WHEN the National Reconciliation Commission was set up in 2002, many a Ghanaian breathed a sigh of relief because the commission was mandated to establish an “accurate and complete historical record of violations and abuses of human rights” that occurred in Ghana before 1992. The NRC was also expected to make appropriate recommendations for compensating victims of human rights abuse and for institutional reforms. Particularly, victims of human rights abuses were optimistic that their grievances would be addressed by the state without unnecessary delay.
After a year and four months, the NRC received statements from 4,240 Ghanaians that depicted in horrid detail accounts of torture, beatings, abductions, detentions and killings, illegal seizures of property and other bestialities and brutalities meted out by military regimes since 1966, especially under the two Rawlings dictatorships.
The NRC fashioned out a comprehensive final report and presented it to Government in 2004 for appropriate implementation of its recommendations. Consequently, Government released a White Paper endorsing the findings and recommendations of the NRC without reservation in 2005. Government also undertook to mobilise funds for the compensation of victims of rights abuse.
After the White Paper, Government has done nothing concrete and material to implement the recommendations of the NRC so as to relieve the victims of untold suffering and truly reconcile them with their compatriots who perpetrated heinous crimes and inhuman acts against them during the dark days and reign of terror of yesteryears. Neither compensation packages nor any forms of communication were offered or given to the long-suffering victims.
Like the personage in Waiting for Godot, the victims have been waiting without any action or word from Government. A noted victim, Alex Hamah, who was convicted of treason and sentenced to death after his ¢56,000 (now equal to about US$40, 000) was confiscated, is unhappy about the delay in compensating victims, and the conspicuous silence of Government. Mr Hamah informed The Statesman that his case was not an isolated one as many victims are suffering psychological pain and physical deprivation in silence, while hoping against hope that their grievances will be finally looked into by the state. Much as this paper concedes that the implementation of the commission's report requires mammoth sums of money and enormous institutional efforts probably beyond the reach of Government, it is morally and legally obliged to mitigate the suffering of the victims by way of formulating a holistic, transparent compensation package as soon as practicable.
Government cannot afford to shirk this singular responsibility since the entire national reconciliation process will be incomplete without due reparations to victims of abuse. It is unfortunate that Government could not make any financial allocations to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General's Department in the 2006 budget for the compensation, rehabilitation and pacification of victims. We, therefore, urge the powers-that-be to tell Ghanaians immediately when and how the victims will be compensated since the delay and silence on the part of Government are counter-productive, and could be potentially explosive. To Government, we say it is better late than never to implement the NRC recommendations, for, it is often stated that justice delayed is justice denied. Certainly, this stitch in time will save Government nine stitches. The victims have waited for compensation for a long time. Time to compensate the victims is nigh, Mr President!