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12.10.2004 Feature Article

Reconciliation, how did it go?

By GNA
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A GNA feature by Benjamin Mensah

Accra, Oct.11, GNA - The weather, when the end came, was dull. The Hall of the Old Parliament House was just at room temperature. It was not hot as when it began when programme schedule printouts were distributed and plastic fans fluttered in the filled to capacity chamber in attempts to keep the sweltering warmth under control.

The calm weather on the last day provided a canopy for the soothing balm in the words of Mr Justice Kweku Amua-Sekyi, Chairman of Ghana's National Reconciliation Commission (NRC).

He acknowledged the wounds and pain of human rights abuses that individuals, families and communities had suffered in post independent Ghana and offered an apology to all those affected.

He said the Commission was hopeful that with time, those wounds would heal.

Flanked by all the eight members of the Commission, the Chairman, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana, said: "We must all recognise that there are wounds to be healed - wounds suffered by individuals; wounds suffered by families; wounds suffered by communities and wounds suffered by a whole lot of people in this country. "To each and everyone of them, we say we are sorry. We share your pains. We hope that with time your wounds would heal."

The Commission has ended its hearings into human rights violations at exactly 1743 hours on that Tuesday, July 13 2004. The audience, including witnesses, people in the public gallery and the press got out in anticipation of what the contents of the Report of the hearings of the Commission might be.

The whole hearing process took 18 months, and the Report is expected in October 2004.

The initial one-year period of the hearing given the Commission was extended by six more months because there were more cases to be heard.

The Commission had applied for three months, but Government granted it six months in accordance with the provisions of the NRC Act.

Even before the Commission started the hearings, there were tears. The tears, pain and bitterness traversed the hearing process till the very last day. Readily available were tissue papers to wipe the flowing rivers of tears.

The tears began from day one, on Tuesday, September 3, 2002, when the Commission began taking statements from the Arc Building at the Independence Square. The Independence Square is surrounded by a variety of beautiful flowers. Ghana's motto: Freedom and Justice is boldly inscribed on the Independence Arch.

The Independence Square temporarily housed the Commission headquarters, till it moved to its permanent offices in the Old Parliament House, where the Commission held its public hearings when it sat in Accra. The Commission also opened zonal offices in Kumasi, Takoradi, Bolgatanga, Tamale and Ho.

The composition of the Commission was perhaps an indication of the multifaceted nature of the assignment for which five million dollars was budgeted.

A Traditional Chief, Uborr Dalafu Labal; two academics - Professor Florence Abena Dolphyne, Former Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, and Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law of the same University; two leaders of religion, the Most Reverend Charles Palmer-Buckle, a Catholic Bishop and Mauvi Abdul Wahab bin Adam, Ameer (Leader) in Charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission in Ghana, served as members of the Commission.

The three other Members are Lieutenant General Emmanuel Alexander Erskine, Former Commander of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon; Mr Christian Appiah Agyei, Former Secretary General of the Ghana Trades Union Congress and Dr Mrs Sylvia Awo Mansa Boye, Former Registrar of the West African Examinations Council.

President John Kufuor in consultation with the Council of State, a non-partisan body of eminent Ghanaians who advise the President, appointed the Chairman and members of the Commission.

The Commission set up six committees to assist in its work. They were the Legal Profession (including the Judiciary), the Professional Bodies other than legal, the Press (including the media), the Labour and Students Movement, the Security Services, Religious Bodies and Chiefs.

The purpose of the committees was to examine and report on the role played by the institutions and bodies in human rights violations during the periods covered by the Commission, and to make recommendations to prevent such abuses in future.

Established by an Act of Parliament, Act 611 the NRC was to seek and promote national reconciliation among the people by recommending appropriate redress for persons, who have suffered any injury, hurt, damage, grievance or have in any other manner been adversely affected by violations and abuses of their human rights arising from activities or in-activities of public institutions and persons holding public office during periods of unconstitutional government and to provide for related matters.

The unconstitutional periods were from February 24 1966 to August 21 1969; January 13 1972 to September 23 1979 and December 31 1981 to January 6 1993.

The Commission had one year and six months to submit its report and recommendations to the President for redress of wrongs committed within the specified periods.

The Act said the Commission might on application also pursue the object of reconciliation in respect of human rights violation in any other period between March 6 1957 and January 6 1993. The Commission received a total of 4,311 petitions, and listed 2,129 for hearing. It also heard 79 respondents, who testified in respect of human rights violations made against them. Some admitted the allegations made against them, apologised and asked for forgiveness.

On the first day of the public hearing, confident but tearful Mr Adjaye, 67, an Ex-Guardsman at the Flagstaff House, was supported with tissue paper and a bottle of mineral water as he narrated the ordeals he went through on February 24 1966 and later following the ousting of the Government of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

Adjaye and others reported themselves to the Police, but were rather kept together in a cell, and later wheeled to the Police Headquarters. The Police beat them up, made them to kneel on stone chippings, drilled and prevented them from answering to nature's call.

"In the process, I lost a tooth. It was terrible. The ill treatment lasted the whole day of the February 25. On that day we were conveyed to the Central Police Station and locked in two apartments. Soldiers stampeded on us while we were made to lie down, and we were at the brink of death when a Policeman came to intervene", Mr Adjaye said in sobs. The torture continued at the Nsawam Prisons for three months. They were kept in a cell with a "disintegrated" toilet facility and fed on a ration of food, a ladle of "koko", porridge prepared with fermented corn dough and two cubes of sugar for breakfast, and 16 ounces of gari a day for lunch and supper with soup whose surface looked like a mirror. Meat was absent.

