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Lest Ghanaians Forget.By: Kofi Ellison

Author:
Yaw Boaten
Date:
2002-06-09 21:25:47


Lest Ghanaians Forget By: Kofi Ellison More from this columnist Now comes Jerry Rawlings attempting to insult our intelligence again by claiming ?probity and accountability' are his guiding principles! No Sir: corruption and treachery are your inherent domain!! For Rawlings to claim to lay a wreath for "the fallen heroes" of June 4th is indeed the final insult he is meting to the memory of those individuals, and Ghanaians at large. June 4th started a crazy chapter in our history that ushered in unique corruption at public expense. June 4th and its subsequent December 31st (1981) ARE DAYS OF INFAMY that completely destroyed Ghana for 20 years. Our schools, your hospitals, our national treasures, our roads, our morals, your national infrastructure; were all destroyed. Our hospitals became deathcamps; our school became ghettos; and our roads turned into ditches.

For Jerry Rawlings to claim that those who died on June 4th, died in pursuit of "accountability and probity" must be the final and ultimate insult for all Ghanaians. The claim underscores Rawlings' denial of reality.

HOW RAWLINGS UNDERMINED THE ARMY

In all indices of nation building, Jerry Rawlings set the standard to be avoided by subsequent Ghanaian leaders.

The Ghana Armed Forces and the Police have always been the envy of our African neighbors far and near. Though partly corrupted by coup d' etats, the Ghana Army has generally remained a highly professional body when it comes to the execution of its professional duties. Unlike other countries where the Army is openly divided along tribal lines for all to see, and battalions in each location is comprised largely of the people from that area, the Ghana Army has remained a unitary, national army.

During the Congo crisis in 1960-1961, such was the sheer brilliance of the Ghana soldiers who were sent as part of the UN force that Ghanaian soldiers won every conceivable award. The Ghanaian soldier and policeman has been called upon to ensure peace and order in far-flung areas such as Cambodia, Liberia, Lebanon, Israel, Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, etc. At one time a Ghanaian soldier General Erskine commanded all United Nations Soldiers in the Middle East! Such was his professionalism that he was once considered a candidate for UN Secretary General. The professionalism of the Ghana Armed Forces and the Police can never be questioned. Until the arrival of Jerry Rawlings John!

In his crazy and wanton drive to be the dictator of Ghana, Rawlings tried to undermine the security of Ghana by sowing seeds of discord in the Ghana Armed Forces, playing one batallion against the other and denying needed supplies to the battalions to undermine morale. He aimed at creating new sources of security amenable to his will. Hence the establishment of paramilitary outfits such as: the Progressive Voluntary Organisations (PVO), Association of Committees of the Defense of the Revolution (ACDR) and Civil Defence Organisation (CDO). These thugs were given guns at taxpayers expense and these guns were subsequently turned against the citizens in pursuit of "anti-revolutionaries.

To ensure that Ghana's roads were manned by people whose allegiance to him could not be questioned, Rawlings turned the "Bookmen" association or better known as The Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) into an armed organization. These louts were provided better ammunition, cars and trucks, better uniforms, etc. than our Police Service. Drivers and passengers on Ghana roads became resentful and fearful of these armed bandits who supplanted the authority of the Police on Ghana's highways and byways. They could stop and arrest drivers and passengers at will. Worse, the leaders of the GPRTU walked around under heavy armed guard of these bandits. Rather than "booking" passengers at our Lorry Stations, these Rawlings bandits booked people into jails, and sometimes into the cemeteries.

Folks, therein lies the emasculation of the Ghana police. Thousands of young men and women who joined the so-called revolutionary organizations and the GPRTU lived above the law. The police could not touch them. In fact, the police were sometimes attacked by these Rawlings bandits.

Another method used by Rawlings, and then copied by his henchmen was the introduction of armed enforcers into Ghana's civil society. These armed enforcers were called MACHOMEN. They struck fear into your family members in Ghana. They did everything from harassing political opponents, beating up "debtors", and generally turning Ghana's streets into crime scenes. In fact, civilian employees such as Ministers and Assemblymen were given arms by Rawlings. The proliferation of arms in Ghana, fostered by Rawlings, is the major cause of the resurgence of armed robberies in Ghana. But Rawlings was not finished. He had to completely undermine Ghana Army in order to undermine the security to his personal advantage.

