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Opinions of Saturday, 9 April 2011

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

The judge who gave Rawlings a gun!

By George Sydney Abugri

The republic has been in a state of mass schizophrenia, Jomo: Court judges fled the bench this week, with her Ladyship the Chief Justice in a commanding lead, National Democratic Congress supporters attacked and torched their party’s headquarters in Tamale and large numbers of people marched through the streets of Accra screaming for justice, not as in social equity and fairness but as in criminal justice.

Amid all that, former President Rawlings was heard talking revolution all over again with great animation and the passionate vigour of the late 1970s but this time, a revolution within his party.

The man who founded the NDC says his beloved party has been high jacked by individuals who have departed from the party’s original vision and political philosophy and he wants his political party back without a fuss whatsoever from any quarter.

The reason for the sky-bound hackles all around? Mills had promised during his presidential campaign, that if elected president, his administration would ensure that those who killed the King of Dagbon, Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II and 40 of his subjects inside the Gbewaa Palace at Yendi on 25 March, 2002 are identified and punished.

The trial of 14 persons charged with the murder of the late king and 40 others indeed began after Mills took office. Last week the judge presiding over the trial disposed of the case and let all the wild elements loose.

Justice E. K. Ayebi upheld a submission of “no case” filed by the defence, to the utmost chagrin and anger of NDC supporters and members of the Andani royal Gate.

The slain king had apparently been shot, beheaded and his body burnt. Judge Ayebi said it was not enough for the prosecution to state that the Ya-Naa was dead and simply leave it at that.

The judge said whatever investigations had been conducted, had not provided conclusive evidence of the identity of the charred body. He said no DNA examination had been conducted to prove that the body was that of the Ya-Na.”

The judge said it was required in law, that the death of the Ya-Na be proven beyond all reasonable doubt, especially since the prosecution had not tendered a death certificate as evidence.

Since the prosecution had failed to prove that the charred remains were indeed the body of the Ya-Na, Judge Ayebi argued, the 14 accused persons could not be held liable for the death of the Ya-Na.

Very neat, Jomo! A tidy, detached, sanitized and emotionless legal statement if also a cruel one disregarding of the sensibilities of the late king’s family and subjects.

Justice Ayebi‘s argument that while the death of the late king of Dagbon is not in dispute, the accused could not be held for his murder in the absence of a positive identification of his body is frightening: It seems to suggest that as long as people can kill others and make the bodies disappear; they can rest assured of going Scott free.

Whatever happened to admissibility of circumstantial evidence in criminal trials? The trial judge did not say! The judge based his arguments on the report of the Wuako Commission which conducted an enquiry into the murders.

Just as frightening has been the level of dishonesty in something as serious as the trial of 14 people for murder. Imagine the defence in the case arguing that no murders had been committed and that the late king and 40 of his subjects and aides were killed in a war situation!

How could any one fail to notice the illogicality in such an argument? The king and the 40 were killed in the king’s palace and since they could not have sent an invitation to the killers to invade the palace and kill them, it could only mean the king and the 40 were surprised by armed invaders and murdered.

If any fighting occurred during the invasion, it could only be that rather than just sit and be slaughtered like ducks, the king and his subjects tried to escape or repel the invaders. Why would an honest man call that a war situation without batting an eye lid? Legal technicalities are intended to prevent the submission of bad or false evidence, misconduct on the part of police investigators and prosecutors and other ethical violations in the administration of justice but hey, it now appears that these technicalities can be used to obstruct the administration of criminal justice. This chap went and stole five cows, see? He was caught. The chap went to see a lawyer: "I was caught stealing five cows. Will you defend me?" The lawyer said "It will cost you US$500." “No problem”, the bloke said. "Right. When you appear in court, you must pretend to be crazy, see|? When the judge asks you a question, you must say, “mooo!'" The bloke went to court and the judge asked him a question. "Moo!" he said. The judge asked him another question. "Moo!" the bloke repeated. In answer to the third question he said "mooo!" Convinced that he was an idiot, the court set him free. Outside the courthouse, the lawyer was waiting for his cash. "Let me have the five hundred dollars," the lawyer said. "Mooo!" the chap said. "You fool, you don't have to do that anymore” the lawyer told him. "Mooo!" said the bloke. He said “mooo” to everything. Curious passers by stopped to watch. The lawyer hurried away minus his legal fee. It is a story about how legal practice is sometimes characterized by obscene greed, how lawyers sometimes misuse the law to free clients who are as guilty as sin and how justice is administered not on the basis of a sense of right and wrong but rather on the basis of written law. The very least we can do at this stage as a nation always touting our purported credentials as a democratic country where there is respect for human rights, is to pick up the pieces all over again, catch those who killed the late Dagbon king and 40 others and punish them according to the law.

The key causes of the conflicts in Northern Ghana and other parts of the country are historically related to issues of land ownership, chieftaincy and marginalization of some ethnic groups. You will however find the tale-tell footprints of politicians along the trail of recurring violence in the conflict zones.

Being the ever-scheming creatures that they are, politicians of successive ruling parties and the major opposition parties have aligned their parties with opposing factions in the major conflicts, providing discreet support for the respective causes of the opposing factions.

The very precious votes needed to wrest or stay in power have been the motivation of the politicians since independence. That is why there is always “bloc-voting” in the conflict areas with one faction typically voting for the opposition and the other for the ruling party. If they tell you I am lying, don’t mind them. Trust me.

Exactly were does JJ fit into this yarn? Trust JJ to sniff an opportunity from a trillion light years away: He rushed off to Tamale in the wake of the controversial judgment to placate NDC supporters who had attacked party headquarters in protest.

Rawlings has been very critical of Mills’s style of administration. Mills, he has frequently complained has failed to prosecute people suspected of having helped themselves to public mainly during the previous administration.

Those cases Mills’s administration has sent to court have been thrown out thanks to shoddy investigations and prosecutions.

He told party supporters in Tamale the time had come to “clean up” the NDC and rid it off those who have hijacked his great party and used it to set up a government without bite. Thereafter, JJ wants to replace the high jackers with “bold people who must do what needs to be done.”

He proposes to get President Mills out of the way and have him replaced with another candidate at the coming NDC congress to elect a presidential candidate for 2012.

He is convinced that without Mills out of the way, it would be difficult to bring the killers of the late king of Dagbon to justice.

Justice Ayebi has handed JJ the gun he needs to shoot Mills’s candidature down but whether it is loaded with blanks or live ammunition will be determined at the NDC’s coming congress where great sparks might fly!