The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Dr. Martin Luther King
We take no offence when we are reminded of our chequered background, and (but) by some mischance we would have worn a military garb. Born before Ghana’s independence, we had been enrolled at the Army Children’s School at Uaddara Barracks, Kumasi
We were yearning to be taken to the Boys’ Company on reaching Form 1, then the government’s policy changed: we went to Akosa L.A. Primary School, Suntreso then Bantama L.A. Middle, both in Kumasi: Iddi Kano, Haruna Grushie, Rama Kano Dan Oppong, Fofie CB Acheampong Sampene were names we readily recall. An essay: “My future career”: in our modest language we wrote: “I want to be a soldier because soldiers are well-trained, they wear beautiful uniforms: they march smartly and briskly and they are given orders which they obey; they are punished and they are made to shout ‘nii wawa ni’ ‘nii wawa ni’ when they break orders. They are called vigilant and efficient …” They were taught “buga-buga”, “buga-shi mana” (beat-beat; beat then-fast) (All corrections and embellishments made) After a labyrinthine journey of life, we were recruited into a uniformed service, and we had to undergo military training to “toughen” us for the job we were to undertake and we seized the opportunity to pursue our childhood ambition: consuming hot coffee in 5minutes; woken up at 12 midnight for roll-call; doing “fatigue” at mid-day in the hot sun; taking drill (not walking like a crab).
We were taught the “basics” of “esprit de corps” (mutual loyalty): touch one colleague, touch all and we had briefs on the Armed Forces Act 1962, Act 105 “An Act to provide for the raising and maintenance of the Army, Navy and Air Force…” and we noted especially Section 18 (1) (e) “A person subject to the code commits an offence if that person…breaks into a house or any other place in search of plunder (f) does an unlawful act against the property or person or an inhabitant or a resident of a country in which that person is serving…” Section 38-obstruction of police duties, Section 39 obstruction of civil power… The punishments include reprimand, forfeiture of seniority, fine, dismissal from the Army… court-martial or a board or service tribunal with the Chief Justice appointing a Judge-Advocate… we also took brief lessons from the Armed Forces Regulations, 1970 (C1 12), and in Section 1.06 ‘may’ shall be construed as being permissive and ‘shall’ as being imperative ‘should’ shall be construed as ‘physically possible’ and ‘practical’ shall be construed as ‘reasonable in the circumstances’.
You could not forget the stern face of Major Tamatey in the lecture-room (but his humanity showed on our leaving Burma Camp). At the Teshie Range, we were more focused on hitting the bull’s eye with shots from the Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK-47) than remembering that this was the spot General Acheampong Afrifa, Kotei, Air Vice Marshall George Yaw Boakye, Rear Admiral Joy Amedume, Maj General Utuka, Colonel Roger J.A. Felli were ‘felled’ in June, 1979 after a “hurried” trial under J.J. Rawlings. And Nigerian Fela Kuti sang ‘zombie’ –“Attention… Fall in, Fall Out, Fall Down…” The ‘civilian’ JJ was repairing the damage, and Kufuor was marvelous with his brother as Minister of Defence to build bridges in the military-civilian relationships.
Till we heard of Major Maxwell Mahama’s torture and killing at Denkyera Boase. The incensed residents did not spare the innocent handsome platoon commander Mahama and the case is in court, 43 people have been provisionally charged with two counts of murder, contrary to Section 46 of the Criminal and Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29). The lynching of Major Mahama who was on operational duties at the Alaska C and A mining Company at Amenase Forest, near Diaso threw the whole nation into mourning. (In commiseration of Major Mahama’s death Lawyer Maurice wants the culprits “… tortured to death at a public square so that it would serve as a deterrent to others not to engage in mob justice”). Who are we to judge? We have not forgotten the Biblical fiat at Matthew 7(1) “Judge not, that ye be not judged”.
The latest in the line-up of lynching of uniformed people is the one at Ashaiman, involving Trooper Imoro Sheriff on 4, March, 2023.
In a swoop that reminds one of Jacobu in the nineteen fifties, the military swarmed on Ashaiman and did not spare anyone they encountered: arresting over 150 people, forcing them to drink muddy gutter water, suffering beatings, and being given ‘military drill’. We have not heard any ex-Soldier condemning the “Ashaiman raid”. An ex-Lieutenant says “it is normal” and he does not see anything wrong in the Military High Command sanctioning the action which is aimed at deterring others from repeating the act. The ex-soldier, however, admits that the torture of innocent Ashaiman residents was “unfortunate”. But a respectable ex-uniformed officer-lawyer says while condemning the people who lynched Trooper Imoro, the military “over-reacted; the military had no business attacking and manhandling innocent residents of Ashaiman with helicopters and armored vehicles hovering around…, no, not in Ghana in the 21st century. That was a mark of military impunity”.
Mr. Kennedy Agyapong in his speech as Chairman of the Defence Committee on 9th March, 2023 noted: “We have condemned the unfortunate incident that happened and the Defence Minister has also apologized on behalf of the military that indeed there were excesses … in a situation like this, all we can say is that we need peace and we as members of the Defence Committee cannot (must not) inflame passions by going (to Ashaiman) to make comments that will annoy the factions”. Now the police have arrested six suspects: Safianu Musah, alias Dayorgu, Ibrahim Abdul Rakib, (from their hide-out in Ashaiman), Samuel Tetteh, alias Wiper, Abubakar Sadick alias Birdman, Yusif Mohammed and Abdul Gafaru Abdul Karim.
We trust that the prosecutor and the court trying them will do efficient work, ensuring that the civil liberties are not trampled upon, for as Article 12 (2) of the 1992 Constitution spells out: “Every person in Ghana, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this chapter but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest”. And Article 13 (1) states “No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the law of Ghana of which he has been committed”. Constitutionality.
We wish Ashaiman-just like Aboabo (Kumasi) Nima, and Kasoa would fit into other appellations than what they have been characterized with. It is dangerous to negatively label a society. We live close by, and we can turn Ashaiman into East Legon.
The course at the Military Training Schools should de-emphasize “buga-buga” and expand those on military-civilian relationship. Perhaps if the soldiers are made to live away from military barracks and into civilian homes, that could be another way to encourage military-civilian cooperation. What makes military officers score high marks when they go on “peace missions” outside of Ghana? Remember what George Washington said: “Discipline is the soul of an army”.
By Africanus Owusu-Ansah