may recall that the PNDC chairman subsequently imprisoned some members of the SIB members and forced others into exile. That could not have been the action of an impartial government and that was certainly not an investigation worth taken seriously by independent observers.

Persons of interest

Another reason why it is in order to review the case is that, key persons of interest to the case were never questioned by the SIB. Neither the PNDC chairman nor his wife, who were, in my view, persons of interest in the case were interviewed much to the amazement of most Ghanaians. I would leave the discussion of the former first lady and the PNDC troika for another occasion.

My focus here is on the former PNDC chairman as a person of critical interest to the murders. By establishing him as a person of interest to the murders, we can conclude that no proper investigation took place if he wasn’t investigated by the Special Investigation Board (SIB).

Question Time

A major issue is why the former PNDC chairman, a person of interest to the murders, who should have been interviewed by the Special Investigations Board (SIB), was not interviewed? This is because the former PNDC chairman is the only person who can answer the following questions –

1. How did the PNDC chairman know that Amartey Kwei had not spoken the truth and demanded a confession from him? Amartey Kwei is not reported to have indicated that he did not understand what was required of him in the requested confession; so both of them must have had an identical understanding of the ‘truth’.

2. Why did he not extract the ‘beautiful truth’ from the other culprits who roamed about freely along the corridors of the PNDC for several months before being arrested?

3. Why did he not extract the ‘beautiful truth’ from me, while I was in jail at the time? How did he know I did not have any ‘beautiful truth’ in me? After all, like Capt. Kojo Tsikata, the SIB felt I had a case to answer too. He could have asked Capt. Tsikata and me for confessions too if he wasn’t already sure of where ‘the beautiful truth’ lay.

4. Why was Amartey Kwei’s ‘confession’ not in public? Why did he leave Amartey’s ‘confession’ until the very end?

5. Why were the ‘confession’ tapes not given to the Tribunal as new evidence?

6. Before it became known that the victims had been murdered, why did the former PNDC Chairman ask Amartey Kwei and no other person, to have the victims released when Gen. Nunoo Mensah confronted him with news of the abductions?

7. Why did the then Chairman of the PNDC not immediately order the arrest of Amartey Kwei when he became aware that Amartey Kwei had abducted and murdered the victims?

8. In his first radio broadcast after the abductions and murders, why did the then PNDC Chairman claim that he did not know who had abducted the victims, although by that time, he knew precisely, who had abducted and murdered them?

9. Why was Amartey Kwei allowed to resign and not sacked? I know Amartey chose to resign because the PNDC chairman invited me to his Gondar office and informed me in the presence of Amartey Kwei that the latter had decided to resign.

Kwei’s unbelievable loyalty towards Rawlings

Another reason why the former PNDC chairman is a person of interest is that, Amartey Kwei in my view, could not have been so brazen without the assurance of the then PNDC chairman’s approval. This is why :– The Amartey Kwei I came to know was so much in awe of the PNDC chairman and displayed such prostrate and docile loyalty towards him, it was difficult to get him to join even in a light-hearted ‘gossip’ about the PNDC however harmless.

For example, we all had interesting nicknames for the then PNDC chairman, which we used in his absence, but Amartey Kwei’s nickname for the chairman was so reverend, that no one except him used it.

Amartey Kwei had an opportunity to escape on 19th June 1983 during the jailbreak like Amedeka did. In my view, he would not have escaped even if the door to his prison cell had been thrown open, because that would have been an act of disloyalty towards the then PNDC chairman.

People may recall that even on his way to the gallows, when he had no doubt about his imminent death, he still demonstrated his loyalty to the then PNDC chairman by indulging him a second request for a confession of ‘the beautiful truth’.

Why Amartey Kwei had to die

Amartey Kwei knew that the PNDC chairman could have decided on the sentence he got from the Tribunal or could have commuted his sentence. He knew that the then PNDC Chairman could have saved his life on 19th June 1983 by allowing him to escape in the midst of the confusion of the jailbreak.

He knew even if too late, that his friend wanted and needed him dead. He would have been very, very disappointed to see how he was about to be repaid for his palpable loyalty towards his friend and PNDC chairman. It is so sad that his affectionate loyalty towards the then PNDC chairman was so pitifully repaid with nothing but bullets he had no use for.

The other day, I watched the current President on TV making a joke in Parliament House about the disloyalty of the current NDC towards ‘their Founder’. Well now the president may have to know that it wasn’t undeserved.

The instructions to murder

Another reason why the PNDC chairman is a subject of interest in this case is this - Let us suppose that it was Capt. Tsikata who gave the murder instructions to Amartey Kwei, as he (Amartey) claimed. I find it impossible to imagine that these ‘instructions’ would not have landed on then PNDC Chairman’s desk within minutes or at worse be verified with him before being acted upon.

In other words, Amartey Kwei would have gone to all lengths to verify the so-called ‘instructions’ with the then PNDC chairman within minutes of receiving them from Capt. Tsikata. In the same breadth, Capt. Tsikata would have given these instructions to Amartey knowing that the PNDC chairman would be aware within minutes. In other words, if Capt.

Tsikata gave any ‘instructions’ to Amartey, he (Capt. Tsikata), would have discussed them with the PNDC chairman in advance. Therefore, if it were true that Capt. Tsikata were involved as alleged by Amartey Kwei, then the PNDC chairman was even more so.

The Chairman and his grudges

Then there is the fact that the former PNDC chairman does not let go of grudges. The murdered judges presided over cases brought before them with regard to assets which the AFRC had confiscated in 1979. In some cases, the judges decided that the assets were unlawfully confiscated and subsequently ruled that those assets be returned to their original owners. I was aware that, the then PNDC chairman had been infuriated by the judgments and felt the decisions were a personal affront to him.

The then PNDC chairman has demonstrated throughout his life that he has the memory of an elephant when it comes to grudges. He must always land the last blow and we all know that ‘the last blow’ is almost always fatal. This is his undoing. Consider recent events related to one of the former Vice Chairpersons of the NDC and former NDC Foreign Minister.

If these are too recent to be indicative of a pattern of vengeful behaviour, then consider the grudge against the long departed Asomdwehene which is ongoing. He made sure to land a blow which could not be responded to in Asomdweehene’s book of condolences and he is still fuming because Asomdweehene failed to live on so he could continue to feed off their feud. I hope there are guards around Asomdweehene’s grave!

His other former Vice President, VP Arkaah suffered ignominiously in his hands. His former body guard and a famous police outrider were physically manhandled by him and they never recovered from these attacks.

Asomdweehene’s ‘children with sharp teeth’ too should know they are still in a fight. In 1982, I stopped him from having a fist fight in Gondar Barracks
with a Lance Corporal. He swore to teach the Lance Corporal a lesson, and tried to do exactly that several months later, but the Lance Corporal later escaped into exile. Presidents Kufuor and JM have not been spared either.

It’s because they are plotting a coup

After the coup of 1981, the PNDC chairman ‘confided’ in me that Squadron Leader (Major) Bannerman a distinguished and popular Air Force Pilot had been plotting a coup and I should keep a close eye on him. He would ask me to attend the Major’s flight briefings prior to midnight flight patrols.

The then PNDC Chairman discussed with me ways in which we could take the Major down. Then one day, ‘Major’, as I called him, said to me, ‘Alolga, I know your man has told you something else, but I am sure you know the real reason’. I was stunned and embarrassed. Later in 1982, I was shocked to learn on return from an official trip abroad that Major had been in an air crash in Kumasi and did not survive. May his Soul Rest in Peace.

I recall arresting a Naval officer with whom he had a grudge prior to the coup. He claimed the officer too had been plotting a coup. As the Naval Officer consistently denied any plots over several weeks, the then PNDC Chairman suggested that we should capture a cobra and put it in the Naval Officer’s cell.

He disobeyed me so avoid him

When Cpl. Sarkodie Addo, a then twenty-year old soldier returned to Ghana in 1982, he had been in a near fatal accident in the US which left him walking with the support of crutches. When I asked the then PNDC chairman on several occasions to see him, he refused on the grounds that Cpl. Sarkodie had accepted ex-gratia from the Limann administration against his advice.

He told me to help him if I wanted to. Needless to say, I supported Cpl Sarkodie throughout the period before I was arrested. Cpl Sarkodie is famous for being one of the soldiers who, on the 4th of June 1979, went to release the PNDC chairman from his BNI cells into freedom and the AFRC Chairmanship.

The PNDC chairman knew that Cpl Sarkodie was the one who suggested, ‘let us just go and get Rawlings from prison if these officers will not lead us’, on the morning of 4th June 1979 at Support company, Arakan barracks. The rest is history.

Bulldozing by the man without friends

Soon after the coup had succeeded, the former chairman personally led armoured cars to bulldoze bakeries which belonged to ‘enemies’ he and his wife had made between 1979 and 1981.

Think of any former PNDC or AFRC functionary, and you realize that he has fallen out with them. The former PNDC Chairman, in my view, has difficulty recognising a friendly embrace or a genuine smile and that is why his friendships don’t last longer than a hug or a smirk. Those who have ears, let them hear.

I have taken time to catalogue above the reasons why the former PNDC Chairman is a person of interest in the murder cases of 30th June 1982. That is why he should have been interviewed. Why was he not interviewed? The surviving members of the SIB may have answers.

I now touch on why a straight forward case of murder became so complex one and remains unresolved, 37 years on before turning to my second suggestion for the families.

Using the murder to solve a problem

The failure to investigate the murders properly and to provide a satisfactory outcome for all parties was, in my view, partly because the then PNDC chairman was complicit.

However, the main reason was because he and his clique sought to take advantage of the confusion created by the murders to achieve their long-held aim of getting rid of the progressives within the PNDC. They weaponized the confusion with multi-headed ‘nuclear’ bombs and set them off to nuke all progressives in the barracks, the INCC and cadre centres all over the country.

The progressives had been unmovable obstacles in their path to the Bretton Woods’ beehives and had to be cleared out of the way for the amber nectar to flow.

We were accused of intransigence towards the IMF and in the then PNDC Chairman’s words, we thought we were ‘super revolutionaries’. Their Bretton Woods friends had promised them the personal fortunes they craved and we were prolonging their days of poverty. They became very impatient with us. They were fed up with us; you could see it in their eyes. We had to be nuked out of the way. These murders provided the opportunity and they were not going to miss it.

Solving a simultaneous equation

Had the PNDC troika concentrated on solving the crime that had been committed, the case would have been done and dusted with within weeks. All the culprits were present. The crime scene had been identified, the bodies and murder weapons recovered. The PNDC had within it the best legal minds the country has ever produced. In other words, everything that was needed to solve the crime within weeks was in place. The PNDC failed the nation, the victims and their families because they lost focus.

They had to solve a simultaneous equation. They had clever lawyers, but this was a Maths problem, so it took them a lot of time to work out how to exonerate the PNDC chairman, his wife and some inner circle members whilst implicating the progressives. At the same time, they had an uncontrollable variable coming into the mix - the judiciary and Amnesty International demanded not only justice but due process.

The PNDC knew their original plan of announcing names of culprits and evaporating them overnight had been stymied with the interest shown by the judiciary and Amnesty International.

This is why they hurriedly set up the SIB to satisfy the judiciary and Amnesty International whilst they continued finding a solution to the equation. It is clear the PNDC Troika never planned to set up the SIB nor accept its results. Having realised they had made mistakes in the setup of the SIB, their only option was now to frustrate it knowing they had the Tribunal under their control.

Desperate people do desperate things at desperate times. Imagine the ‘grotesque image’ of a so called ‘probity and accountability’ champion rushing, stumbling and panting all the way to the firing range to stop an execution in order to wheedle a blindfolded and bound accused person into providing a ‘confession’ which he, the then PNDC chairman needed in the future to save his own life and reputation.