Mr Adjaye, then a little over 30 years, and a father of two under five, was not allowed any visits and only allowed to write three copies of letters, which were censored. He said he was shuttled between Nsawam and Usher Fort Prisons before his release on December 7 1967. "I wasn't paid anything, and there was no formal letter that I had been removed from office."| Mr Adjaye spoke of subsequent employment with the Ghana Publishing Corporation (GPC) upon his release, as Security Officer and rose through the ranks to the position of head of security. He said while still at office in January 1990, the GPC engaged another person as head of security without informing him. He said he petitioned the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and after an unsuccessful legal battle, he was prematurely retired at the age of 55 without the payment of any entitlements. Upon several petitions, the GPC had only paid him three million cedis with the remaining yet to be paid. Asked for what his requests to the Commission was? Adjaye said: "Forgiveness is the law of love. I want to forgive all those who have had a hand. I will be happy if something is given out as compensation. I lost all my property in the barracks where I stayed." A number of Witnesses before the Commission asked for monetary compensation. Others also asked for compensation for the suffering of the education of their wards because the human rights abuses meted out, including incarceration, loss of job, death prevented their children from being properly educated. Other witnesses did not ask for any monetary compensation. They wanted their names to be cleared of charges or allegations wrongly made against them for which they suffered.

The Act stipulates reparations such as the erection of monuments and naming of streets in memory of the disappeared and the establishment of scholarship schemes for children of victims of torture and killings; the setting up of a reparation and rehabilitation fund for victims. The Commission is also to suggest ways to prevent further violations through institutional reforms.

Many of the witnesses and victims were offered counselling to help them to come to terms with their experience.

Belief in God was a tower of strength for many of the victims. The Most Reverend Palmer-Buckle at one time remarked that such belief strengthened most Ghanaians to forgive perpetrators of human right violations.

"As an Anglican, it is your faith in God which has sustained you in those hard times. It is the same faith in God that has made you decide to forgive; please, keep the faith and the Good Lord Himself will show the way", the Catholic Bishop told Madam Mary Adukwei Allotey, 78, an Anglican.

Madam Allotey had told the Commission that soldiers picked her on August 10, 1979 at the funeral grounds of an uncle, bundled her into a vehicle, took her along with other traders to Makola Market, where she had a store and beat them up. They forced open their stores with sticks, guns and cudgels and raided them. "They beat me up, and I had one eye swollen, she said.

Madam Allotey said the soldiers also stole all the money she had in a chop box in the store, and 25 full pieces of cloth at her home. They then threatened her with death if she dared to tell the truth about the things they had taken to their superior officer to whom they were sending her. "They tied up the things and marched me to the vehicle. When we got to Kwame Nkrumah Circle, they put the things into another vehicle and drove us to the Border Guards Headquarters. "They made us to sit on the green grass in the scorching sun. If one dared to question the soldiers, she was slapped." During their three-week detention they were made to hop, holding their ears. The drill was spiced with beatings. She developed asthma and hypertension and had to undergo a surgical operation for pains in her ear.

For Emmanuel Kwaku Badasu, he was arrested without warrant for alleged subversion in 1973, unlawfully incarcerated in various prisons and given unfair justice. His mother died of shock. His father went on hunger strike and also died later.

Witness had now become a target of accusation by his extended family. He said his family accused him that he had caused his parents' death. Mr Badasu said he had forgiven all those who perpetrated the ills against him. He said he was grateful to God for saving him.

He appealed to the Commission to recommend to the Government of Ghana to get him enrolled with the Ghana Police Central Band to develop his talents in music to sing in praise of God.

He, however, has one problem: "The problem is now between myself and my family. How they would accept me back into the family."

The story of Madam Jacqueline Aquaye, alias Ama Akufo, a sister of Former Head of State, Frederick Akuffo was that soldiers arrested her for being a "kalabule" woman, a woman who sold essential commodities above the Government's controlled price and hoarded provisions. They seized a number of bags of flour, threatened her with death and douched her with a mixture of hot pepper and gunpowder in July after the June 6 1979 military coup d'etat. Beautiful Elizabeth Adongo narrated a chilling story with a strained voice. She was inaudible. The Commission's interpreter had to bring his ear close to her mouth and re-echo her words into the microphone. Soldiers picked Elizabeth, then 22 years from her home in Tamale, Northern Ghana, and transported her to Accra, the capital, a distance of 651 kilometres. They subjected her to a series of orchestrated torture on behalf of her elder brother John Adongo, who the then Government said was involved in a coup attempt to overthrow it. Security operatives invited and deceived her that her brother was sick and on admission at the 37 Military Hospital, but when she got to the gate, the things she was sending to the brother were rather seized and she was denied the visit to the brother.

She was later picked at her Tamale base, detained together with males in males' cell. Security personnel and other inmates attempted to sexually molest her.

Elizabeth was later transferred to Accra, and for seven and a half months detained in the cells of the Bureau of the National Investigations and the Legon Police Station.

She was most of the time starved. She was also not allowed to shower. She did not give in to the sexual overtures of the security personnel and they, therefore, beat her up severely, with the butts of their guns making her cry all the time. She consequently lost her voice.

She fell sick in detention, but she was initially denied medical treatment. The whereabouts of her brother is still unknown. For the past 17 years, Elizabeth is still living with pain in her neck. She prayed the Commission to recommend advance medical treatment for her to correct the defect in her voice, ease the pain in her neck, and a compensation for her.

June 5 2003 can never be forgotten in the life and work of the NRC. It was a very shocking day. The evidence of Mr Joseph Kwodwo Ampah, then 76 came to an abrupt end. He collapsed within three minutes of his evidence and died.

Ampah had come from London where he had been domiciled since 1982 and had booked to return soon after giving his evidence.

He could not finish his story: That he was arrested by members of the National Defence Committee, a militia organisation, at the Kotoka International Airport, on suspicion of smuggling gold and was sent to the State House for further questioning.

