Julius Samuel Boye-Doe, 59, a former Preventive Detention Act detainee, will today lead nine of his colleague detainees to the Castle, Osu to present a petition to President Kufuor requesting Government's help to support their current difficult existence.
The Preventive Detention Act, passed in 1958 by Ghana's first Parliament under Kwame Nkrumah's Convention People's Party government, caused the arrest and detention of several Ghanaians who were believed to have been working against the interest of the State.
Mr Boye-Doe, the youngest PDA detainee (15 at the time of his arrest), was picked up from his home near Mantse Agbonaa in James Town on Christmas Eve 1960 by security personnel and sent to the Usher Fort Prison (Cell 17) where he remained until the overthrow of the CPP government on the 24th February, 1966. Seven of his nine colleagues who would be with him at the Castle to present their petition were his prison mates at Usher Fort Prison while the two others were at the Nsawam and Cape Coast Prisons respectively. They are William Kpakpo Allotey, Amarkai Laryea, Tettey Bonaparte, Emmanuel Odartey France, Kwabena Darkwa, Kpakpo Allotey alias Alishaa, Andrews Amegashie, Ayitey Kotor Clottey alias Jaffar and Anyetei Gibraltar.
Speaking to The Statesman in an interview yesterday, Mr Boye-Doe, who has been domiciled in the United Kingdom since 1974, said upon his arrest in 1960, he was not told what his offence was. “I was not involved in armed robbery, neither was I an opposition politician. I was 15 years then and did not know anything about politics so why was I arrested and detained?”
Mr Boye-Doe said conditions in the prisons in those days were horrible. “We were so many in one cell. Anytime we fell sick, we were sent to the infirmary and given Quinine. It did not matter what your ailment was.” “For the five years that I was in prison, we never brushed our teeth. Some of my teeth even got rotten,” he added
Mr Boye-Doe, who was in prison when Joseph Boakye Danquah, the doyen of Gold Coast politics, Joe Appiah and other leading opposition politicians were brought to the Usher Fort Prison, further recounting his prison experiences said “The rations they gave us were so inadequate and of poor quality. Anytime the cooker at Usher Fort developed a fault, we were served gari and water with no sugar three times a day for weeks. My right thumb is paralysed. A prison officer held it and twisted it so hard till the bone shifted because he saw me writing with a pencil lead”
According to the PDA detainee, when Dr J B Danquah was told that he had been detained in the Usher Fort Prison, he sent for him. “He invited me to a library that was situated on the compound of the prison yard and asked why I had been brought there. I told him I didn't know why. He became disturbed and remarked, “You are absolutely a juvenile, this is not the place for you.”
Mr Boye-Doe said Dr Danquah asked Joe Appiah to write a petition to President Nkrumah on their behalf requesting his release from prison but nothing came out of that intervention.
The travails of Mr Boye-Doe and especially his far older prison colleagues, most of whom died in prison and others shortly after their release, are re-enacted in a film entitled Cell 17, whose production he personally financed. According to him, he caused the film to be produced to honour the memory of his colleagues who have passed on and who asked him to tell their story to the nation someday. They included Paa Pumpini, Kwame Kisseidu, a former Ghana News Agency Editor and Henry Thompson. The film, which was released in the UK in December 2005, and which took a year to produce (October 2004-October 2005) features famous Ghanaian actors such as Fred Amugi and Emmanuel Armah. Mr Boye-Doe in 2003 appeared before the National Reconciliation Commission to narrate his experiences in prison. His other nine colleagues who would join him to present their petition to the President today, were also at the NRC but are unhappy that they have not to date received any compensation from the State for the suffering they endured in prison.
He told The Statesman that he has been responsible for the upkeep of his nine colleagues since he first returned to Ghana in 2003.
Mr Boye-Doe worked at the Kingsway Stores upon his release from prison in 1966 and left the country in 1974 for the UK with the aid of his brother who was already there. In UK, he trained as a Beest Spoke designer of clothes. He is married with two children and plans to relocate permanently in Ghana soon.