Rawlings' aim, was to turn the Ghana Army into his personal praetorian guard. He wished to create conditions where the allegiance of the men in uniform would be directed to him, and not to the nation called Ghana. Of course the officers and men of the Army knew better. When they resisted this nefarious attempt by Rawlings to infiltrate their ranks in furtherance of his corrupt personal rule, Jerry Rawlings decided to establish his own ARMY; better fed, better housed, better-resourced. These louts were initially sent to Cuba and trained to become Jerry Rawlings' lap dogs. These Rawlings bandits were known as COMMANDOS! The term "commando" originates from South Africa (Afrikaans) and it has a bloody history. During the Boer War 1899-1902 between the Afrikaner and the English in South Africa, commando units were set up to cause raids and other unspeakable atrocities in "enemy" territory.

Once these Rawlings bandits or Commandos returned from Cuba, they were assigned to "enemy territory" in Ghana as designated by Rawlings and his henchmen. One such place was their employment as taxi cab drivers. Several Ghanaians and foreigners were unwittingly driven into a discussion of the Ghana political scene where the Commando driver took an anti Rawlings stance to drag the unsuspecting passenger into making derogatory remarks against "Chairman Rawlings". Scores of Ghanaians lost limb and life through such Rawlings trap! Other "enemy territory" included State transport buses, bars and discos, places of employment, and indeed within the Army and Police!

When these dastardly and deadly activities failed to elicit support among the officers and men of the Ghana Army, Jerry Rawlings decided to create his own army. The name he chose for this dangerous assault on the security of Ghana was "June Fourth Battalion" or as it is commonly known "Battalion 64". Now you and I know what June 4th represents in the annals of Ghana's political history so I will not belabor the point. Suffice it to say that this battalion is better fed, and better resourced than any other outfit in Ghana Armed Forces. No mean a person than former Chief of Defence Staff General Joshua Hamidu spoke out against this unit. It was a highly politicized group under arms, whose sworn allegiance is to Rawlings. They defied the Army chain-of-command and occupied the GNTC flats at Kanda Estates in Accra; they still occupy PNDC era confiscated houses that by law have been given back to the rightful owners. Dr. Busia's house at Odorkor is one such house occupied by members of Battalion 64. It must be a relief to Ghanaians that the new NPP government has dismantled this potentially renegade military outfit.

Alone among other units of Ghana Armed Forces and the Police, and Civilians, Battalion 64 found it necessary to pledge allegiance to the new Kuffour administration when the new Defence Minister visited Burma Camp as part of a familiarization tour. Such is the danger represented by this outfit. Recent news reports indicated that members of this unit took part in the sudden upsurge of armed robberies in Ghana. Battalion 64 is the Pit Bull Dog of Ghana's security situation. Rawlings' own security detail was selected from this group. And now he wants 24 of these bandits as his personal security detail in retirement. I hope the government refuses.

As a result of the Rawlings assault on the security of Ghana, there have been so many guns made available to people who should not have been given these guns, in the first place. This has created the upsurge in armed robberies.

HOW RAWLINGS UNDERMINED THE JUDICIARY

Ghana has been blessed with highly qualified lawyers who have always held their own no matter where the legal profession has taken them. Indeed, our traditional Akyeame or Linguists embody this knowledge of explaining and interpreting the customary law, as much as our western educated lawyers are noted for efficiently advocating 'habeas corpus', and proclaiming 'heretofore', 'aforementioned', 'aforesaid'!

In 1874 when the British led a Gulf-War type coalition against Asante, a son of the late Asantehene Osei Tutu Kwame (Osei Bonsu1804-1823) named Owusu Ansah, a lawyer and man of letters went to London to agitate against the English atrocities! In 1898, John Mensah Sarbah, and others formed the Aborigines Rights Protection Society and sent a delegation to London to appeal Queen Victoria's decision to turn the Gold Coast Colony into a terra nullis (no man's land), so that such land that was not in use would be designated "Crown Land" belonging to the English queen!!

