On Saturday, April 29, 2017, four soldiers, all of them warrant officers, on duty in Diaso, border town of Central and Western Regions, were ordered by their Company Sergeant Major (CSM) to go to Adaboi and cross check a complaint of galamsey operations ongoing there.
The four soldiers – WO Asizi, WO Mohammed, WO Ackuaku and WO Klutse -sought permission from their detachment commander, an officer, who gave them the green light, and left base for their mission.
At about noon, the four soldiers arrived at Adaboi and they found an excavator working, doing galamsey. The soldiers ordered the excavator operator to stop working.
To the shock of the soldiers, the youth of the Adaboi area apparently supporting the illegal mining operations massed up against the soldiers and attacked them. The soldiers fired warning shots into the air, and, though in uniform, tried to escape for dear life, in a Good Samaritan pick up vehicle amidst stone throwing.
When they got to base, they gave their report to their commanders, and what happened?
I do not know who gave the orders, but, all the four warrant officers were arrested and brought to Military Police Guardroom in Accra, and personnel on duty at Diaso were overhauled. In the result, Captain Maxwell Adams Mahama, a 5BN Infantry officer, at Arakan Barracks, Burma Camp, just like I was in January 1981, was ordered to go to Diaso as the new detachment commander.
Relatives of the soldiers in custody came to see me to act as lawyer for them, and after they have performed custom, lawyers from our law firm, Nkrabeah and Associates visited the soldiers at the Military Police Guardroom. We then wrote a petition to Brigadier General Oppong Peprah, GOC Southern Command, praying for the immediate release of the gallant warrant officers who are heroes not villains.
All of a sudden, on Monday, May 29, 2017 late in the afternoon, I received a phone call that the new detachment commander in Diaso had been killed by a mob action. My initial reaction was that ………………..if officialdom has arrested the four WOs who went to check the galamsey operations, then the people there are emboldened to assault any soldier they will see there………. Oh God.
Fortunately, as details of the killing of the Captain came out, it emerged that his death has nothing to do with galamsey, except for the fact that but for galamsey operations, Captain Mahama would have been nowhere near Diaso environment that time.
Now, according to Mr Bright Oduro, Director General of CID at Police Headquarters, on the morning of Monday, May 29, 2017, the detachment commander Capt Mahama left his base at Diaso to go for a 20 kilometers 'keep fit' exercise, wearing mufti, with a weapon.
It is very normal for infantry officers to go on solo keep fit exercise, and no wonder most retired infantry officers even though aged 70 years and above look like young men in their fifties. But, why did Captain Maham choose to go out in mufti? Why not in military outfit, so that anybody who will see him will have an unmistakable impression that he is a soldier? And why did he not go with one or two of his soldiers? According to the CID boss, the officer projected a long 20-kilometer route, through several villages, in the general operation area. Why go alone?
DCOP Bright Oduro continues that the officer while busily jogging, at one point, decided to stop to buy snails at the roadside. That was his undoing. While removing money from his pocket to pay for the snails, one of the food sellers saw a weapon on him, and she quickly rang the assemblyman for the area to inform him that an armed robber is in the area, with a weapon, obviously running away……………..”
The million dollar question is that if the officer had been in military outfit in green T-shirt over military trousers and jack boot to match, will anybody have mistaken him for an armed robber?
Honourable Charles Baah, the assemblyman, upon receipt of the information OUGHT TO HAVE INFORMED THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY. The food seller thought she was being a good citizen by informing the authorities about the presence of an armed robber in their neighborhood. The authorities” represented by the Assemblyman ought to have done the RIGHT thing, which is contacting the NEAREST police station which Honourable Charles Baah failed to do.
Let us give the honourable assemblyman the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the nearest police station was several kilometers away, and so the immediate action was to apprehend the armed robber. So he assembled a team of vigilantes: mission: to apprehend a suspected armed robber.
At a spot near the Denkyira Obuasi cemetery, they saw the suspected armed robber who appeared to them like a normal youth in the area, but running. Do you arrest him or do you kill him? Don't you need to ask him questions? Hey, mister man, who are you? Where are you going? Why are you carrying a weapon? Or questions like that.
IF ONLY CHARLES BAAH, ASSEMBLYMAN, WHO OUGH TO KNOW BETTER HAD GIVEN A LITTLE HEARING TO THE SUSPECT, ALL THIS TRAGEDY WOULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.
According to the CID boss, the infantry soldier did not just give up. He died like a soldier. First of all, he attempted to reveal his identity, which the attackers were not prepared to listen. He tried to flee the area on a motorbike which failed. He tried to join a timber truck passing by but the attackers FIRED into the truck!!!!!!!!!!
This means that the Honourable Charles Baah troops came ARMED to KILL the suspected armed robber, so they were insensitive to anything, except to see blood flowing.
And so Captain Maxwell Adams Mahama, especially after seeing live bullets being fired at the windscreen of the timber truck realized that the end had come. He was dragged out of the truck and pranced upon with cement blocks and stones and finally Almighty God took away His breadth of life in him – he became a cadaver, no more among the living.
What are the lessons to be drown from this heinous crime?
The very first lesson is that I urge EVERYBODY in the morning, after waking up, to GIVE YOUR LIFE to Christ, because nobody can tell what will happen in the coming hours of the day. It could be accident, it could be a stray bullet, it could be anything, AND ONLY GOD CAN PROTECT YOU.
