06.10.2003 Sports News

Gov't Seriously Exposed On Okudjeto Commission Report

By Ibrahim Sannie Daara
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My ethic of responsibility as a Ghanaian and someone who was deeply involved (gave first aid to the injured, took dead bodies to the morgues and the first to break the news ) in the Accra Sports Stadium disaster has prompted me to write this piece in the wake of Ben Koufie backtracking on the “Graphic Sports” publication. He was reported to have condemned the poor work done by the Okudjeto Commission that looked into the May 9 Disaster, thus driving a dagger through the heart of government for the White Paper it presented on the commission’s report. The thrust of the Graphic Sports publication is that the Okudjeto Commission failed to use video evidence to look out for the real perpetrators of the May 9 disaster. They are the supporters who vandalised the stadium that resulted in the reaction by the police. But the commission heaped all the blame on the police. No wonder the report was described by a football pundit as “at the best unfortunate and at worst sinister.” Even if Ben Koufie backtracks on the truth just to save his job, the onus rests on us journalists to expose those things to prevent it from happening again. When the funeral was held for the departed souls of the May 9 disaster the President Mr J.A. Kuffuor made Ghanaians optimistic by saying "the enormity of the catastrophe is too much for us mortals to understand .I will ask for maximum restraint to allow some proper procedures to identify those behind this disaster”. That optimism has been replaced with resignation because, Ghanaians were hopeful that the perpetrators would be brought to book by the setting up of the commission. The commission's work has left a sour taste in the mouths of the families of the victims of the May 9 Disaster because it failed it fully expose those responsible. The commission was heavily criticized for failing to implement what it saw in England, where football hooligans are identified by video and prosecuted. The commission's trip to England has been condemned as a holiday trip, where it went to study the ways of dealing with football disasters. The result of this obfuscation and cover-up is what the BBC is said in a report last year: “sadly, nothing seems to have changed either in the new season, which is five weeks old. Two days before the first anniversary, there were ugly scenes at a league match between Okwawu United and Liberty Professionals in Accra. Okwawu fans threw missiles unto the pitch and destroyed an advertising board hoarding, forcing a three-minute stoppage. Police had to be reinforced in that section of the stadium. A Super Cup match between Kotoko and Hearts, which was to kick-off the 2002 season, was cancelled due to security concerns.” Last season, a fan in possession of a gun at a subsequent game against Hearts of Oak was arrested. Referees were frequently assaulted. The latest is the disgraceful behaviour of Hearts of Oak supporters in their recent match against Asante Kotoko where they repeated the events of May 9. Even though most of the victims of the disaster were Hearts supporters they ha! ve clearly not learnt lessons from the May 9 disaster. When I heard Mrs Ivy Heward Mills's ruling on the rioting Hearts of Oak supporters I was so delighted because I believe she did the right thing. She also sent a message to the Okudjeto Commission and the government White Paper that followed it that, they either did a shoddy work or dabbled in obfuscation and cover-up. She also sent a message to supporters of any team in Ghana that the four corners of a jail is the home for hooligans. What this ruling has done is to dangerously amplify the suspicion by Hearts of Oak fans that it is being persecuted by government, because government failed to act when supporters of Kumasi Asante Kotoko were alleged to have perpetrated the acts that caused the May 9 disaster. But when no interest is shown in arresting and prosecution of perpetrators of acts that led to the death of 126 it makes everybody with an ounce of humanity feel pretty wretched. To those for whom the events of that evening- the tears, lifeless able bodies and desperate relatives looking for their loved ones have become tattooed on their minds, only a full exposure with the aid of the video of the events of the May 9 disaster can the real perpetrators of the disaster be brought to book. For them the saying by President Kuffuor that “this is a time for the healing process to begin. We owe it to the memory of those departed,” would mean nothing until there is a full exposure. The best tribute that Ghana can pay the departed souls is to ensure that no tragedy of that magnitude occurs again, but it has to come with justice. A full exposure with video evidence of the May 9 disaster .Now that would be justice!

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