22.07.2003 Feature Article

Kangaroo Court in Country Today?

By Press
Kangaroo Court in Country Today?
22.07.2003 LISTEN

The Chronicle a couple of years ago reported the presence of an illegal police station being operated at Burma Camp, the heart of the nation's defense establishment. Today, a similar story is being told at Asutsuare, about 92 kilometers from the nation's capital.

Over a period now, the local Area Council has been operating a kangaroo court and has a carpenter as its judge or chairman, presiding over it.

Chronicle's intensive investigation has disclosed that the presence of a one-man police post located within the same premises as the kangaroo court, is treated with contempt, for criminal cases which should be investigated by the police are dealt with by the court directly, by-passing the one-man police station. Sittings take place only on Thursdays.

On days of sittings, 'His Lordship' S. K. Apafo (a.k.a. Skinpain), who rides on a bicycle to the compound, is ushered in with a 'court rise' shout before he takes his seat.

The Ghana coat of arms, a portrait of President John Agyekum Kufuor and the Ghana flag are used to decorate the rear wall of the judge's seat to display the supposed source of authority. Cases tried at the court include criminal ones, which must be handled by a competent court of jurisdiction.

After last Thursday's sitting, Chronicle undercover investigators who sat in the session, followed the presiding judge, to his rice farm where he had gone to work.

He told this reporter that they were the first victims of the Asutsuare incident during the NDC reign, which saw the burning down of several houses and loss of other property.

According to the judge, when the table turned after the 2000 elections, and their brothers fled into exile, reports made available to the outside world painted Asutsuare as a lawless place.

As a result, the area council allegedly made a formal appeal to the Dangme West district chief executive, K. T. K. Agban, for them to establish a form of arbitration court.

He claimed the DCE accepted the idea.

Skinpain, in his 60s, narrated how he worked as a carpenter at the seat of government in the first republican era, and then with the defunct Ghana Sugar Estates Limited (GHASEL), sugar factory at Asutsuare, still as a carpenter, the trade he continues to practise today.

Both the judiciary and police say they are going to investigate the presence of what seems to be an illegally constituted court in a constitutional regime.

The judicial secretary, Mr. Owusu Ansah, reacting, said that courts could only be established with the approval of the Chief Justice and no other person.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Nana Owusu Nsiah, on his part, said that he was going to send a team to investigate and report for further action.

The Chronicle's enquiry revealed that the setting up of the kangaroo court came about since an embargo was placed on any form of arrest at Asutsuare by the police headquarters during the period of the former IGP, Mr. Osei Owusu-Poku. That order still prevails.

Last year, a taxi belonging to a retired teacher from one of the two neighbouring Krobo traditional areas was burnt at a place near the former sugar factory.

Investigations led to the identity of the perpetrators of that act.

Recent reports have it that, police from Akuse fell on the Asutsuare assembly member for the arrest of the suspects in the town, but he allegedly promised to report at the station with them. The following day, a Sunday, DCE Agban drove to the Akuse police station to meet the district commander of police but he was not available.

Agban reportedly left a note, asking the commander to see him the following day at his Dodowa office, which the district police boss obliged. The outcome of that meeting was not disclosed but since then the arrest could not come on again.

It will be recalled that, in August 2000, a policeman stationed at Akuse, Detective Sergeant Samuel Addo, was among men detailed to effect the arrest of suspects who allegedly stole farm equipment.

The police were attacked and Sgt. Addo was butchered, taken for dead and his 'body' dumped at the local cemetery.

Suspects in that heinous crime and a previous one, the same year, in which one Frimpong was almost butchered but for the intervention of a nearby village community, fled the town and were declared wanted by the then police administration headed by Mr. Peter Nanfuri.

Not long after this, some of the suspects were arraigned before a Tema court but the managed to abscond. The 2000 elections took place and with the New Patriotic Party (NPP) assuming administration of the country, the fugitives resurfaced.

On February 2, 2001, perceived NDC sympathizers at Asutsuare were attacked, their homes vandalized, including the palace of the chief, and they were compelled to flee.

At a stage, the police at Akuse could not guarantee their safety so they sought refuge at the Akuse Government Hospital.

Strangely, a bus used by the people in kidnapping Frimpong and which was being kept at the police station was released to the owner, a wanted fugitive, whose group took control of the town.

Meanwhile, the people of Asutsuare last week reconciled themselves at a time all hope seemed to be farfetched. World Vision convened a two-day meeting for the two factions to bring about peace in their town.

At the meeting on Thursday, the chief of Asutsuare, Nene Ablorh II, who also fled the town in the wake of the disturbances, as his palace was vandalized, walked to the front and embraced people perceived to be his enemies.

In an interview with the Chronicle, Nene Ablorh II said when the incident took place, compelling some of them to go into exile, several appeals to government to come to their aide proved futile.

According to him, even promises by the state to set up a committee to investigate the issue ended up, being mere talk, and not even an attempt by the Dangme West District Assembly (DWDA) to mediate in the crisis materialized, even though the DCE comes from the place.

The chief, whose father, also a victim of the February 2001 attack, died and was buried about a fortnight ago, said that it is better to learn to make peace among themselves, more so when they are a family.

An official of World Vision, facilitators of the peace talks, Priscilla Peters, disclosed to the Chronicle that a lot of people make utterances to suggest that they are ready for war in this country when in actual fact they never sit to assess the degree of harm wars cause to mankind.

It was based on this that World Vision showed to the two factions video clips of war-ravaged countries.

According to her, the otherwise fighting groups accepted that by the end of this month, leaders of both political parties in the town, NPP and NDC, are going to smoke a final peace pipe, use next month to resolve individual family differences and crown it all with a peace durbar on September 20 at Asutsuare.