After the death of Ampah, the Commission changed the chair witnesses sat in, from a simple wooden one to restful cushioned one, with an auxiliary chair by the side, where counsellors sat and rubbed the back of Witnesses to help them to get over their pain and bitterness. Regimental Sergeant Major Jack Bebli, now Paul Bebli, serving a jail term for gold robbery, at the time he gave evidence did not remember any of the violations preferred against him. To him all the testimonies of human rights abuses, including unlawful executions against him were just untrue allegations.

Issues of the execution of the Generals in 1979, and the murder of the judges and the retired Army officer in 1982 could be described as landmark cases in the hearing.

The eight generals were executed in 1979, during the era of the defunct Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) for allegedly using their political positions to amass wealth.

Ridiculously long jail terms of between 90 and over years were passed on the former government officials. The then justice system, the People's Court and the Pre-Trial Investigative Team, were said not have tried them.

Come to 1982. The three judges Mrs Cecilia Koranteng-Addow, Mr S.P Sarkodie and Mr A. K Agyepong, and retired Army Officer Major Sam Acquah were abducted from their individual homes on June 30 1982 during curfew hours. They were later found dead, with their bodies decomposing, and almost charred at the Bundase Military Range on the Accra Plains. Virtually all who gave evidence on the murder boiled with anger and bitterness.

Warrant Officer Kwabena Adjei Boadi, former Member of the military government of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) told the Commission that his friendship with former President Jerry Rawlings was a prophecy came true.

He said however that the killing of the three High Court Judges and the retired army Major excited his anger, and spoiled his relationship with the Rawlings' family.

He said he resigned from the PNDC for two reasons: A spiritual message, which he would not disclose, and a realisation that the revolutionary principles were not being followed.

Mr Mensah Amepofio, who described himself as educationist and a forensic investigator testified on May 29 2003. He told the Commission, contrary to popular belief, the three High Court judges and retired army officer were not murdered at Bundase Military Range. "There were no silicon bubbles in soil where the victims were supposed to have been murdered.

"Ballistic fume contraction was zero at Bundase. I also detected that there was a Hoover expansion at the place", he said. "The boys felt they were intelligent but you can't be more intelligent than the God who created you. The executions did not take place at Bundase."

Mr Amepofio said he was prepared to give some aspects of his evidence in camera.

In Camera hearings are granted to witnesses whose evidence borders on national security, offends morality and jeopardises the personal security of the witness, in the estimation of the Commission.

Mr. Amepofio said there was a raid on his house while he was in detention at the Ministries Police Station for alleged hoarding. During the raid it was discovered that he had classified information on the murder of the three high court judges and the retired army major in 1982.

He was subsequently subjected to torture while still in detention at the Ministries Police Station. He was picked intermittently to Gondar Barracks and tortured. He said he was stripped naked and asked to have sex with the floor. His penis was tied to some bricks and he was asked to dance around with the bricks hanging on his manhood.

Soldiers continued beating him during the dance. They used glowing cigarette butts on his shoulders, which had left permanent burnt marks on them.

In all, he spent a total of 22 months in detention and lost his school. Still on the Judges and the Retired Army Officer's murder, Mr William Oduro, a former Police Senior Investigation Officer told the Commission that Captain Kojo Tsikata, then National Security Advisor had him arrested for investigating the abduction and the murder of the three High Court Judges and an Army Officer in 1982.

Mr William Oduro, former Senior Investigation Officer of the Ghana Police Service, said he lost his job and was jailed for 10 years in absentia in 1983 by a public tribunal.

He praised Mr Jacob Yidana, Head of the Investigation Team, for his support adding that he was the greatest Policeman he had known in his 23 years of service.

Mr Oduro said he had the names of some countries and individuals, who instigated the PNDC government to undertake those actions and pleaded with the commission to hear him in camera.

Ex-Chief Superintendent of Police Jacob Jabuni Yidana had earlier on Tuesday, May 20 2003 narrated to the Commission the ordeal he said and his team went through as they investigated the abduction and killing of three High Court judges and a retired army Major in 1982.

He said there was very little clue on the assignment. Also pressure from "above" overruled his insistence to follow investigations procedure in bringing the decomposed bodies of the four people to Accra, but the team worked hard and came out with the names of Amedeka, Senya, Terkpor and Dzandu as those responsible for the killing.

Ex-Superintendent Yidana said he was arrested just as the Special Investigations Board (SIB), to which investigative team was reporting, was about to complete its work.

He said he was suddenly invited on March 5, 1983, as he was preparing a duplicate docket on the case to the National Investigation Committee (NIC).

Ex-Superintendent Yidana said those who invited him did not tell him the reason for his invitation until March 6 1983 when he was interrogated by a panel made of Mr Raphael Kugblenu, then Inspector-General of Police, one Lt. Kusi, and Naval Captain Baafuor Assassie Gyimah for "harbouring a criminal" in the person of Captain Korda.

He said the leader of the then Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings had invited him to Gondar Barracks on January 7, 1982 and then again on January 26, 1982.

He said following a disagreement with Flt. Lt. Rawlings, he realized that his house was under surveillance.

He said even after serving more than his term and was due to be released, the Assistant Director of Prisons told him of a letter signed by Captain Kojo Tsikata, then member of the PNDC that he (Ex-Supt Yidana) should continue to be in jail, "because he was a threat to national security". He ended up serving close to four more years.

"It was during this time that my first born died", Mr Yidana said. Ex-Supt Yidana said his wife who was also tried in absentia fled to Togo and later to Canada and he does not know what has happened to her since.

He said it appeared Ghanaians were not prepared to defend the democracy.

He prayed the Commission to rehabilitate him and his colleagues who, he said, were staying abroad to come back home and for Capt. Tsikata to explain why he made him to serve extra four years in prison. The first appearance and evidence of Mr Chris Asher Junior on August 21 2003 like his second one June 30, 2004 and third on July 7 2004 to cross-examine ex Captain Kojo Tsikata, and third, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, a Lawyer and former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, respectively were very charged, hot and replete of theatrics of a court.

Mr Asher alias Barima Awuakye Akanten II, had been chief of Akim-Osorase but was in exile for some time.

On his first appearance, he alleged complicity of Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings, then Chairman of the erstwhile Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), Captain Tsikata, Sergeant Aloga Akatapore, late Amartey Kwei, all PNDC members, and Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, a lawyer, saying they planned the murder of the four in 1982.

Asher with same name as his brother Chris Asher, a Journalist, vehemently condemned the gruesome murder, saying the real culprits are walking free. He called for a fresh probe into the murder of the Judges and the Retired Army officer.

Journalist Chris Asher was one time Editor of the Palaver newspaper, which was very critical of Former President Rawlings and his government. When he testified on November 13 2003, Journalist Asher said he had been in exile since 1982, prayed the Commission for the de-confiscation of his assets and frozen bank accounts.

He said under the PNDC Decree No. 3, the then government confiscated all his assets including his houses, printing press then known as Unipress International Limited, which was converted into Nsamankow Press, where he said some of the printing machines were sent to then Graphic Corporation, and the rest later stolen.

Editor Asher, who registered his dissatisfaction with staying abroad for more than 20 years, also prayed the Commission to make it possible for his return home safely and permanently to practice his profession. Come back Asher Junior, the Chief who is also Ex Soldier and Lawyer. His testimony at the Commission some months earlier had generated public controversy over his eligibility to appear before the Commission, because of having broken jail while allegedly serving a term for murder.

He said the PNDC government, on suspicion of planning a coup with his brother and finally slapped him with a-10-year-sentence. He said he was subsequently incarcerated in Nsawam Prisons on a false charge of murder. Mr Asher said a struggle he had with a death squad in his palace, had left permanent bruises and scars on him, and as a traditional chief, it had become impossible for him to let people see his legs at social functions.

Soldiers also paraded him for public ridicule in his village on a false charge of insurance fraud.

His brother, he said, had openly taunted Flt Rawlings in Accra, a few days before the December 31 1981 revolution, and he fled into exile some few days after.

Mr Asher said he counted 400 empty bullet shells in the house of Editor Asher after the December 31 coup d'etat, adding that the dog in his house was shot dead. All the rooms in the house were rained with pellets. All his brother's assets were confiscated under PNDC Law Three. He said while they were both in detention at Nsawam Prisons, Lance Corporal Amedeka told him that the murder of the judges and the army officer, was pre-arranged before the launch of the December 31 Revolution, because of differences with Capt Tsikata, Flt Rawlings and Mr Amartey Kwei had with the four victims of kidnapping and murder. It had been thought that Amedeka had been executed, but Mr Asher said he was prepared to bring Amedeka down, live, to the Commission to testify if Amedeka's security could be guaranteed.

Mr Asher said Amedeka told him 32 other people had been listed as undesirable elements for elimination after the revolution, adding that after the revolution, a number of people, including one Olympio were sent to places along the Motorway and killed.

He said Amedeka told him Chairman Rawlings and Captain Tsikata signed for the arrest of the four personalities, with additional instructions to amputate their legs to incapacitate their ghosts from following them. Mr Asher said Amedeka told him Captain Tsikata went and showed them the houses of the four.

He said Amedeka told him Rawlings popped Champagne when they reported that they had successfully carried out the operation.

He supported his claims with a huge pack of papers, he said, was a record of an interview with Amedeka and Dzandu.

Mr Asher said Amedeka said Yeye Boy, a Jujuman in the Volta Region, who had asked Flt Lt Rawlings to submit his shirt to him for spiritual fortification was killed and his house set ablaze on the advice of Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, who he described as his former Law Professor. Mr Tsikata was alleged to have alerted Flt Rawlings to be wary of Yeye Boy because he made a similar request from Lieutenant General Kwasi Kotoka, the leader of the 1966 coup but he was killed not long after that.

On June 30 2004, Mr Asher under cross-examination, led by Dr Obed Yao Asamoah, stuck to his piece of evidence, sourced from Amedeka that Capt Tsikata had issued operational pass for abduction of Judges and the Retired Army Major.

Charged Mr Asher refused to recognise Captain Tsikata, who had labelled Mr Asher as "international conman", as Captain saying he (Captain) had been cashiered from the Army.

When Justice Kweku Etru Amua-Sekyi, the Chairman of the Commission asked whether Captain Tsikata would give evidence, Dr Asamoah stated that he would rely on his written statement in reply to the allegation. Dr Asamoah challenged the veracity of the evidence linking Capt Tsikata to the issuing of the operational pass for the abduction.

He said the late Amartey Kwei, who was tried convicted and executed for the crime, had admitted taking his colleagues to the Gondar Barracks and issuing the operational pass when he appeared before the Special Investigation Board (SIB).

Mr Asher, replying said the information he had from Amedeka indicated that they went to Captain Tsikata's Office and he prepared a pass and gave it to them, but Amartey Kwei, out of excitement issued another one when they were on their way. He said they used the new one prepared by Kwei.

Amedeka was in prison together, with Dzandu, Terkpor, Senya and Amartey Kwei for their complicity in the abduction and murder of the three High Court Judges and the Retired Army Major.

Mr Asher said Captain Tsikata called Amedeka and his colleagues on phone to change the venue of the murder from Bundase to the Achimota Forest while they were sending the victims away. This was in response to a question as to how Captain Tsikata called them that Dr Asamoah asked him.

