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18.05.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: The 21-Gun Salute Scare

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Last Sunday May 15 2005 was exactly 25 years when ex-Flt. Rawlings took fellow officers hostage at the Air Force base in Accra in an attempt to overthrow the government of the Supreme Military Council (SMCII).

After a brief standoff, he was disarmed, arrested and placed in lawful custody to await a court marshal.

He did not have to wait much in custody because his trial by a military tribunal, under the chairmanship of Colonel Enniful got underway barely a week or so later.

The trial itself did not run for long because on June 4 1979, a better organized group of junior officers and other ranks struck at the SMC II and sprung Rawlings out of custody to join them in their Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). The rest, as is often said, is history.

The botched May 15 misadventure, together with the June 4 mutiny and all the other coups d'etat that Ghana has suffered from since independence have made Ghanaians (especially those old enough to have experienced them all) understandably jittery when they hear certain sounds remotely resembling military action.

Since all these military takeovers have almost always started from Burma Camp in Accra, "boom, boom" sounds emanating from that direction can be extremely unsettling.

That is what happened last Sunday May 15, on the 25th anniversary of the military action that first brought ex-Flt. Lt. Rawlings to public notice. It was purely coincidental. We heard the "boom, boom" in Tesano some kilometres away, where our offices are situated.

Many other people in different parts of Accra heard it - and panicked! Ghana Telecom must have made a lot of money from the many people who called friends and relations to find out "what's happening?" We received such calls too.

But it was a benign "boom, boom" - just a mere 21-gun salute for the departing Zambian President who had been in the country on a state visit.

What does this tell us? That these coups have left our collective national psyche deeply disturbed. We are a traumatised nation, and we need to overcome these terrible ghosts to grow up as a nation. Can a whole country be put on the shrink's couch?

Or is it a case for exorcism? Whichever way we look at it, it's no joking matter. We must all make the effort to stamp out the "boom" of coups from our country's political culture; democracy and the ballot box, with all their warts and pains are far more preferable.

Long live Ghana!

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