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22.02.2004 Feature Article

JJ's Day At NRC And Matters Arising

JJ's Day At NRC And Matters Arising
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The day held a lot of promise for the work of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) yet the testimony was disappointing to say the least. The clash between the pro-Rawlings supporters and the police didn't help matters either.

After forty five minutes of direct questioning from the lead counsel of the Commission, former President Jerry Rawlings basically pleaded the fifth when he told the commission he couldn't find the tape on the execution of an army officer and another tape containing the alleged confession of a civilian member of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) of his own complicity in the murders of the three high court judges and the retired judge.

A legendary nonconformist and not the kind to keep to the script, Rawlings kept his composure and gave straight and direct answers that left his handlers including a bevy of lawyers happy. With the whole nation transfixed on the day's proceedings the strategy was for the former President not to give any incriminating answers and boy did that work!

The commission had subpoenaed President Rawlings to obtain information on the alleged tapes in response to a petition presented by the family of Lance Cpl Sarkodie Addo and on the strength of the testimony of Riad Hoziafeh, a leading figure in the PNDC government. In the petition submitted to the commission Sarkodie's family linked Rawlings to a tape that had surfaced in the early eighties about the execution of their son while Hofsiafeh claimed Rawlings had the tape in which Amartey Kwei had absolved Captain Kojo Tsikata from blame in the murder of the judges and the retired judge. CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER But for me the news was neither the man Rawlings nor his performance before the NRC. What the media failed to adequately report on was what played out a few metres away from the premises of the Commission where a group of hard core sympathizers of Rawlings engaged police officers in a running street battle that resulted in some injuries.

Groups of youth mainly from Nima and its surrounding areas were organized to provide some semblance of support for the former President when he appeared before the commission. Even though we are yet to identify the faces behind the group one thing is clear and that is Ghana cannot afford to build a society that acquiesces a lawless, vigilante culture. We cannot say we live in a peaceful country- an oasis of peace in a region of unrest and political instability- when any charlatan can hire a group of people to stage a presence at an event be it political or religious.

No one can convince me that the group was organized for peaceful reasons because that didn't happen that day. What happened was disturbing and those who organized the group should bow their heads in shame. The sages say “a fool is the one who never learns from any lesson from history.”

Civilizations, cultures and countries have been destroyed because of the failure of the people to preserve and uphold the rule of law. Any ardent student of history knows this.

My point is that people naturally respond to leadership. They coalesce around the leader because he or she inspires them, relates to them and identifies with them. President Rawlings is not providing leadership to these people. He is using them. The jury is out on how far he would go to hold on to this constituency. So who are these people and why would they show up anytime to defend Rawlings? I would get to that but not before we travel down the lane of history. DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION History is replete with stories about great leaders who have led their followers to a sad and tragic end. A few examples would suffice. Let us begin with the brain behind evolution.

Darwin's theory of evolution though inherently racist enjoyed wide support in the 1800's and down the road it created monsters like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin who together massacred millions of people in their twisted and demented desire “to preserve the favoured races in the struggle for life”. Today with the hindsight of history and the benefit of continued breakthrough research in science which have conclusively shattered the halo around the evolutionary theory there still are people who still hold it true and sacred and would go at any length to defend it.

These are not just closet believers-they manifest themselves in the work and activities of the neo-Nazi organizations that litter the whole of Europe and even in the United States of America. The theory of evolution also fueled the actions of the segregationists groups in the Southern parts of America where white supremacists aka Ku Klux Klan (KKK) fought to keep blacks from white neighbourhoods and resisted the integration of African-Americans into white schools.

In our own backyard, the indigenes of South Africa struggled for decades to be accepted into the affluent society created with their own gold and resources. The obnoxious system of apartheid was eventually defeated yet today some fringe elements in the white community still think that the integration of whites and blacks is wrong and would fight to death to defend it.

Who ever thought that the theory of evolution which was considered a major scientific leap at the time would lead to the cataclysmic and devastating results humanity has suffered at a result? What about the followers of Rev. Jim Jones or the disciples of David Koresh leader of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco Texas. They saw a leader in them but unfortunately paid the ultimate price of death. ONCE UPON A REVOLUTION Once upon a time our country was literally knocked off her hinges when a group of young ambitious (misguided some say) army officers staged a violent uprising

The leaders of the 1979 coup led by a group of young military officers (they would later choose Flt Lt. Jerry John Rawlings as their leader) and their supporters named it a revolution. Apparently drawing inspiration mainly from the French revolution which overthrew the oligarchic and aristocratic leadership of the time (by peasants) and others, they executed three former heads of state and eight top officers for alleged crimes committed against the state.

Several Ghanaians were railroaded to prison after so called people's courts found them guilty of charges ranging from economic sabotage to hoarding of goods to charging too high prices for goods and services. More so many people in the security agencies and their sympathizers who had longstanding grudges against their neighbours, relatives etc took advantage of the lawless environment created by the coup leaders and exacted their own kind of vengeance. The bottom-line is simple-people were hurt and wronged and this was because the security situation in the country was volatile and those who had axes to grind took advantage of it.

These people need justice and those who take the reconciliation exercise serious would do well to give them that.

In spite of all the atrocities committed in our turbulent past and as earlier related in the previous examples I cited earlier in this article there still are people who cherish the ideals of June 4.

These “band of brothers” are basically the cadres who stuck with Rawlings after he overthrew Limann and established the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). Poor, disenchanted and without consequence these people were taken in by the populist posturing of Rawlings and naturally pitched their tent with him.

For their loyalty and support Rawlings gave them jobs in the paramilitary organizations he established –with the support of he governments of Cuba and Libya-like the Civil Defence Organisation, (CDO), Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) which was later renamed ACDR's and the Militia They in effect represent Rawlings' constituency that is why they always show up everywhere he goes. Rawlings knows this and he uses them for good measure.

Nonetheless there are also those like Boakye Djan, Baah Achamfour, and Kweku Baako etc who would stoutly defend the ideals of June 4 but would also condemn Rawlings for breaking faith with those ideals by overthrowing the constitutionally elected government of Dr. Hilla Limann.

Don't forget that the former Heads of State and the other senior military officers were executed for their involvement in the overthrow of the first and second republics. The reasoning here is that if Afrifa, Acheampong, Akuffo and the others were killed for taking part in the coups that overthrew the governments of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Busia respectively-which was one of the chief reasons for their execution- then it was hypocritical for Rawlings to have staged his coup against Dr. Limann.

The rest they say is history. Ghana has come a long way since we embraced democracy however if we want our constitutional experiment to last we have to take a stand against anything that would imperil its very survival. First we have to uphold and preserve the rule of law. Second we need to discourage lawless behaviour by punishing it and not rewarding it. We have to rein in the activities of the fringe elements and their patrons from the body politick while at it.

Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy has its flaws but it is one of the best systems ever devised by man”. If this quote from the mouth of a legend like Churchill means anything at all I pray it emboldens us as we move to consolidate democracy in our country. Paa Kwesi Plange Gye Nyame Concord Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Paa Kwesi Plange
Paa Kwesi Plange, © 2004

The author has 52 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: PaaKwesiPlange

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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