Witness disagreed with a suggestion that the last rites for Amartey Kwei was not held in the Nsawam Prison but Ussher Fort and said he was part of the choir that sang at the last rite for Amartey Kwei, which he said was conducted by Squadron Leader Tagoe.

"Don't tell me it wasn't at Nsawam", Mr Asher fumed.

On the issue of his incarceration at the Nsawam Prisons, Mr Asher, said he was not awaiting trial for murder, explaining that no charge of murder was preferred against him, although he was arrested, beaten, tortured and brought before three different tribunals.

"I was in Nsawam as a result of a spurious conviction by a thief, who convicted me", Mr Asher said.

by a tribunal chaired by Mr George Agyekum, which applied a PNDC Law, and gave him a severer sentence of more than 10 years against what was stated in the Criminal Code.

On July 7, 2004 Mr Tsatsu Tsikata cross-examined Mr Asher and denied any complicity with the murder of the four personalities Mr Tsikata was calm. Mr Asher ranted on his former Law Lecturer. Mr Tsikata said that the Special Investigation Board (SIB) Trial, which looked into the case of the abduction and murder of the four personalities, where he served as Counsel for Captain Tsikata, and Lance Corporal Amedeka did not mention him (Mr Tsikata) nor made any reference to him.

"I can't imagine if Lance Corporal Amedeka was saying things he could not have come forward and say. What is clear to me is Mr Asher, in the guise of an advisor, was urging them to make allegation against me, but none of those people made any allegation against me," Mr Tsikata said. Mr Tsikata also denied an allegation of a discussion over what should be done to eliminate the late Yeye Boy, a jujuman in the Volta Region. He said he had read about the Yeye Boy, and that he was not somebody who had featured in any conversation with Flt Lt Rawlings, then Chairman of the PNDC.

"Juju is not my area of specialisation nor interest," he said. Mr Tsikata said the testimony of Mr Asher was designed to get himself immunity without answering charges of murder against him, and that Mr Asher was flouting his immunity in the face of the relatives of the alleged murder victims.

"He is deceiving the Commission. This is not somebody I should even have to answer," Mr Tsikata said and added that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) should arrest Mr Asher for the murder charge.

Mr Tsikata's cross-examination was nearly suspended when the Chairman of the Commission, Mr Kweku Amua-Sekyi asked Mr Asher to leave the Witness chair pending the determination of an application by Mr Tsikata at the High Court to restrain the Chairman from participating in any of determinations affecting Mr Tsikata at the Commission.

Mr Tsikata, who had earlier announced the application and adjournment however, after the Chairman had asked Mr Asher to leave, stated that he would do the cross-examination, and the Chairman allowed it to proceed. The Chairman allowed the cross-examination to go beyond the initial 30 minutes he said he would allow.

He, however, rejected an application from Mr Tsikata for an extra time after the 55 minutes.

Mrs Jemima Acquah, wife of the late Army Officer was tearful as she gave evidence. The abductors used a well-orchestrated trickery and deception to get her husband. Mrs Acquah submitted a document to the Commission, which implicated former National Security Advisor, Captain Retired Kojo Tsikata in the abduction and murder.

However, Captain Tsikata when he appeared before the Commission under two subpoenas denied any link to that barbaric act. He said he "was in no way involved in any conspiracy to kidnap and murder the three High Court Judges and Major Acquah". He said he neither participated "in any manner whatsoever, in these crimes".

He said he had lived for more than 20 years " with the pain of being falsely accused by the Special Investigation Board (SIB) of being the mastermind of the hideous crimes committed by Amartey Kwei and others on the night of 30th June 1982."

Captain Tsikata accused the SIB chaired by Mr Justice Azu Crabbe, of turning "an important investigation of a criminal murder case into a political conspiracy" against him.

Captain Tsikata agreed to a re-opening the investigation into the murder of the four personalities, adding that the only motive he could assign for the action of the SIB was to ensure that he was removed from his position in the government of Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) as part of attempts to discredit it in preparation for its overthrow.

He requested the Commission to make available those persons whose actions gave credibility and respectability to the false allegations made against him by Amartey Kwei.

He mentioned in particular Mr Justice Azu Crabbe, Mr T.O. Lindsay, the Right Reverend Professor N. K. Dzobo, Mr J.O. Amui, Brigadier J Nunoo Mensah and Mr Johnny Hansen so that he could "look at them in the eye and ask them questions about their participation in this elaborate frame-up".

Two days later, on February 12, 2004, the precincts of the Old Parliament House, was thrown into a big excitement. The security beef up prevented the yard from becoming a political rally ground. Some supporters of the main opposition party, the National Democratic Party (NDC), defied the tight security and entered the Hall, in a show of solidarity with the Founder of the Party and former President Flight Lieutenant (rtd) Jerry John Rawlings the Commission had subpoenaed to give evidence.

The former Head of State and President had indicated when the Commission began the hearings that he would only go there if he would be made to undergo chemical interrogation, or the Commission would provide a lie detector as foolproof the evidence given.

To him the evidence of a number of witnesses, including ex Corporal Mathew Adabuga, who had told the Commission that Flight Lieutenant Rawlings, his wife and former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings and Captain Kojo Tsikata had orchestrated the murder of the three High Court Judges, were nothing but lies.

Ex Corporal Adabuga also told the Commission that he (Adabuga) was a key player in the December 31 1981 coup that ushered the PNDC government into power. He expressed his regrets for the crimes he committed during the coup days, and asked the people of Ghana for forgiveness.

Corporal Adabuga, who was working in Oslo, Norway, but travelled to Ghana to seize the opportunity offered by the Commission said: "I want to express my sincere regrets for all that I did to bring Ghana to its knees under the misguided leadership of Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings."