The names Casely Hayford, JB Danquah, Obtsebi Lamptey, etc., struck fear in the spines of the English colonists because these Ghanaians agitated for the independence of Ghana by appeal to the law. Such were the number of fine Ghanaian lawyers, that Ghana is among the very, very, few African countries whose independence constitution was written by their own black African citizens. Kenya's independence constitution for example, was written by the African American jurist Thurgood Marshall. At one time, the Attorney general's office in Zambia was hugely populated by Ghanaian law grads from Legon. Ghanaians have served as Attorneys- general, and Supreme Court Justices all over Africa. We have always had excellent lawyers.

Sadly, under Jerry Rawlings, serious attempts were made to undermine not only the legal profession in Ghana, but the Ghana judicial system and courts of law. Rawlings undermined the judiciary in his attempts to turn Ghana into a Stone Age polity ruled by cavemen with little brains.

First, Rawlings set up rival courts called Peoples' Tribunal which meted out dubious sentences on trumped up charges against respected Ghanaians. The Tribunals were nothing more than Kangaroo Courts where non-lawyers and pliant lawyers meted out "revolutionary" justice. This "court" undermined the authority of the established courts, compromised the effectiveness of the judiciary, and reduced the rule of law to the rule of Rawlings.

Second, Rawlings continually harassed, arrested, and imprisoned some of our brave lawyers who dared to stand up to his assault on the legal system and respect on law order. Sam Okudzeto, and the Lawyers Association became the bane of Rawlings' attempt to turn Ghana into another Libya. Thus, lawyers suffered immeasurably stress under Jerry Rawlings, all in his bid to undermine the Ghana judiciary through intimidation, imprisonment, and death.

The third tactic used by Jerry Rawlings was actual torture and outright cold blooded murder of judges. Any lawyer or judge who stood up to Jerry Rawlings' PNDC was in danger of losing their life. For the first time in Ghana's history, gangs sponsored by the PNDC government headed by Rawlings abducted three of Ghana's respected jurists from their homes before of terrified family members including babies, and brutally shot at a military firing range in Accra. Their bodies were burnt. But the Lord works in mysterious ways. The hidden iniquities of the devil will always be unearthed by the kindness and miracles of the Lord. That night (April 30, 1982, as I recall), it rained and the rains smothered the fires of hatred set by Rawlings' gangsters to destroy their diabolical deeds. Thus, this hideous murder most foul was unearthed and Ghanaians became aware, if they had not already, of the extent to which Jerry Rawlings would go to undermine the Ghana judiciary in his march to personal rule and corruption.

Justice Azu Crabbe who headed the "official" investigation had to flee his residence in the suburbs because of threats on his life, to the safety of his family home in Bukom during the investigations. He had his own daughter type the findings of the investigations to avoid tampering by government printers! The report cited Kojo Tsikata, Rawlings' Chief Security Officer as an accomplice and called for his indictment. Tsikata is now enjoying a tranquil exile in South Africa. The three murdered judges were Justices Koranteng Addo (a woman), Agyapong, and Sarkodie. I call on the NPP government to rename the Sankara Circle after these murdered judges who were killed for defending the right in their country. May their souls rest in perfect peace.

It is heartening to note that the Kuffour government has vowed to respect the independence of the judiciary, defend the rule of law, and respect the Separation of Powers which delineates the three branches of government. God bless Ghana.

HOW RAWLINGS UNDERMINED THE PRESS

Perhaps the major cog in the wheel of democracy is FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The American statesman Thomas Jefferson recognized that, and left this memorable quote which I am liberally paraphrasing: when the press is free, and everyone is able to read, the Republic is safe. Indeed, the Press and Journalists are sometimes referred to as the Fourth Estate of the realm. That term comes from the political set-up of pre-revolutionary (i.e. pre 1789) France. Under the Bourbons, France's Estates General or National Assembly had three branches or Three Estates. The first 2 Estates comprised the Nobility and the Clergy, who usually voted together to suppress the much larger Third Estate which consisted of everyone who was not a Noble or Clergy, regardless of education or wealth. It is too charitable to describe The Estates General as a rubber stamp parliament. It rarely met; and only at the whim of the ruling monarch. Under the circumstances, the writers and journalists became the unofficial mouthpiece and purveyors of the real concerns of the citizenry. Hence, the term Fourth Estate to describe the journalistic profession.

There is nothing more stifling to homo sapiens, than knowing the truth or having an opinion and not being allowed to express it without fear of prosecution or harassment. Under the 20 year rule of Jerry Rawlings, Ghanaians were subjected to the most rampant violation of the most basic of human and natural rights, i.e. the freedom to say what is in your head! Such was the closure of freedom of expression that the phenomenon of not being able to utter a word under PNDC rule led to what was termed "Culture of Silence". Ghanaians could not say what they felt without being beaten by official thugs and thrown into jail.

When the world renowned historian Dr. Adu Boahen broke the silence with his "Dr. JB Danquah Memorial Lectures" armed soldiers from a battalion of the Ghana Army were sent by Rawlings to invade Professor Adu Boahen's house to kill him. Luckily, he was not home. His house watchmen engaged the soldiers in a gun battle, one of whom was fatally wounded. Anyone who dared to say anything in opposition to Rawlings and his clique would suffer deadly consequences. Other methods were used to silence those who courageously spoke what needed to be spoken.

Several Ghanaians journalists were subjected to harassments, arrests, beatings, and the like. Human feces would occasionally be sprayed at the offices of "opposition" newspapers in an attempt to flush out the news of the day! Two journalists died as a result of Rawlings brutalities that I know of.

1. John Kugblenu: Here was an outstanding Ghanaian journalist who swore to tell it like it is. He was a fine gentleman with an exceptionally erudite mind. Kugblenu was the Editor of the Free Press. The Free Press was one of the earliest and leading critics of the excesses of PNDC rule. For his patriotism in telling Ghanaians the rot that was the PNDC, Kugblenu was arrested countless times. On each occasion, he would be subjected to brutal and animalistic beatings in prison. Mr. John Kugblenu eventually died from the effects of those brutal beatings he had suffered in Rawlings' prison. The Ghana Journalists Association instituted the yearly "Kugblenu Memorial Lectures" in his honor.

2. There was not a finer man that Mr. Tommy Thompson. He was indeed a renaissance man. He came from a family that was known and respected for their dedication to civic duty. In fact his father Kojo Thompson is one of the few Ghanaians with a street named after them in Accra. Such was the dedication that radiated from the father to the son. Tommy Thompson was a leading Ghanaian advertising executive. He established The Free Press as a daily newspaper to provide untainted news to Ghanaians to balance the daily dose of lies perpetrated by the government-controlled then People's Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times. Tommy Thompson was also an avid football afficionado. Indeed, he was the Chairman of Ghana's 'premier' club Accra Hearts of Oak. He was a community leader, and a national leader. But he was also from a rather strong CPP pedigree. He could not remain unconcerned as the PNDC rode roughshod over the freedoms of Ghanaians. As the Founder/Publisher and sometimes Editor of The Free Press, Mr. Tommy Thompson became a thorn in the flesh of the PNDC arrivistes. Like Kugblenu, he was arrested several times and subjected to brutal and animalistic beatings in prison. After being released from one of such prison-beatings, Mr. Thompson suffered a stroke and died. Thus, Ghana lost a major community leader, sports administrator, business executive, and journalist.

Other journalists have suffered brutal beatings and imprisonment under Rawlings. The names are too many to recount here; but Yao Graham still has serious rib problems after a disastrous pummeling in Tema by soldiers; Kwaku Baako, Haruna Atta, etc., have all been subjected to inhuman and inhumane treatment under Rawlings.

When all dastardly acts proved inefficient to silence Ghana's brave journalists, Rawlings then resorted to hitting them in their pockets. The instrument he employed was "Libel Law". Under this sweeping law, it became almost impossible, and rather costly to even publish that Rawlings or any of his henchmen sang out of tune!!!

It is refreshing to read that the new Kuffour administration has committed itself to real press freedom, and has made it a priority to abolish the most crippling aspects of the libel law. God bless Ghana.

HOW RAWLINGS UNDERMINED THE BUSINESS SECTOR

A corrosive effect of the 20 year rule of Jerry Rawlings that is seldom spoken about is the disaster he wrought on Ghanaian entrepreneurship.

