Thu, 09 Mar 2023 Feature Article

Madness at Ashaiman: Has the Ghana Army Gone Back to AFRC/PNDC Days?

Madness at Ashaiman: Has the Ghana Army Gone Back to AFRCPNDC Days?

I read reports of the senseless and tragic murder of a 22-year-old soldier by a mob at Ashaiman on Sunday March 5, 2023. I could not believe that the life of a young man had been taken away in such a manner. However, the report did not provide details of how he met his tragic and untimely death (see “Social media users react to alleged mob killing of a soldier in Ashaiman”, Ghanaweb, 5 March 2023). I suspected reprisal action by some undisciplined colleagues of the murdered young soldier, but little did it occur to me that the Ghana Army will officially sanction and lead a revenge attack on the people of Ashaiman.

I wish to take this opportunity to convey my sincere condolences to the parents, siblings, family and friends of the late Trooper Sheriff Imoro. No one deserves to die in such a barbaric manner, May his soul rest in perfect peace with his creator.

As a Ghanaian, I was scandalised and ashamed when I heard on Citi Fm on the morning of Tuesday March 7, 2023 that soldiers from Ghana Army had besieged Ashaiman in the early hours of the morning and indiscriminatory arresting and molesting residents and citizens of Ghana. I later saw photos and video clips of the barbaric behaviour of soldiers who are paid by the very people they were molesting in vehicles, guns and uniforms paid for from the taxes of the people.

The pictures and video clips were reminiscent of the days of AFRC and the PNDC. The days of military impunity and indiscriminate abuse of human rights witnessed by those of us who were old enough in those days.

I was hoping that the actions of the soldiers were unofficial. However, when I saw video clips of the armoured vehicles and other military accoutrements in a convey, my hope become hope against hope because had it been unofficial, it would have been a monumental error of leadership failure by the Army. This was because what I saw was impossible without approval from above.

One of the reasons why I am scandalised and ashamed is that, whenever I seen Ghanaians, Africans or Black people being treated inhumanely by foreigners or in foreign countries, I not only worry that it could happen to me but also the disrespect that black people across the globe are subjected to disturbs me. Therefore, for Ghanaian soldiers to treat Ghanaian citizens with contempt and disregards for their rights in Ghana, beggars belief.

It is common for officers, men and women in uniform who bear arms from the Ghana Police and the Ghana Armed Forces to treat the civilian population with utter contempt when such unfortunate incidents happen to one of their own. We all condemn any form of attacks and killings on our soldiers and police officers, men and women who protect the nation and her citizens. We ask them to take on risky duties that sometimes they make the ultimate sacrifice for us with their lives. We should therefore also accord them the respect and not attack or murder them even if they go wrong but to subdue them with reasonable and proportionate force and then hand them over to the appropriate authorities.

In the case of young Trooper Sherriff Imoro, we do not know all the full facts apart from the Press Release put out by the Ghana Armed Forces on their illegal and unconstitutional act of lawlessness. It appears the press release itself was not thought through but an act of afterthought. The first error I noticed was the year on it (7 March 2022 instead of 2023). This might be a minor error and does not affect the contents of the statement. However, what is mind boggling is that the statement claimed that the madness was intelligence led. Really? This is nothing but intelligence failure of epic proportions.

The statement mentioned that 147 suspects were picked up. Did their intelligence tell them that the 147 suspects were either involved in the barbaric murder of Trooper Sheriff Imoro or were present at the scene of the crime? Remember, they did not say 147 people but “suspects”.

Assuming even if they were all suspects, why molest them? Is that not revenge attack? The Ghana Army and Police should remember that a policy of an eye for an eye, will lead us all blind without a single person to lead us in the daylight let alone in darkness. Their mentality of “I will show you where power lies”, should be over under constitutional governance of rule of law. Moreover, in military and police rules, they are required to use reasonable and proportionate force to defend yourselves. Many, if not all those molested did nor resist arrest or even fight back. Therefore, what is the justification for the brutalities meted out to them? Even in conflict and war, the human rights of soldiers and combatants as well as civilians are to be respected under the Geneva Convention such not killing soldiers who surrender or are wounded on the battle front and unable to participate in action, allowing medical staff to attend to the injured and ill, treating war prisoners with respect and dignity as well as not molesting civilian population. Again, the military and police hierarchy must know that collective punishment is unlawful across the world. Ghana is not in conflict or at war with herself or an external enemy. So why molest and abuse the rights of your own fellow citizens with extreme force in peace time?

What is worrying is the silence of the politicians on this matter. Neither the president nor the defence minister or parliament has come out to condemn the despicable and shameful acts of the soldiers involved. Is that for fear of military coup or what? If politicians sit unconcerned with such unconstitutional acts by soldiers, it will give room for more lawlessness by them.

All those who sanctioned and participated in this illegality must be identified and sanctioned. Otherwise, Ghana will be at risk of military impunity as were in the days of AFRC and PNDC.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK.