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13.01.2005 Feature Article

Dagbon - Politics of the murder of a CPP chairman.

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Did you read the Daily Graphic editorial the other day? Hooray! That influential newspaper has now found extra ink to take a stand with the people of Dagbon to stare injustice in the face. Even the murder of the King did not receive this sympathetic editorial from the paper. Until now it was considered that asking for justice in Dagbon was unpatriotic, beating of war drums and even treasonable. By refusing to ask the heartbreaking questions about the murder of the King of Dagbon and his elders, and other atrocious happenings there, it was hoped that the matter would just fissile out, as if nothing ever happened.

Granted, the elections have been generally peaceful, even in Dagbon. But, did I hear there was a cynical contingency plan to contain any violence that might erupt in Dagbon there, prevent it from spreading to other parts of the country, and let the Dagbamba slaughter themselves - an attitude of dismissive indifference. Scary, but thank God that did not happen; yet there was some election-chieftaincy related violence. At least four young men were murdered - one of them, Issa Mobla, was murdered by the military, tortured till he died. These deaths that occurred in and around Tamale are directly attributable to the failure of government to stop a growing culture of impunity.

Issa Mobla was known to his colleagues simply as CHARMAN because he was chairman on many counts. First he was chairman of a powerful youth wing of the opposition Convention People's Party (CPP) in Tamale called Dibori-yom (meaning: Don't Be In A Hurry) a group he founded in 1997/98; then he progressed to be the regional chairman of the CPP. He was also the chairman of the Tamale-Bolgatanga route branch of the national transport union, the GPRTU. I have not yet heard the GPRTU say anything about the murder of their chairman. Contrary to the demonizing description attributed to him by national youth organizer of the government party, Issa was a likeable person and a disciplinarian. It was based on these qualities that he was elected to the difficult job of local chairman of the GPRTU. He continued to administer the transport station to the admiration of his colleagues till he was callously murdered.

The irresponsibility of the likes of the NPP national youth organizer does not do their party any good. His rush to demonize the dead CPP chairman in front of TV cameras as “a terrorist” is indicative of the kind of falsehood that they continue to feed the President, party leadership and the entire southern membership of their party, about events in Dagbon. So slanted is their information to the government and national security that we are where we are in not solving the crimes being committed.

Many NPP supporters might not know that Issa Mobla campaigned very hard for President Kufour in 2000 election run-off. It would be recalled that the CPP lent support to President Kufour in that election. Issa Mobla was instrumental in mobilizing support for Kufour by supplying fueled vehicles to campaigners. So, rather than demonizing him, those who are in-charge of NPP in Dagbon should be explaining to the president why Issa was, this time round, giving his support to the NDC. The reason is none other than the deep feeling of betrayal felt by all CPP in Dagbon who supported the NPP in the 2000 presidential election run-off.

According to reports of fellow civilians who were also in military custody at the Kamina barracks in Tamale, the CPP Chairman was tied-up by the hands, high up across a horizontal pole in a standing position, and subjected to severe beating across the ribs and chest till he collapsed and died on the floor of the torture chamber. Then there were frantic moves to cover-up the deed. The corpse was hurriedly dressed up and sent to the regional hospital; they tried to force the morgue attendant to accept the corpse and when he refused it was dumped at the entrance.

This is the story of yet another scandal in Dagbon. But under whose orders and in whose service was this latest murder carried out? Was it permission granted through direct orders or condoning the behavior or even an attitude of dismissive negligence on the part of superiors?

Whether or not the killing was a matter of explicit policy spelt out, or suggestive policy by the regional administration when it chose to unleash a special army squad on Tamale, the murder of Issa Mobla was generally conditioned by this climate of impunity created by three years of thick-skinned indifference.

The soldiers who murdered Issa and those party apparatchiks who perpetuate the atmosphere of insecurity in Tamale, Yendi and Tolon, find permission to do so in this climate of impunity. They feel empowered and reinforced by the environment of coldness and dismissive indifference of the government towards the people of Dagbon in the wake of the murders in Yendi. However sadistically the police or the military treat residents of Dagbon is not a priority for the IGP, the Army Commander or the government. This gave suggestive permission to the police to release Issa to soldiers who also took the law into their own hands and murdered with impunity at the barracks level. What happened at the Kamina army barracks in Tamale was torture, sadistic brutality ala Abu Ghraib. Describing the behaviour of the military in Central America during the time of the likes of Pinochet, a psychiatrist said this about impunity: “It means acting towards a person under one's control according to one's arbitrary will. Impunity means that there are no legal or moral limits felt by agents on their captives … impunity is intoxication of power.”

It is therefore heartening that the Daily Graphic has woken up to its duty to the nation by drawing attention to the human rights abuses in Dagbon. You see, the situation in Dagbon is being watched closely throughout our sub region, Africa and by the international community because our fragile democracy will continue to suffer the lingering effects of these unpunished crimes. The fame of the Ghana Armed forces in UN peacekeeping duties around the world is about to be destroyed by the evidence of the postmortem report and the torture photographs. It does not look like those soldiers ever heard of the many human rights conventions with which they operate during peacekeeping duties around the world. What happened are violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Geneva Conventions (1949), UN Convention Against Torture or Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment or Punishment (1984) and all International Humanitarian Laws.

Yes, we must consolidate stability in Ghana but we must also pursue justice, for the failure to bring murderers to justice only encourages more violence as Dagbon sadly illustrates. It is a commonplace of political science that security is the overriding political and public interest. It is the prime function of government, to which all others are more or less gratuitous additions.

President Kufour has it in his power to bring peace to Dagbon and Ghana. And given the resolve with which he has repeated - to Parliament - his promise to Kug-naa to bring the perpetrators of the “heinous crime” to book, one must expect that swift action will soon be taken.

The president might well take note of this advice given by a former US Secretary of State to President G W Bush on efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East. He noted that “Second term presidents, emancipated from worries over winning re-election, usually casts an anxious eye toward the judgement of history”. For president Kufour, his judgment by history to come will not be over la Cote d'Ivoire but events in Ghana - the events of March 2002 in Yendi. We should be reading about a Dagbon shopping list for the President after his re-election. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Dasana Pukariga
Dasana Pukariga, © 2005

The author has 8 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: DasanaPukariga

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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