With the requested ‘confession’ under his belt, he silenced the only other person who also knew the whole truth. Only then could Mr. Chairman sigh in relief. God Bless Us All!

The PNDC chairman was an eloquent man and had meticulously nursed his voice over the years so that when he spoke in earnest, his voice had a musical tang to it, thus giving him a persuasive advantage internationally, whilst mesmerizing most Ghanaians. He had goodwill in abundance across the country and the world. Had he come clean with Ghanaians on 1st July 1982 and told Ghanaians the truth, he most likely would have gotten away with it.

Unfortunately, he and his clique wanted more than just exoneration from the murders. Their ‘enemies’ had to be made to take the blame too.

The second suggestion the dead sometimes talk

This crime has a pungent smell which has seeped into every fabric in the country. The smell is impossible to clear out by just leaving the windows of the constitution open on the pages of the transitional provisions. It will not go away.

When the former PNDC chairman questioned the validity of the transitional provisions on the 4th of June 2019, it was as if the dead had inserted a passage they had written into his speech. He spoke for all, the murdered and those alive, like me who are crying out for justice.

Please go to court

My second suggestion to the families is that they seek justice in the courts through a private prosecution of the former PNDC chairman and other former PNDC operatives of interest to the case (me included). After all, crimes committed outside of government activity should not be seen to be covered under the Transitional Provisions.

I have stated why the Transitional Provisions should not stop the prosecution of individuals who committed offences just because the offenses were committed during the PNDC era.

I am of the view that previous governments since President Kufuor have failed the victims and their families. Yes, I have visited the busts on the forecourt of the high courts and I am aware of the Martyrs Day tribute. Thank you President Kufuor for that.

However, all of our presidents after Rawlings except President Mills have all tried to better each other in serenading the former PNDC chairman in gratitude to him for the dream-come-true that is the 4th Republic presidency.

As if to preserve the aura of their presidential fraternity, none of them has been interested in seeking the truth about these murders, concerned perhaps, that the image of their ‘patron saint’ would be tarnished.

As a first step, it should be possible to hire a reputed private investigator to investigate and document the case for the family. The SIB report, which the PNDC rejected could also contain a lot in it to provide a starting point for a private investigator. I promise my fullest cooperation should the family be so minded.

I believe that were the families to initiate such a process, any serving President would have no choice but to respond. The constitution has to be tested.

Petition international bodies

Failing that, the families could petition Amnesty International who showed an interest in 1982. They could also write to the International Federation of Human Rights for example. Whatever the families do on Martyrs day, I pray that they consider renewing their energies to fight for justice for the victims and themselves. Ghanaians will be grateful in the long run if they do. Nazi criminals are still being hunted down for crimes committed in the 1930s and 1940s. So why not?

The question of funding could be an issue. In this regard, I suggest a ‘crowd-funding’ initiative in Ghana and across the globe. I am very hopeful that many fair-minded benefactors would be willing contributors. Members of the legal fraternity could be interested in providing their services for it could have been any of them instead.

Rubbing it in with the boogie

Finally imagine how deeply painful it must be for the families of the victims that a few days before martyrs day when they are in sorrowful prayers and wondering what lives the victims would have had, how many grandchildren they would have had, how many weddings and graduations of their children that they have missed, how they would have been their bread winners, how they may have been planning get together as families on Republic Day and to be confronted with obscene footage of the former PNDC chairman doing the boogie in an apparently joyous celebration of his wonderful 72nd birth day as if deliberately dancing on their graves!

Why the PNDC Chairman lost control of the P/NDC

From the moment the murders occurred, the PNDC chairman lost his absolute power and had to share power equally with other members of the PNDC Troika. He would lose the rest of his power through a coup-without-a-gun in later years and could not respond because other members of the now powerful Troika were in the plot and he dared not offend them. This is why he is so frustrated with everybody. Read my next instalments. There are 31 instalments of similar length to come.

Thank you