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17.05.2004 General News

"Soldiers burnt me alive" - Witness

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Bolgatanga, May 17, GNA - Mr Godfrey Achaw, a Witness, told a National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) sitting in Bolgatanga that soldiers burnt him alive for allegedly selling gentian violet above the controlled price to a soldier's girlfriend in Navrongo.

Narrating his ordeal to the Commission, Mr Achaw said in June 1982, between 1400 hours and 1500 hours, he was arrested by one Atalia, a soldier, from his chemical shop in Navrongo and sent to the Regional Administration in Bolgatanga where he was instructed to undergo some military drills.

"Atalia and some other soldiers, who were already drilling other civilians, asked me to undress and when I protested the soldiers led by one Lieutenant Tetteh, forced and undressed me and then started the show."

Mr Achaw, who broke into tears while testifying, said the soldiers flogged him with their belts kicked him all over the body including his abdomen and chest and ordered him to trot from one soldier to the other while the beating continued.

He said they poured petrol on the floor and some on his back when he pretended to be unconscious and put him at one end of the place where they had poured the petrol and lit it from the opposite side, which burnt him. "I had to roll on the floor to put the fire off. They repeated this several times and when they failed to burn me completely they accused me of witchcraft."

Mr Achaw said he became unconscious but regained consciousness at the Bolgatanga General Hospital, adding that he was on admission at the Hospital for three weeks and continued treatment for another six months at home before he could go back to work as a Medical Assistant with the Ministry of Health.

He said Atalia collected the day's sales during his arrest and later together with his men looted the store and left only empty shelves. He further indicated that the soldiers continued to harass him until he left for the United States in 1986 to pursue further studies in hospital administration.

Mr Achaw said the torture he underwent in the hands of the soldiers had put so much fear in him and that he panicked anytime he saw soldiers in uniform even under the present democratic dispensation.

He appealed to the Commission to intervene to enable him to regain appointment with the Ghana Health Service as a hospital administrator.

A member of the Commission, Lieutenant General Emmanuel Erskine, bemoaned the atrocities against the Witness and said such acts were inhuman and should be condemned outright. He wondered what went wrong with Ghanaian soldiers, who were known to be so humane towards nationals of other countries. More

Lt Gen. Erskine told the Witness that the Commission sympathized with him and all others, who suffered similar atrocities, adding; "never again should our dear nation stoop so low for citizens to be molested by their own relations and friends".

Another Witness Mr Sylvester Amoah, testifying before the Commission, said he was a registered petroleum dealer at Nabaango, his home village, and in April 1982 one Amonbisi, a member of the defunct Peoples' Defence Committee (PDC), led a team of PDCs and a Police Corporal to his village and seized the day's sales and his motorcycle, but he escaped and sought refuge in a village in Burkina Faso, which is a border town and close to Nabaango.

He said while there, one of the PDCs lured him to come back to Ghana with assurances that nothing would happen to him. He said he obliged and came back home only to be arrested and put before the Citizens Vetting Committee (CVC) where they charged him for tax evasion and ordered that he should pay 47,300 cedis.

He said, even though, he met his tax obligations and showed receipts to that, the CVC forcibly withdrew all the 150,000 cedis in his Standard Chartered Bank Account at the Bolgatanga Branch and put it into Account Number 48 at the Agriculture Development Bank (ADB) in Bolgatanga and handed over the receipts to him.

Mr Amoah said: "Soldiers routinely imprisoned me at Navrongo Prisons anytime they needed money and my father had to sell almost all my animals including his to pay for my release."

He said he was once described by the then Regional Secretary, Mr John Ndebugre as a Bourgeoisie. This was after he had cautioned one John Apantinga, a Member of the PDC, to handle his seized motorcycle with care because he had petitioned the CVC for it to be returned to him. He said: "Apantinga reported me to Ndebugre that I had threatened his life and I was detained."

Mr Amoah told the Commission that these atrocities had eroded all his capital and appealed for adequate compensation. 17 May 04

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