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25.12.2004 Feature Article

The Other Tier of Criminal Justice In Tamale

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Crime and Criminal justice pose once again the basic question that good people of the Northern region of Ghana face, and silence of the nation's executive office ignites questions and fear in the minds of many Dagombas at home and abroad. For both democratic theory and constitutionalism the right to self-expression and vote, as well as protection are central. How can our nation construct a government that is fair for all, yet not so willing to unleash the military on a segment of the population?

The preamble of the Ghanaian constitution speaks of one of the nation's purpose as ensuring “domestic tranquility.” Nevertheless, compared to most nations in the West African region, Ghana is ridden violent lawless behavior that threatens the rights of all citizens, but not in the post – election 2004 in Tamale.

Understandably, Creating “law and order” is not an easy task but, if “law and order” is to be uppermost, then police or the infamous military, like the rest of the society have to be restrained. In recent past, we have had the murder of the Dagomba Traditional chief – Ya Naa and about 40 other innocent people dead with irresponsible excuses emanating from the law enforcements and the Ghana government. There have been several, what seems to be politically motivated killings in the area and, the fact that the government officials talk but take no action leaves many Ghanaians home and abroad shaking their heads.

This must not be read as an indictment of the NPP government, and it may be unreasonable for anyone to assume that actions of few bad nuts link to the party does reflect the NPP party's policies. Nevertheless, the national party executives have the moral responsibility to restrain their regional and local constituents from any act of intimidation, destruction of property and murder of other citizens. That goes with all other parties. Recently, Ghanaians witnessed the set up of the National Reconciliation Commission by the current administration. The commission heard testimonies of victims of military brutality under past administrations many of which were condemned by the NPP administration and sections of the media. If military brutality, as publicized by the current administration is indeed bad for all citizens, and a violation of one's fundamental rights is unconscionable, it begs the question why the military is allowed with ill guided orders to use excessive force on the people of Tamale? It is expected of all Ghanaians home and abroad as well as the International community that our Constitutional government govern evenhandedly, otherwise, what's happened in Tamale or the Northern region could happen any where in the country.

It is an outrage that after successful elections, policy makers under the disguise of the REGSEC would issue the most irresponsible commands to Security Agents with less regard for innocent lives. One wonders if any member of the REGSEC would have given such blatant directives for “free range shooting” otherwise known as “fire for fire” if they had any respect or value for lives of the people of Tamale? Why in this day and age, under a constitutional government, the REGSEC would allow suspects under police custody to be handed over to the military? Who are these members of the REGSEC? Who issued the orders, and what did the Castle know about that? It is utterly painful to know that army robbers enjoy due process in Ghana, while people of Tamale can be been picked up by the military from police detentions. Why was Mr. Issah's (May he rest in peace) life less important than that of Army Robbers who are often been given benefit of doubt and access to our courtrooms?

The real question in a democracy or a Constitutionally elected administration is how to preserve order with the law, that is order with adherence to rules that allow due process to the accused and the innocent not be deprived of human dignity, and the right to live. With this question in mind, all parties involved must exercise restraint and allow independent investigation with a sense of urgency; all operations by the Military must cease immediately.

It is believed that All Ghanaians are equally protected under the law, if that is true and the people of Tamale are Ghanaians, irrespective of their political affiliation, then, every effort must be exercised by the Government to protect them from further intimidation, torture, and murder by any group of security Agents.

The REGSEC must be investigated and the irresponsible members of the committee must be prosecuted if found negligent. The REGSEC had good reasons to believe that their actions or orders issued to the military would lead to harm in other persons, yet, they went ahead with such actions and indeed inflicted harm on innocent people, including murder.

The REGSEC plus the military share responsibility in the murder of the innocent man and destabilizing the area by random gun shots in the streets.

While we comb around in search of a solution to the old age problems of Dagbon, Conflict Diplomacy is not out of reach. It may be a start on the right direction if our President or the Vice – President would reach out and end their game of avoidance of Tamale and the surrounding areas, and visit the area as leaders of the country and not a party, to express their concern for people of the area. It may also be helpful if they would state clearly during the visit, the Government's position on “Crime and Punishment” with due regard to fairness.

Tahidu Yahaya New Jersey, USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Tahidu Yahaya
Tahidu Yahaya, © 2004

The author has 1 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: TahiduYahaya

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