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16.06.2004 General News

God have mercy, and forgive us all - Palmer-Buckle

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Accra, June 16, GNA - Following a Witness' account of the killings and looting of the Makola Market by soldiers in 1979, the Most Reverend Charles Palmer-Buckle, a Member of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), prayed God for mercy and forgiveness for Ghanaians. The Witness, Madam Comfort Ofosua Komeng, former Dealer in Cloth at the Market, told the Commission's public hearing in Accra on Wednesday that after the June 4 1979 coup, her store alongside others in the Market were looted.

Witness, who said she understood a coup as lootings, said soldiers arrived at the Market soon after the coup, and forcibly drove away traders, who had gone to secure the main gates of the Market. A military reinforcement later arrived, entered the market, fired at the locks of the stores and looted the contents into their vehicles for two days running.

Madam Komeng said, the soldiers shot and killed young men, supposedly thieves, who wanted to take advantage of the situation, as well as some of the traders protecting their wares. The husband of a friend, who was then nursing a child, was also shot and killed in his bid to protect the wares in their store.

Madam Komeng, who shed tears as she gave evidence, said the traders were allowed into the market on the third and when she discovered that everything in her store had been taken away, she fainted. Witness said the traders were told that the goods had been sent to the Central Police so she went there on a number of occasions to no avail, so she gave up.

She said some soldiers later visited her house, to search for more goods, adding that they told her that two prominent people had reported her to them and warned her to be cautious.

In less than a month after the looting, Makola Market was pulled down, she said.

During questioning by the Commissioners, Madam Komeng stated that the market was strewn with dead bodies in pools of blood after the invasion of the soldiers and that the market women later discovered more dead bodies under the ruins of the stores.

Madam Komeng said one of the soldiers, called "About the Hey Hey Hey", now a resident of Alajo and had now lost his nose, often came back and terrorised traders in the Market.

Witness said after some time, she went into the sale of provisions, but a taskforce of the Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA), led by the then City Mayor Mr E.T Mensah, seized her wares. She said in spite of directions from the Mayor to his men to give her items back to her she never had them back.

Madam Komeng, who said she was now 70, with eight children, told the Commission that she used to sell iced water to make a living but her fridge got damaged and so she was now unemployed.

Commissioners sympathised with Witness on the loss of her business, and asked her to put the past behind her.

Most Reverend Palmer-Buckle, in a comment, said the testimonies had shown a likely trend on the destruction of markets in Wa, Kumasi, Makola, Tamale and Sunyani in the days of the coups, where after terrorising traders, the markets were looted and then set on fire. He said in most of the cases, very simple hardworking women, including single mothers, most of them breadwinners, and backbone of their families lost their businesses.

"The damage is incalculable, with negative effects on children and had repercussions on the economy.

"What was looted is yet to be accounted for...This is a history lesson for us all", the bishop said, and added that justifiable ways rather than vandalism should have been used in checking arbitrary price hikes, called "kalabule" in those times. "May God have mercy on this dear country and forgive us all", Most Rev Palmer Buckle said. 16 June 04

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