According to history, on the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated, the crowd, after being incensed by the fiery speech of Mark Anthony, went out, looking for the blood of all the conspirators. They chanced upon CINNA, the poet, who screamed at the top of his voice: I am CINNA the poet, NOT CINNA the conspirator. I am CINNA the poet, not CINNA the conspirator. The crowd was in no mood to differentiate between CINNA the poet and CINNA the conspirator – it was ENOUGH that his name was CINNA – he was brutally killed. I wonder whether he prayed that morning before venturing out of his house into the streets.
Contrast this story with a major in Nigerian Army who came as part of students from Kaduna Staff College on a study tour of Lagos. He went to spend the night with his girlfriend in Lagos and was expected back at the airport to return to Kaduna by 07:00 hrs.
After dressing up ready to leave, his girlfriend started sobbing – she wept bitterly like a child. The major did not understand: what is the problem? I am just returning to Kaduna for the last stage of the course, I will be back in a few months time – but the girl kept on crying. She delayed him so much that just as they arrived at Lagos Airport, they saw the military aircraft going up, taking off.
The major was scared to the bone marrow. What excuse is he going to give for not reporting on time? How does he get back to Kaduna? While standing at the airport trying to sort out what to do, news came that the military aircraft that took off a few minutes ago has crashed on the outskirts of Lagos, killing all 90 students on board, including two Ghanaian officers, one of them squadron leader Selwyu Spencer Sackey, my roommate at University of Ghana Legon Commonwealth Hall, both of us from Achimota School and both of us Intake 20 at Ghana Military Academy, Teshie.
Reader, my first lesson from the Mahama tragedy is that EVERY MORNING BEFORE YOU SET OUT OF THE HOUSE, PRAY, GIVE YOUR LIFE TO CHRIST, TO TAKE YOU OUT AND BACK, SAFELY.
My second lesson is that for the avoidance of mistaken identity, always dress appropriately for every occasion. According to Shakespere: “For the apparel oft maketh a man”.
If you are going for jogging, be in white T-shirt over white shorts with white canvas – nobody will mistake you for anything else. Security officers must avoid jogging ALONE in unfamiliar territory, and must always go in UNIFORM.
My third lesson is to be FOCUSED on what you are doing. What business has a jogger got to do with buying snails at the roadside? Why break the speed of the rhythm with snail buying as an excuse? Your wife Barbara is far away in Burma Camp in Accra – are you going to carry the snails with you, jogging, or who will cook it for you?
The fourth lesson is to AVOID KILLING AT ALL COSTS – never ever take the LAW into your own hands, no matter the nature of the provocation, please, REPORT to the NEAREST police station.
Instant justice, mob justice, people on heat are never ready to listen to explanations from victims. I shudder to remember a story where an innocent Nigeria saw someone on the street, who owed him money. When he demanded his money, the debtor rather screamed thief! thief! and people came by, put car tyre on the neck of the 'thief' and set him ablaze, killing him.
May God save us from instant justice!
Death is an ultimate penalty, which once carried out is irreversible; and that is why it is only a court which must after painstaking trial pass that sentence, even subject to appeal. I was a prisoner at Nsawam Prisons when a person under sentence of death filed an appeal, which was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, but upheld by the Supreme Court, which substituted the death sentence with two years imprisonment for manslaughter. He had already spent more than two years, and so he was released right from condemned cells into liberty.
How can I forget ever the case of Republic versus Kwaku Acheampong? There was a police snoop at Tudu in 1986 for 'armed robbers' and innocent Kwaku Acheampong, just a week old in Accra, walking there, was picked up. The CID told him that you “plead guilty” and the court will leave you. A young boy of 21 years from the village, he was arraigned before the Greater Accra Regional Tribunal, and accused of 'armed robbery' and he pleaded 'GUILTY', and the Tribunal straight away passed a sentence of death on him.
His woebegone mother heard the news on radio, came to Accra and engaged me then only one year at the Bar as a lawyer to file appeal for him. I did so. Notice of Appeal, and Application for Record of Proceedings. Three months later Kwaku Acheampong was executed by firing squad.
When the mother came to tell me she has dreamt that he son has been executed, I told her that is NOT possible – our Notice of Appeal is pending, even Record of Proceedings not yet typed out – one lawyer went to Nsawam Prisons and we were given the list of those executed – including Kwaku Acheampong!
Death is a penalty which if carried out mistakenly can never be reversed. So, NEVER take the law into your own hands. Never!
Finally, my last lesson in the Mahama tragedy is that as a nation, let us STRENGTHEN LAW and ORDER.
I will never forget Christmas 2005 – I was Deputy Minister of Interior. During that Christmas season, the nation recorded ZERO crime rate THROUGHTOUT Ghana. The IGP at the time recalled EVERY policemen from leave and put POLICE on duty EVERYWHERE – the result was that you pass here and you see a policemen, you pass there and you see a policemen – no let me wait a while – result – zero crime rate.
I strongly recommend that we should DOUBLE the size of personnel in the Ghana Police Service, we should open a police station at every nook and corner of Ghana, and we should step up police patrol on the highway and high street and in the alleys and countryside.
Let us spend money on security and guarantee safety of everybody, under the LAW. That is our only guarantee for security.
I always feel embarrassed when I see the picture of a widow in the newspapers – maybe that is why Almighty God has a special care for three people – widows, orphans and foreigners. Barbara, don't worry, God will take care of you.
Post script: The four soldiers have been released from Military Police Guardroom back to their units on the orders of Brigadier General Oppong Peprah, General Officer Commanding, Southern Command.
By Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey