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30.11.2011 Feature Article

Why The Immunity Clauses Should Stay

Flt. Lt. Jerry John Realings (left), Kojo Boakye Djan(middle), President Evans Atta Mills(ight)Flt. Lt. Jerry John Realings (left), Kojo Boakye Djan(middle), President Evans Atta Mills(ight)
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State-run Daily Graphic has given the nation a preview of what Ghanaians should expect when the Report of the Constitutional Review Committee is published next month. On its front page report yesterday, the nation's leading daily newspaper said the commission has recommended that the date of elections fixed for December 7, should be brought forward to November, in order to make room for a proper transitional period.

I do not believe any Ghanaian would have an issue with this proposal. Our transition has become so short that invariably, it creates more problems than solutions. When the 2009 hand-over process was delayed by the run-off on December 28 and the Tain vote later, the actual hand-over was confusion on a giant scale.

At the end of a rather chaotic change of baton, everything was messy, even though quite a bit of state money went into tea consumption by the National Democratic Congress transitional team.

The abolition of the death penalty from our statutory books is nothing to lose sleep about. Since the re-birth of constitutional rule in January 1993, there has never been any state execution. It is only logical that the death penalty is officially abolished.

The recommendation that homo sexuality ought to be criminalized is sure to receive massive support from the people of this country. The practice is not African. Apart from the very few who actually indulge in it, most Ghanaians would recommend the idea to make it unlawful for anybody to be involved in same sex relationship.

As a socio-political commentator, I am seriously worried about the recommendation to expunge the Immunity Clauses from the 1992 Constitution. I do not believe it is advisable at this point in time of national development. I will set out to explain myself.

I am strongly of the view that expunging the Immunity Clauses would open a floodgate of agitation for justice, which if not properly handled, could lead this nation into something very dangerous.

There are a number of people out there seeking revenge for the atrocities committed in the name of house cleaning, for instance.  There is no record of any trial of the eight top army officers, including three heads of state, who were summarily executed in June 1979.

I am absolutely sure that if and when the Immunity Clauses are removed, our courts would be kept busy dealing with the effects of that action. Apart from the blatant nature of some of the rule itself, beneficiaries of some of the decisions taken in the name of the main actors have to account for the goodies bestowed on them by the action or inactions of the main players of the various coups d'etat.

I am a liberal democrat and have spent all my adult life fighting oppression. I opposed the Union Government concept which incidentally, provided me with the first opportunity to cast a vote as an adult Ghanaian.

I was so anti-Unigov that on the day I voted, I actually kept the Yes ballot and showed it to my editor, Kwame Gyawu-Kyem, to let him know that I voted for No.

I was never an admirer of the June Four uprising. I thought those who pursued that agenda were blood thirsty. Apart from the death by firing squad imposed on the eight army officers, a number of Ghanaians lost their lives needlessly, because of the arms and ammunition that found their way into wrong hands.

All the coups d'etat that have been staged in this country have left question marks over their legitimacy, as well as the conduct of the leading personalities.

In February 1966, when the Nkrumah regime was overthrown, some of us were school boys. Without even understanding the concept at the time, we went on demonstration to register our approval for the overthrow the Nkrumah regime.

All the same, there are legitimate concerns about the mode of operation that are still outstanding, in spite of the justification given by the perpetrators that at the time they moved troops, all avenues for a genuine take-over through the ballot box were sealed.

They referred to the changes in the Constitutional arrangement of 1964, which introduced a one-party state and a Life-President.

In January 1972, when then Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong announced the overthrow of the Progress Party regime of Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia, the most prominent pronouncement to justify the overthrow was: 'The amenities we were enjoying under even Nkrumah had been taken away.'

The coup itself and the way and manner the National Redemption Council that later became  the Supreme Military Council ruled with iron fists, left in their wake several contentious issues that many would not hesitate to have them resolved in a court of law.

When I hear Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings and Kojo Boakye Djan espousing the so called ideals in June 4, I get the impression that they are looking at the event from beclouded ideological spectacles.

I still do not find any justification in the event, especially when a date had been  fixed for elections, leading to the hand over of reigns of government from the Supreme Military Council of cross belts to a civilian administration.

If June Four was bloody and unjustified, December 31, 1981, was an anathema to the body politic. It was one bloody event that this nation would want to forget in a hurry. There is no justification in it except an ego trip by one man and those who claim to believe in him.

In spite of all the noise being made by beneficiaries of the coup d'état, that it marked the beginning of democracy in Ghana, the act was unwarranted and criminal. The eleven and half years of the culture of silence it created, led to a mass exodus of professional and the middle class especially.

The coup was affected barely two and a quarter years into the reign of ex-President Hilla Limann. There were one and two quarter years left on the national political calendar to the next election, and no state official had said that the Limann Administration was not going to hand over.

The brutal treatment meted out to the ex-President and political office holders of the time are actionable in court. But do we need to waste our time revisiting an event that divided this nation into two?

 I do not believe it is necessary to pave the way for litigants to re-visit one of the most terrible episodes in the life of this nation.

I would like to submit that having survived the hardship the coup eras visited on the nation, we should put those experiences behind us, and get on with our nation building efforts. If some people think they could take advantage of the situation to pursue a particular agenda, I do hold that the rest of society has a duty to stop them from opening the wounds of the past.

It is true that the wording of some of the Immunity Clauses, smuggled into the Constitution when the Constituent Assembly had finished their job, offend the spirit and letter of the liberal constitution. But for the sake of peace and continuity, let us turn a blind eye to it and forge ahead with nation-hood.

I am afraid, the decision to expunge the Immunity Clauses would open the floodgate, which might be very difficult to control. The average student of contemporary Ghanaian history is aware that the National Democratic Congress was born out of the coup of December 31, 1981.

Many are the suggestions that the name of the ruling party itself was a throwback from the PNDC era. Indeed NDC is P/NDC without the P. If we do not take care, someone would go to court and argue that the way and manner the party was sprung on Ghanaians offend the sensibility of some people.

I am sure it would not be out of place for judges to examine the historical antecedents of the ruling party and come to the conclusion that the existence of the NDC as a political concept, is at variance with our constitutional experiment.

I am of the opinion that it would be better to turn a blind eye to the Immunity Clauses in the Constitution and get on with our lives. To borrow a typical Akan saying: 'Se Wo Feefee Funi Ani A Wohu Nsambaa'. If you subject the eyes of a corpse to scrutiny, you are more likely to be greeted by maggots.

Ghanaian Chronicle
Ghanaian Chronicle, © 2011

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