Rawlings came to power as a saber-rattling anti-business, anti-success in entrepreneurship. He dealt major blows to established Ghanaian businessmen whose factories employed thousands of Ghanaians. Above all, his actions shook investor confidence and thus fewer investment came to Ghana during the past 20 years.

Among the major casualties of this anti-business, anti-success Rawlings were the following:

1. Mr. J.K. Siaw of Tata Brewery. Here was a successful Ghanaian businessman who parlayed his business acumen into one of the most successful business enterprises in Ghana. With a marketing ploy called "Bubra" Mr. Siaw made Tata Brewery a giant in the field, and afforded thousands of Ghanaians with a paycheck. Jerry Rawlings/PNDC confiscated Tata brewery and other Siaw assets. Tata Brewery was put under SSNIT and thus, became a personal fountain of wealth for Rawlings. Rawlings (not literally) tapped into the money accrued from the brewery (then named Achimota Brewery) for his personal gain. Not unexpectedly, the brewery became a business loss! It was later sold to Heinekens of Holland. The family of Mr. Siaw (who is now deceased) have not received a penny from Tata brewery, neither were they afforded shares in the Heineken purchase of the former Tata Brewery.

2. Dr. Safo Adu, a renowned Ghanaian physician married his scientific knowledge to an inherent sense of entrepreneurship and set up the Industrial Chemical Ltd. to manufacture drugs for both domestic and export markets. He was very successful at that. Because of his perceived opposition to PNDC dictatorship and PNDC disastrous business policies, the government conspired to undermine the marketing of ICL products both at home and abroad. Banks all of a sudden could not give financing to ICL innovations. The company went down!

3. Dr. Addison, another renowned Ghanaian industrialist dating to the 1960's. His peers elected him Chairman of the Ghanaian Manufacturers Association. He set up Cement Works and manufactured cement bags among several of his businesses. He was deemed anti-P/NDC and therefore he had to be brought down. Rawlings decreed that no longer could Dr. Addison manufacture cement bags. The new contract for the manufacture of cement bags was given to a NIGERIAN to IMPORT cement bags. Dr. Addison not only lost his business; Ghanaian workers lost their paychecks.

4. B.A. Mensah is a well known and highly respected Ghanaian entrepreneur in the mode of Poku Transport, Boakye Mattress, and Anim Addo, to name a few. Mr. Mensah established International Tobacco Ltd. His business was confiscated and employees lost jobs. All what was left for B.A. Mensah, was a song by the renowned traditional Adowa musician Nana Yaw Dwene, to solace himself with. The song is "Onsee Da", that is to say B.A. Mensah and his entrepreneurship can never be destroyed!!

5. Another sad case of a Ghanaian entrepreneur brought down by Rawlings is the case of Appia-Menka. A great Ghanaian business entrepreneur, he set up the Apino Soap Manufacturing Industries. In the era of scarcity in Ghana, Apino Soap became a by-word for cleanliness in Ghana! The success raised the ire of Rawlings who went on National Television to appeal to Ghanaians NOT to buy Apino products because Appia-Menka was opposed to P/NDC totalitarianism. Rawlings felt Appia-Menka would fund his opposition. Like the others, Apino Soap lost business, and Ghanaians lost their paychecks.

If these businessmen had been encouraged or at least left alone to expand their expertise, they certainly would have blazed new trails. It is refreshing to hear from the new president that he will be the midwife to Ghanaian entrepreneurship. I hope the children of Siaw, Addison, Mensah and Safo Adu will follow in their fathers footsteps.

Some Ghanaians have called on the new NPP government to compensate people who lost their businesses. These are wise calls that must be made in their proper perspective. The Ghana government is flat broke. These are some of the problems bequeathed to Ghana by Rawlings and his minions.

So, the next time you see Jerry John Rawlings, ?aka Paul Gyamfi', trying to insult your intelligence by laying a wreath anywhere in Ghana; kindly advise him that Ghanaians are not fools, nor can he think he is the alpha and omega of Ghana. Ghanaians have allowed him to come and go as he pleases because we are a civilized, loving people. Rawlings cannot presume to be able to con us again. ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY! Be vigilant, and tell the con man Rawlings to get the hell off. And that is how polite I can put it. If Rawlings cannot behave like a gentleman, we ought not treat him like one!!!

Views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.

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