Then 24 years old at the time of the coup, ex Corporal said inexperienced and young as they were, the junior ranks allowed themselves to be misled by Flt. Lt. Rawlings into thinking that they were doing the nation some good by their acts.

"I am truly sorry and I, from the bottom of my heart, apologise to all the people of Ghana, particularly those I offended in those sad days in our country. In the name of the Almighty God I humbly ask for forgiveness."

He narrated how the coup to oust the government of the late President Hilla Limann was executed. They started the coup with 10 soldiers, but the number swelled to 33 as they went along. They had courage, they offered to sacrifice themselves, and with the help of the Field Engineers Regiment they successfully seized power.

They looted the armouries. On the D-Day, they exchanged fire with soldiers on guard duties at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and at the Akuafo Intersection. Some soldiers on both sides fell. A number of senior officers were taken hostage.

He said Flt. Lt. Rawlings made the soldiers to believe that the coup was being organised with the consent of Dr Limann, and that that Dr Limann had good plans for the nation but some Senior Officers were making their implementation difficult. Dr Limann, therefore, needed the support of the Northerners to carry out his objectives.

Corporal Adabuga said it was after the coup that the Northern soldiers realised that they had been "fooled and used" as Flt Lt. Rawlings ignored Dr Limann, saying the late President had messed himself up.

He said after he realised that Flt. Lt. Rawlings had gone against Dr. Limman and had used the Northerners to his advantage, he and his colleagues planned to kill him on October 29, 1982 but failed. He said he and his colleagues were arrested and put into jail but they managed to break jail in all the major prisons on June 19, 1983 adding that they attacked again in 1984.

Corporal Adabuga said he mistakenly killed about 12 civilians at Tsito in the Volta Region on the orders of ex-President Rawlings. He said also mistakenly killed seven people at La when his car ran through them because his brakes failed.

Corporal Adabuga alleged that his brakes failed because Flt. Lt. Rawlings ordered the brake fluid in the car to be drained so as to get him killed.

He said Flt. Lt. Rawlings told them that "they would prosper after the coup" but he saw nothing of the sort.

Corporal Adabuga said coups retarded the progress of countries, adding that the one in Ghana brought pain, death suffering and turned everything upside down.

He said if an endowment fund were created for all the people he killed and the families he had hurt he would personally contribute to it.

However, Former President Rawlings at last agreed to present himself for evidence before the NRC, on two subpoenas. His appearance was anticlimactic, but not without tumult. The Commission Chairman quietened the tumult with a threat that security personnel would clear the entire public gallery save the Media and proceed without them. The Hall was not a theatre or a dance hall, he said.

The Commission had subpoenaed Former President Rawlings to produce tapes on the execution of Corporal Halidu Giwa and Lance Corporal Andrews Bamfo Sarkodie-Addo and others, at the Air Force Base in Accra in 1984.

The Former President was also to produce an audiotape of the last confession of the late Joachim Amartey Kwei, former Member of the erstwhile PNDC government.

Mr Amartey Kwei had been tried and executed for complicity in the abduction and murder of the three High Judges and the retired army Major on June 30 1982.

Madam Yaa Adjei, then married to L/Cpl Sarkodie-Addo had filed a petition on the death of her husband; while Mr Kwabena Agyei Agyepong, son of the late Mr Justice K Agyei Agyepong, one of murdered Judges, had filed another on his father.

Following their petitions and testimonies, the Commission invited Mr Riad Hozaifeh, a cameraman who was also a friend of the Former President, who implied in his evidence that the videotape he made on the execution of the soldiers was in the custody of the Former President Rawlings.

It also invited Naval Captain Assasie Gyimah, former National Security Co-ordinator, who gave evidence in connection with the petition and evidence of Mr Kwabena Agyepong, son of murdered Mr Justice Agyepong, and of Press Secretary to President John Agyekum Kufuor.

Baafour Assasie Gyimah said in his evidence that Former President Rawlings went to the executions range and took the last confession before Amartey Kwei was executed.

Former President Rawlings said he did not have the tapes, but watched excerpts of the film on L/C Sarkodie-Addo's execution, and did not know where the tape was.

The former President said the footage was part of the interrogation process of soldiers, who tried to overthrow the PNDC. He said he gave the videotape to the late W. O. Andreas Tetteh, then his Aide-de-Camp, to keep, adding that it could also be with the security agencies and or the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). Former President Rawlings, who swore on the Crucifix, had earlier indicated his wish to swear on all the three holy objects - Koran, Bible and Crucifix.

He said he was pained by the murder and asked why Amartey Kwei linked Capt Tsikata to them.

"I was glad when he declared the innocence of Capt Tsikata," he said, adding that he told Amartey Kwei that it was opportunity to clear his name, that of his wife and children, and also to cleanse his soul and spirit before meeting his maker.

Apparently surprised that he was not asked any question on his evidence, Former President Rawlings asked amidst laughter: "Oh Sir! Is that all?"

Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, a Lawyer, also gave evidence in connection with evidence from Mr Justice G E.K Aikins, former Attorney General, that he (Mr Tsikata) had been present at a meeting at the Gondar Barracks, then the Headquarters of the PNDC, with Flight Lieutenant Rawlings and Captain Tsikata to discuss the murder of the Judges. Mr Tsikata said there was no such meeting, and stated that the allegation by Mr Justice G. E. K. Aikins, that he (Mr Tsikata) had been at such a meeting was "absolutely false and a lie".

During cross-examination, Mr Tsikata quoted Section 12 (4) of the NRC Act and challenged what he called a "unilateral decision" by the Chairman, Mr Justice Amua-Sekyi that he (Mr Tsikata) should not ask questions on evidence the Commission heard in camera.

Mr Tsikata said instead, the decision should be unanimous with the approval of all members of the Commission.

