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03.05.2005 General News

The Mayhem In Kumasi - The Price Of Collective Negligence

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A GNA Feature by Boakye-Dankwa Boadi

Accra, May 3, GNA - The Media has reported that the Ashanti Regional Security Council (REGSEC) has set up a six-man Committee of Enquiry to investigate the circumstances that led to the lynching of a soldier at North Suntreso in Kumasi and the subsequent mayhem caused by a group of unidentified men believed to be soldiers to avenge the death of their colleague.

The Committee is expected to identify the victims of the brutalities, assess the degree of injury sustained, as well as establish the extent of damage caused to property in the wake of the disturbances. They would make recommendations to avoid recurrence of such brutalities and enable the Government to appease the victims.

The Committee would also enquire into any other matters, which in its opinion are reasonably related to all or any of the terms of reference, once they are considered relevant.

Inaugurating the Committee, the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Sampson Kwaku Boafo listed a number of violent incidents in the Metropolis and said: "They create disorder, panic and mayhem to disturb the peace of law-abiding people in the Region and in the event, try to cause disorder and disaffection in the communities and the Region as a whole."

This writer is of the view that the Media should not blow the reaction of the unidentified persons believed to be soldiers out of proportion.

Indeed this is one situation that the Media should look the other way. The practice of meting out instant justice to people does not augur well for this country.

Why should a group of people just decide to kill a sovereign Ghanaian for no apparent reason?

Incidentally, this time around the "instant justice craze" pounced on the wrong victim and the repercussion is what we have on our hands. The counter attack fortunately did not occasion any loss of life. Those who indulge in this barbaric act would now appreciate that unnatural diseases exact unnatural remedy.

"Yesterday you met the baby antelope and you killed it and went scot-free, today you have killed the cub of a lion and the lioness would not rest until it had exacted the right price from you" so we are told in an Akan fable.

An Akan proverb says: "If you meet a single parrot do not fire at it because it had a multitude behind it that would launch a counter attack on you." Indeed this is one of the appellations of the "Agona Clan".

The counter attack by the soldiers if indeed they were, must be accepted, even if with a pinch of salt. Their action was nothing but the expression of the espirit-de-corps, which every well-trained army is expected to exhibit.

The acceptable behaviour in civilised societies is to insulate soldiers against the general rules governing the society. They constitute a special breed. This is the reason why they are court-martialled and not put before the ordinary law courts. The United States recently displayed its commitment to this principle when it came out to say that its Service Personnel that shot and killed the Italian Secret Agent, Nicola Calipari, who was escorting Journalist Giuliana Sgrene to the Baghdad Airport, were not culpable, because the action of the Secret Agent was suspicious and the Service Personnel reacted to what they saw as an apparent danger. In the same way those who launched the counter attack after the murder of the soldier were reacting to what they perceived as an apparent danger to their collective life.

One may argue that in the counter attack innocent people were brutalised and might stretch the argument to say that two wrongs do not make a right.

Or as the Akans would put it: "If one miscalculates and kills the animal one could not say he or she also miscalculated when he or she dressed the carcass for it to be eaten."

However, it must not be lost to anyone that once a soldier is killed there would be reprisals. A Head of State of a West African Country warned the citizens that soldiers unlike the Police have been trained to kill so they should not attempt to kill any of them since they would retaliate.

This advice should go to every Ghanaian as well. The Americans would have explained the effect of the counter attack on the innocent people as "collateral damage".

In another Akan fable we are told the story of the bird, the climbing stem and the tortoise. The bird was said to be making too much noise so the tortoise told the climbing stem to communicate the danger the noise it was making posed to them. The climbing stem was said to have responded that it was none of his business if the bird chose to make noise. No sooner had the tortoise's warning gone unheeded than a hunter, who had toiled all day without a game chanced upon the noisy bird and shot and killed it. Just as the hunter was going to pick the fallen bird he saw the tortoise and picked it up. He then cut the climbing stem and used it as a rope to tie the bird and the tortoise together and carried them home.

The people of South Suntreso have known that a group of young men had been congregating at a specific point to gamble but they all turned blind eye to the illegality. None of them took it upon himself or herself to stop the practice.

The Akans say: "The Old man or Old Lady, who stays in the house and allows children to eat the meat of a snake, when snake eaters are being counted, he or she is included."

Those innocent ones, who suffered in the counter attack, paid the price for their collective negligence.

It is in our collective interest that the citizenry are made to be afraid of soldiers. The recent attempt to make the Military friendly should not be carried beyond a certain limit. It would not augur well for our collective protection.

This is more so if viewed against the backdrop that a few miscreants were attacking Police Stations and the craze nearly went out of control. It was only when the Police met force with force that the situation was brought under control.

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