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Opinions of Saturday, 20 March 2010

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

The NDC And Justice

16th March, 2010

These days, the NDC has been pontificating a lot about Justice ---- or to be more accurate, injustice.

It began some time ago with the National Security Advisor announcing that prosecutions of former NPP officials were imminent. Last week, in far away Abuja, former President Rawlings joined in the misguided chorus about injustice with some grossly misguided talk of his own. Addressing an audience in connection with decentralization, the former President, reading a prepared script, wandered into justice--- or to be more precise, injustice. He said “In Ghana for instance, we have always had the practice of rectifying and punishing the wrongs of past regimes. In doing that, we have been sending a message that you cannot abuse your office while in government.”

Continued the former President “If we do not punish such crimes in the life of the regime but do so only after its removal many are able to escape the net of the law and the practice perpetuates itself thereby stunting development on a national scale. It appears that for the first time in our history, we are going to enter a situation of failure to deal with crimes of a previous regime—serious crimes, not just economic crimes but crime related to human rights violations and this is obviously going to perpetuate a corrupt ruling class syndrome”. A few days later, former Supreme court Justice Kpegah added the coup-de-grace by denouncing the Attorney General for failing to prosecute members of the previous regime. Within days, prosecutions were unveiled in connection with Ghana International Airlines with promises of more to come. With the Attorney General still under siege, she has resorted to distorting history to prove that she is no friend of the NPP. Even though she left the Ministry after Nana Akufo-Addo with a glowing recommendation from him, Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu claimed she was hounded out of the place by the former NPP Presidential candidate. Unfortunately for her, facts are inconvenient things and she stands exposed before the world. Let me begin my analysis by stating some obvious facts. First, a government that allows its National Security Advisor to announce pending prosecutions creates the very strong impression that it does not care about justice. Second, I have noticed in my admittedly limited reading of history that undemocratic countries like adding the name “Democratic” to their names and people who are unjust throw the word “justice” around a lot. Think of “Democratic Republic of Korea” and “Democratic Republic of the Congo” and then turn homeward and think of those in our politics who made “social justice” and “democratization of violence” familiar to all of us.

Third, it is said that once a judge, always a judge. Justice Kpegah, considered by many to be a brilliant jurist, has abandoned judicial impartiality. What happened to the presumption of innocence even for an accused person? What happened to due Process? The spectacle of a former Supreme Court justice demanding what will be in effect, political trials is a disservice to the rule of law and our national cohesion.

Now, let us deal with former President Rawlings and his brand of justice, natural or otherwise. It is surprising that the person who has served as our leader longer than anyone else should bemoan the practice of not punishing misdeeds during the life of a government. During his nearly two decades in power, what did President Rawlings do to ensure accountability of government officials in real time? Virtually nothing. Indeed, even now, confronted with evidence of corruption in the Mabry and Johnson scandal that occurred on his watch, Mr. Rawlings appears surprisingly uninterested in accountability for his former officials. In his rambling speech, the former President claimed that “we have always had the practice of rectifying and punishing the wrongs of past regimes”. Not really, your Excellency. When you and your henchmen, afraid of your shadows, inserted the transitional provisions into the 1992 constitution, the wrongs of the PNDC regime could not be rectified and you have never been punished. When Ghanaians endorsed that constitution, we were choosing peace over justice. If the truth be told, Sir, nobody has committed more human rights violations than you and your regime in our history. Unfortunately, even though you were one of the biggest beneficiaries of that pact with the devil, you refuse to let the past rest. Obviously, your Excellency missed the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us”. You have been forgiven again and again and yet, you continue to spew hatred and to crave revenge against those who have not wronged you. Sir, an eye for an eye, truthfully applied, will leave you and many of your ilk not just blind but worse.

As a country, we should not have difficulty standing up for justice. Our country’s motto is “Freedom and Justice”. We devote significant portions of our constitution committing ourselves to justice.

In Chapter 5 of the 1992 constitution, 17:1 reads “All persons shall be equal before the law.” 17:2 reads “A person shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or economic status.” 17:3 reads “ For purposes of this article “discriminate” means to give different treatment to different persons attributable only or mainly to their respective description by race, place of origin, POLITICAL OPINIONS, colour, gender, occupation, religion or creed, whereby persons of one description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another description are not made subject or are granted privileges or advantages which are not granted to persons of another description.” The capitals were introduced by me for emphasis.

Are the calls by former President Rawlings, Justice Kpegah and many others for the prosecution of NPP members not a violation of our constitution? Is the fact that Asabe and others are in court but not Muntaka, on the surface not a violation of our constitution’s prohibition against discrimination on political grounds? Why are those who protested Tsatsu’s trial now for similar trials of their political opponents?

Of course, there were some violations against NDC members during the NPP tenure in government but shall we continue with the wishes of people like former President Rawlings, always pre-occupied with revenge for past wrongs instead of redemption for our future growth? How can we build a great country when so much of our limited talent and energy is focused so intensely on revenge? To those in the NDC yearning to do justice, here are some injustices that are going on right now, even as they strive to punish past wrongs they cannot right. First, the hundreds of young men and women recruited by the NPP administration for the Ghana Armed Forces in 2008 whose training was halted by the new NDC government are still home. Indeed, new recruits, supposedly more amenable to the NDC have been recruited and trained. Are those whose recruitment has been halted not Ghanaians? Does the annulment of their recruitment not violate the constitution’s ban on discrimination?

Second, many Police Officers who used to guard NPP Ministers have been sacked or sent to remote areas or are under other forms of harassment to make them uncomfortable because the regime they worked with is no longer in power. The harassment of these security officers is the continuation of the policy of sacking the incumbent IGP and service commanders merely because they were appointed by a previous government.That is a clear violation of our constitution.

Indeed, some of these people have gone to CHRAJ for redress of their grievances and are yet to get a hearing. Third, all around our country, employees of the National Health Insurance Scheme and the National Youth Employment Plan are being laid off in large numbers, because they were hired under the NPP. For example, in my constituency, Abura-Asebu-Kwamankese, people recruited to be teaching assistants with the promise that they will be assisted to become teachers have been kicked out of the program to make way for NDC members. Others have not been paid for months. Here is a cause for justice if ever there was one. Let those who yearn to do battle for justice, in defence of constitutional principles stand up for these Ghanaians whose rights are under assault by the NDC.

Let me be clear. I am not only calling the NDC out for their hypocrisy. I am calling out CHRAJ, the media, the clergy and civil society for their silence in the face of injustice.

I am calling out the NPP for our silence. We have been the party of justice in our history. Danquah died for justice. Akufo-Addo freed those accused of the Kolungugu incident in the name of justice. We fought the “culture of silence” in the name of justice. We are those our founders hoped would stand up for freedom and justice. We are those posterity will question if Freedom and Justice does not survive. Therefore, let us be up and doing the work of freedom and of Justice. It is time to stand up and be counted. If the NDC government will not pay their ex-gratia due them by law, let Kufuor and the others go to court for the principle that no government will be permitted to flout our constitution!

If the NDC will not stop the persecution of former army recruits, former security officials as well as NYEP and NHIS employees, let the lawyers stop talking and start filing suits on their behalf at CHRAJ and in our courts! If the NDC government insist on keeping his personal vehicles in violation of his rights, let Nana Akufo-Addo go to court for the principle that no government can confiscate the property of a citizen because of his politics!

As Kwesi Pratt and others turn from street protests to tea-drinking, let us reclaim the streets. We should have been there long ago, after Agbobloshie, Tamale and many other outrages. It is time to take up the work of expanding “Freedom and Justice” in our courts, in our churches and on our streets. Let us all act, to give meaning to our motto, “Freedom and Justice” and to the words of our constitution, which clearly forbids discrimination!!