He raised questions on the consistency of the evidence of Mr Aikins. Mr Amua Sekyi had dismissed certain questions, stating that such questions had to be based on "good reasons".

The Commission's Chairman asked Mr Aikins not to answer questions from Mr Tsikata on the consistency of his evidence.

Mr Tsikata prayed the Commission to request the said records of Mr Aikins to be made available to the Commission.

He was given 30 minutes instead of the usual 15 minutes for the cross-examination and his request for extra time to continue his cross-examination was refused.

Following the confrontation between Mr Tsikata and the NRC Chairman, Mr Tsikata filed an application at an Accra High Court, accusing Mr Justice Amua-Sekyi of showing dislike, animosity and bias towards him, and for the court to grant an application that Mr Amua Sekyi would not sit in any of the evidence that he Mr Tsikata might subsequently give at the Commission. The Court dismissed the application, and noted that the relief sought by the applicant did not constitute any miscarriage of justice.

The Court presided over by Mr Justice Richard Asamoah, in its ruling, noted that the Act of Parliament that established the NRC gave the Chairman the mandate to regulate the Commission's activities. On the provision of photocopies of Justice G.E.K. Aikins' statement to the applicant, the Court noted that the NRC exercised its discretion and it, therefore, saw nothing wrong if the photocopies offered to the applicant were authentic.

"The original handwritten copies had been tendered to the Commission and the Commission in releasing them to the applicant must exercise its discretion.

"Photocopies provided through a Court of law are as good as the originals provided they were authentic and had not been tampered with. "No miscarriage of justice had been incurred to the applicant. That applicant was able to conduct his cross-examination effectively with the photocopies offered him."

The Court noted that the applicant was only confusing himself with procedural process of the Commission and the final decision of the Commission that would be taken after it had completed its work. It further stated that the frequent interjection by the Commission did not constitute bias because the NRC had been given the mandate on how to regulate its activities.

On the charge of animosity against the NRC Chairman, the Court said it was of the view that no facts in the affidavits of the applicant had proved animosity.

Mr Tsikata told Journalists after the ruling that he would closely review the ruling of the Court and act on it.

"If I have been denied access to the originals of the hand written documents of Justice Aikins then I am still entitled to a review," he said.

"There were a lot of wrongs in the ruling carried out by the Court," he said, adding: "The independence of the Judiciary is at stake."

Witnesses from the mining town of Tarkwa told the Commission of a soldier who had the notoriety of executing people and dumping their bodies in an abandoned shaft, Fanti Mines, at Tarkwa in the 1980's.

The soldier, Sergeant Anthony Charles Apoera of the Second Infantry Battalion of the Ghana Army based in Takoradi, at the time of his testimony on June 23 2004, was still in service. He accepted he shot one Issahaku in 1982 and dumped his body in the shaft. He also dumped the body of another man he was called to arrest, but found he had committed suicide on arrival, into the shaft. He was remorseful and said he had regretted his actions.

So the hearings, with recounts of harrowing, horrible and grotesque stories continued until the last July 13, 2004, when Mr Adam Banobi, another witness wept uncontrollably as he told the Commission that Lance Cpl. Peter Tasiri Azongo, then member of the AFRC arrested, beat him and seized his brand new motor bike on allegation of smuggling.

The Witness who had subsequently developed a hearing problem said the Lance Corporal also seized his two million CFA francs and had him detained at the Pusiga and Bawku police stations for a total of seven days.

Full of tears, Banubi could not finish his story. The Commission requested that he was sent into a waiting to room to help him get over his pain and to compose himself.

The evidence of Mr Obeng Gyan Busia on the atrocities suffered by a former Prime Minister of Ghana, the late Professor Kofi Abrefa Busia, under the government of the Convention People's Party (CPP) and subsequent governments closed the hearings.

Mr Busia complained that the CPP passed legal instruments to destool Nana Kusi Appiah, as the Wenchihene, and said Nana Frema, a sister to the former Prime Minister had to leave Wenchi to Ejisu and was later exiled to Togo, where she put up a building, but later lost it after the assassination of Mr Silvanus Olympio of Togo.

Mr Busia said the de-confiscated houses, which were released to the family were in very bad shape.

He asked that four confiscated cars of the late Professor Busia as well as his benefits should be released.

But perhaps the story of the Commission would be incomplete without mentioning the handing over of the remains of the exhumed bodies of six persons executed for treason in 1986, to their families.

The ceremony was solemn. Soft music played in the background. Family members broke down in tear as the names of the deceased were mentioned. The Chairman of the Commission handed over the remains Godwin Mawuli Drah Goka; Yaw Brefo-Berko; Kyeremeh Gyan; Samuel Boamah Payin; Samuel Charles Aforo and Richard Charles Koomson kept in miniature coffins and draped in a white fabric to representatives of the families of the deceased.

Ms Kate Barbara Berko, daughter of Brefo Berko collapsed on reaching the dais to collect the remains of her father. She was quickly whisked away.

The handing over was to afford the families the opportunities to give the bodies a fitting burial. It was in response to a request by the families to the Commission to locate, exhume and hand over the remains for fitting burials for their loved ones.

The exhumation was done on Court orders, and carried out by pathologists from the Pathology Department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and a Forensic Anthropologist from the School of Medical Science of the Kumasi based Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

According Dr Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, the Executive Secretary of the NRC, the objective of the ceremony was to help the families heal the wounds of the past. The families of the exhumed persons alleged that, contrary to established human rights standards and norms the executed persons were subjected to severe forms of torture during their arrest. The families of the exhumed persons were present in accordance with the law. The vivid descriptions of the families of clothing and general appearance of the deceased prior to their execution helped establish the identities of the exhumed persons.

"Although it has been 18 years since their death, their clothing, including belts, socks, boots, shoes, slippers and jewels had survived giving positives clues to their identities," Dr Attafuah said. But Dr Attafuah went on leave, which began on June 19, 2004, barely a month before the end of the Commission's hearing. This sparked media speculations that he had been sacked on differences between him and some members of the Commission over utterances on issues on the Commission's work on his appearances of radio and television.

The Chairman in a press statement denied the dismissal and said the Commission had full confidence in the competence and integrity of Dr Attafuah.

The Chairman said that the Commission was extremely satisfied with he performance of the Executive Secretary both in his administrative or managerial or public relation duties.

"Indeed the Commission has been most appreciative of Dr Attafuah's efforts at fostering a broad societal appreciation and understanding of the principles and procedures guiding its work'', Mr Amua-Sekyi said. The Chairman added that the Commission is confident that although it had endorsed Dr Attafuah's request to take his accumulated leave before it wound up in October, he would continue to play a pivotal role in the preparation of its final Report and the closing down of the Commission after the submission of the Report.

A section of the public had at an earlier part of the hearing had called on the Chairman to resign from his position accusing him of making biased comments against a Witness, Mr David Walenkaki, a Former Top Police Officer.

Chairman Justice Amua-Sekyi reacted with a press statement that: " I stand by what I said." He paddled the Commission till the last day of the hearing.

The NRC story would be etched in the history and life of Ghana now, and its posterity. There were hot exchanges on national security, coups, Transitional Provisions in the 1992 Constitution, the executions of the Generals and the Judges and the Retired Major.

For these pieces of evidence, Witnesses that come into mind were Baafour Assasie-Gyimah, Former National Security Coordinator; Mr Kwamena Ahwoi, Coordinator of Revenue Commissioners, Investigations and Tribunals of the PNDC; Captain Kwabena Baah Achamfour (rtd); Major "Osahenene" Boakye Djan; Captain Ben Duah (rtd) and Squadron Leader George Tagoe, Former Commissioner of State.

Osahene Boakye Djan, Deputy Chairman of the erstwhile Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) on November 19 2003 with some of his compatriots, minus, Former President Rawlings, rendered an unreserved apology to victims of the brutalities of that regime.

The Former Military Officer, who held the rank of Major before his exit said: "I feel very awful and sorry about what happened. We unreservedly apologise for the suffering of the people."

He said he and his compatriots were seeking ways to connect with the victims and offer them further apologies.

Osahene Boakye Djan asked Former President Rawlings to admit responsibility for the summary execution of Lance Corporal Sarkodie Addo in 1984.

The Witness also requested Former President Rawlings to identify the burial site of the former soldier to enable his body to be exhumed and reburied and that he should finally apologise for the killing. "Failing to do that, we would ask the Commission to recommend to the Government to initiate action against (Former President) Rawlings and his regime to be prosecuted by the International War Crimes Tribunal." The testimony of Major Awuakye, in which he said he was extradited on the Michael Soussoudis spying affair, was what dragged Mr Kwamena Ahwoi to the Commission.

It took some time for the response because Mr Ahwoi stated breach of confidentiality as his reason. Mr Ahwoi said nobody was de-naturalised in that affair.

There were scenes of reconciliation: Rex Ohemeng Former detainee with Mr Benson Tongo Baba of the Ghana Prisons; the apologies of Warrant Officer Yaw Nkwantabisa to Mary Teye and Mr Thomas Benefo; that of Lieutenant Kusi to Ama Akufo, blaming his erratic behaviour on youthful exuberance; and that of Squadron Leader George Tagoe, the man who declared that the "sweetness of the pudding is in the eating", and reconciled with Lawyer Adummoah Bossman to an appreciative applause from the public gallery.

So Reconciliation has come, and its report is expected this week. It is expected that the Report would say whether the object of establishing the Commission was achieved. Victims, perpetrators and the large Ghanaian and international watchers would be the best judges of the performance of the Commission.

After the Report would follow public expectation for compensation and other forms of reparation. But it must be borne in mind, as Mr Appiagyei, a Member of the Commission said at one of its sensitisation seminars that the Commission was not established to dole out monies. It is no Father Christmas.

Reconciliation Commissions are products of political negotiations, compromise and agreement. So while the scope and time period of investigation may depend in part on needs and circumstances of a country, these decisions are very much a function of political decision-making.

For instance, in Peru, the decision to give amnesty to many former government and military officers was rescinded as public pressure mounted. The amnesty decision was finally dropped as amnesty was found to be unconstitutional.

Also, the Commission would be seen to be successful if the Government accepted an appreciable percentage of its recommendations. An instance is Peru, where 12,000 testimonies were recorded, but only 100 of the most egregious cases were actually followed up.

For the purpose of the Commission to reveal abuses of the past, heal and rebuild the society, and foster a new democratic political culture, the wide dissemination of the Report is very important. It has been the case in Uganda and Nigeria that only the President and Government Officials saw the Report.

Also, so feared were the repercussions from Guatemala's Report, which described gross abuses by the military, that the chairman of the Commission was assassinated.

Related to dissemination on information of Report is education on the findings to the public. That is where, like from the beginning of the process, through the hearings, there would be a need for reliance on a very active information and education media on the findings of the Commission.

The Report of the Commission in South Africa had 4,000 pages. How many people would be ready to read such a volume? So there is a need to have abridged and translated versions.

But all these cannot take place without adequate human and financial resources.

Finally there is need for political will on the part of the Government to abide by the recommendations of the Commission. One of the difficulties confronting truth commissions is when governments decide to throw away the recommendations just because they are implicated as in South Africa or the contents do not appeal to it.

It is very important to show political commitment and willingness to process and go ahead to implement the recommendations of the Commission's Report to promote meaningful national reconciliation.

GNA
GNA, © 2004

The author has 219 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: GNA

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