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07.04.2004 General News

Chief weeps at NRC public hearing

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Kumasi, April 7, GNA- A chief could not hold back his tears as he narrated to the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) acts of brutality meted out to him by soldiers in 1982.

Nana Asare Baffour, Adontenhene of Akwaaduo near Jachie in the Bosomtwe-Atwima-Kwanwoma District, said soldiers put him in a coffin at the Kamina barracks in Tamale, covered and nailed it for selling a Bic pen at five pesewas to a schoolboy.

"I blacked out and when I regained counsciousness, I saw I was in a military guard room".

Nana Baffour, who was testifying before the NRC at its on-going public hearing in Kumasi on Wednesday, said he was sitting in his store in Tamale at about 1500 hours on that day when a military truck pulled up. He said three armed soldiers came down and ordered him to accompany them to the Kamina barracks.

The chief said he politely demanded from them why he should be taken to the barracks.

The soldiers got angry and hit him with the butts of their guns. Witness said at the barracks, he was subjected to severe beatings as they "punched me on the right and left jaw with my head swaying from side to side and I bled profusely from the mouth".

The soldiers later ordered me to crawl on gravels on my knees and elbow. Witness said they later asked him to take some rest when they saw he had become very tired.

"It was whilst resting that the soldiers brought the coffin, made me to lie in it like a dead person and nailed it. "They shouted at me to open my mouth so that they would pour water through a small hole they had drilled in the coffin where my head was positioned"

Nana Baffour said he struggled in an attempt to force open the coffin and to avoid suffocation "but I could not succeed and lost consciousness in the process.

Witness said he was kept in the barracks for eight days and every morning the soldiers would come to serve him and other detainees with hot porridge.

"We would be ordered to swallow down the hot porridge and those who would throw it out because of its hotness were lashed".

He said he was in such a bad condition after his release by the soldiers that doctors at the Tamale Government Hospital where he went for medical treatment advised that he should report to the police "but I refused".

Witness said he lost all the goods in his store.

Nana Baffour told the Commission that he "harbours no evil feeling against those who perpetrated the barbaric and inhuman acts against me and I pray for forgiveness for them"

Lieutenant-General Emmanuel Erskine (rtd), a Commissioner, remarked, "we all share your pain".

It is so difficult to believe and understand why such things happened, he said.

Another witness, Mr Kwadwo Donkor, a farmer at Adugyama in the Ahafo-Ano South district, said his late father, Kwadwo Nsiah became completely blind after his six months detention in 1962 in the Nkrumah regime.

He said the father was accused of having hooted at the late President whilst passing through Adugyama to Sunyani.

Witness said the visual impairment of his father brought a lot of hardships on the family.

"I had to drop out of school and together labour with my mother to look after my other siblings".

He therefore pleaded with the Commission to help the family to get some compensation for all what happened to them.

Another witness, Madam Akosua Mansah of Abrepo Junction in Kumasi was also at the Commission in respect of the tragic death of his son in a motor accident in 1973.

The son, Jones Ohene Gyamfi, a student at the Wesley College in Kumasi, was in the service of the Voluntary Work Camps Association when he got involved in the accident.

He said neither an insurance claim nor any form of compensation was paid to the family.