"I was imprisoned on the orders of ex-Western Reg. Sec." -Chief
Kumasi, April 2, GNA- Nana Amankwaah Gyeabour, the Akyempimhene of Sefwi-Anhwiaso, on Friday told the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) that he was in 1990 held in detention for three years at the Sekondi Prisons on the orders of a former Western Regional Secretary, Mr John Amelema. "I was neither charged nor tried by any court". He said he had eight of his cocoa farms at Abuduabo completely destroyed by the militia.
The chief, who was testifying before the NRC at its on-going public hearing at the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) Hall in Kumasi, said he was accused by Mr Amelema and the then District Secretary for Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai, Mr Francis Asante-Mensah of having insulted the PNDC government and being a threat to peace.
Prior to his detention at the Sekondi Prisons, witness said, "I had been held at different times in police cells at Bibiani and Agnibrekro". Nana Gyeabour said Tanoso Extension Forest Reserve was part of the land of the Sefwi-Anhwiaso Akyempim Stool. He said after his enstoolment in 1970, he petitioned the government to give out part of the reserve to the people of Abuduabo for both social infrastructure development and farming. This request, he maintained was graciously granted by the government in 1984.
Witness said in 1990, Mr Asante-Mensah told him that he had received reports that the people of his community were encroaching on the reserve. "I told him that this was not true but he would not accept that, warning that he would employ every means to remove me from the place". Nana Gyeabour said not long after the first meeting, the District Secretary invited him again to his office "and when I responded he directed that I should be detained in a police cell, where I was kept for one week". He said his lawyer; Mr Samuel Bofo Donkor later secured his release after which he left to Agnibrekro to collect some money from his sisters.
The District Secretary would still not let me have my peace as he sent policemen to chase after me, witness said. "I was arrested and kept in a cell filled with faeces for three days before being sent to court at Bibiani where I was discharged". Witness said he was again picked up and handcuffed on the instructions of Mr Asante-Mensah and sent to Sekondi to meet Mr Amelema and six other people including the Regional Police Commander at that time and whose name he could not remember. "It was when I appeared before these people that Mr Amelema ordered that I should be taken to the prison".
The chief said whilst in detention, militiamen invaded his community, destroyed his farms as well as those of several other people. "They pulled down the clinic we have built, demolished our school building and turned the hand-dug wells provided for us by the government into toilet".
Nana Gyeabour pleaded with the government through the Commission to return their seized farms to them. The Most Reverend Charles Palmer-Buckle, one of the Commissioners said it was regrettable that witness should go through physical torture and incarceration for fighting for the rights of his people.
Another petitioner, Mr Paul Amoabeng of Abrepo-Kese, a suburb of Kumasi, recounted to the NRC his severe torture by some soldiers in 1979. He said he was so traumatised by the ordeal he was taken through that the sight of the men in khaki "simply makes me develop pain in my body". The soldiers from the Fourth Battalion of Infantry, he said, did not only brutalise him but pushed him into a pit. He said the beatings had left him with chronic pains in the eyes.
Mr Amoabeng said he was on one Sunday in July 1979, watching some friends playing draught in front of Dr Mensah's clinic at Ashanti New Town when they saw two policemen subject two young men to brutal assault. The boys, he said were holding a sheep which they claimed, their father asked them to bring down from the village. He said unable to stand the torture of the boys, he took money out of his wallet and gave to the police to charter a taxi to take them to where the suspects father was to ascertain the truth.
The police, according to him, politely declined to take the money, thanked him and set the boys free. Barely a minute or two after the policemen had left, they saw a military vehicle approaching and all of a sudden, soldiers surrounded them, punching, kicking and slapping everybody in sight. He said the two very policemen who had earlier beaten the two boys led the soldiers.
Mr Amoabeng said he together with the two young men were later sent to the military barracks where he was tortured. "They did not inform me of my offence and it was the intervention of some soldiers, I had earlier known that saved me", witness said.
Mr Samuel Agyekum Boafo, a former trade instructor at the Department of Social Welfare, took his turn in the witness box and said a direct hit in the right eye with a stick by a soldier in 1982 had rendered him completely blind with that eye. He said he was travelling to Kumasi from Jacobu to have an x-ray at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH).
"On reaching Bekwai, the vehicle on which I was travelling was stopped by a soldier who ordered us to go and carry cocoa onto an articulated truck". He said he decided to approach the soldier to explain his poor health condition so that he would be exempted from carrying the cocoa.
"As I showed the medical report and x-ray request form to him, he got angry, snatched the papers and tore them into pieces". "He also hit me on the right eye with a stick he was holding and ordered that I should go and carry some of the bag-loads of cocoa".
The petitioner said the soldier later saw that he was indeed in great pain and rescinded the order but "I insisted I was not going to stop". Mr Boafo said eye specialists at Agogo and Oyoko-Effiduase had all declared that his right eye is damaged.
The next to appear was Mr Otuo Achampong, a storekeeper at Krofofrom in Kumasi, who narrated to the Commission the physical torture and injustices he and two of his brothers suffered in 1979 at the hands of soldiers. He said they were not only lashed on their bare backs with canes by soldiers that had left them with scars, but were forced out of their shop by threats of demolition by some soldiers.
He said his brothers joined in a clean-up exercise at Suame where they were staying on July 21, 1979, in the heat of the revolution. He said they therefore opened their store at about 0900 hours but one Lance-Corporal Appiah who was staying in the neighbourhood would not understand why they did not come to open it at about 0500 hours. The soldier went to the barracks and brought with him some of his colleagues. "We were ordered to put the shop under lock and key and we were sent to the barracks where we were brutally assaulted".
Mr Achampong said at another time, one Major Sackey came to their drugs store at Suame and asked to see the pharmacist. "We explained to him that ours was not a pharmacy but a drugs store and for that matter, we did not have a pharmacist. He would not take this, ordered customers who were then buying drugs out, locked up the place and took the keys away.
Mr Achampong said that was not the end of their woes as on another occasion, eight armed soldiers on seeing a Peugeot car parked in front of their shop, forcibly seized the keys and drove it away. "This was after they had fired several rounds of warning shots". The soldiers returned the vehicle not in the same state as they took it, witness said. He said they damaged the headlights and other parts of the vehicle apparently through an accident.
Mr Achampong said the torture by the soldiers had left him with a problem with the ears and frequent waist pains. He said what they went through greatly affected their business and left them with huge debts. The petitioner said the pain, anger and anguish he had nursed over the years had gone down because of the opportunity to tell his story. General Emmanuel Erskine (rtd), a member of the Commission, commended the petitioner and his brothers for their resilience and enterprise that in spite of all that they went through they were still alive.
Sitting continues on Monday.