General News Thu, 21 Nov 2002

Gen. Erskine On Military Interventions in Gov't

A member of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC, General (Rtd) Emmanuel Erskine has stated that though military takeover of a government is not one of the functions of the Ghana Armed Forces, the army on several occasions toppled constitutionally elected government of this country.

He said he himself as an army commander became automatic member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) government that toppled the constitutionally elected government of Prof. K.A. Busia in 1972 even though he was not among the security men that plotted that coup.

According to him as a result of this unnecessary military takeover of government that this country has experienced, many Ghanaians were killed without being subjected to the due process of the law whilst others also suffered injuries adding this is the why the NRC was setup to investigate some of these issues and provide compensations where possible to reconcile the country.

General Erskine was speaking to security personnel drawn from the Army, Navy and the Air Force at the Air Force base in Takoradi last Tuesday.

The encounter was meant to brief the army about the functions of the NRC. General Erskine further said the NRC would investigate to find out whether all the atrocities committed during the military regimes were well planned or not and then make the necessary recommendations to the government who set up the commission through an act of parliament.

As a result of this, Erskine said some military personnel would definitely be invited to give evidence when the public hearing of the cases begin warning that any soldier who refuses to honour their call would be compelled to do so through the powers given to the commission.

General Erskine admitted however that members of the commission may be investigating some of the cases at the risk of their lives since it may be having political connotations but was quick to add that with the support of the general public, they will take the necessary precautions to handle the situation.

"I strongly believe that you will provide us with the necessary security as we discharge our duties even though that may not provide us with 100% assurance" he said. Meanwhile Prof.

Henrieta Mensah-Bonsu, a member of the Commission, has challenged anyone who doubts the act that sets up the NRC to go to the supreme court for the proper interpretation of the constitution.

Speaking at the same function, Prof. Mensah-Bonsu said the NRC was setup through an Act of Parliament to investigate and make the necessary recommendations to the government about all acts and omissions that occurred during the military regimes of this country.

She noted that it is not the duty of the NRC to find out whether their duties contravened some provisions in the 1992 constitution, adding that it is up to indiviuals who may raise up the issue to go to the supreme court for proper interpretation of the constitution vis-a-vis the duties assigned to them.

"We were all working some where before we were asked to come and serve on the commission therefore if the supreme court should rule that our duties contravenes provisions in the constitution and therefore illegal, we shall all go back to our various duty posts," she said.

The former university don was reacting to questions asked by some of the soldiers who wanted to know whether the duties of the NRC as explained to them did not contravene article 34 of the transitional provisions in the 1992 constitution.

She also warned that any one who fails to appear before them when summoned to do so could be charged with perjury.

Source: Chronicle