"I've forgiven those who tortured me"
AN ex-Corporal of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), Mr Emmanuel Dagban Sawundi, yesterday told the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) that he has forgiven those who tortured him while in detention during the erstwhile Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime. He said during his incarceration from 1985 to 1992, his left big toe nail was removed with pliers.
He said the setting up of the NRC gives him the peace of mind and happiness to let Ghanaians and the world at large know that he was subjected to inhuman treatment for no apparent reason.Mr Sawundi, who was with the Fourth Battalion of Infantry (4BN) in Kumasi, showed scars of five to six inches on his left thigh and back as well as an artificial teeth to show the magnitude of his ordeal he went through at the hands of security officers at the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI).
Testifying before the commission, he also expressed doubts about an apology in a publication in the Crusading Guide last year attributed to Cpl Adabuga and expressed regret about the way and manner the said Cpl Adabuga tortured him. He made it clear that at the time, Cpl Adabuga was a wanted man himself but said if actually he returned to the forces to master-mind the tortures, “I forgive him”. Mr Sawundi said he was escorted to Accra by an officer he identified only as Lt Iddrisu of the Military Intelligence after calm had returned to the 4BN, following a mutiny during which Major Suleimana and two others were reported to have been shot.
He said soldiers with names such as Yeboah, Bawa and Botwe were called during an emergency durbar in Kumasi after which they were sent to Accra.He said he was initially placed in the “Down Below” of the 4BN Guardroom. Mr Sawundi said he was placed at the Castle guardroom during which some people came at night to take him somewhere “to show me”. He said the guardroom commander, however, resisted any such move.
He said the next day, the late WOI Tetteh came to the guardroom to ask why he should involve himself in such things. Tetteh then said he wanted to protect his life first.He said he was then taken to the BNI headquarters to face a panel of interrogators led by Mr Peter Nanfuri, former Inspector-General of Police, during which he was asked if he knew Mohammed S. Bawa, Christian Manu, Major Suleimana and Gen Hamidu.
Mr Sawundi said when he answered in the affirmative, he was asked when they last met and what they discussed but he told them that he knew Major Suleimana as Commander of Recce, Gen Hamidu as CDS while he and Messrs Bawa and Manu were coursemates.He said Mr Nanfuri told him that if he did not co-operate, he (Sawundi) would be handed over to “your own men and they will send me the report later”.
He said at about 7p.m. the same day, he was picked up, blind-folded and taken to a place believed to be a beach where he was beaten mercilessly with barbed wires, military belts and other metals.He told the NRC that the former Director of the Police Hospital, Dr Koranteng, visited him at the BNI cells during which he the doctor complained about the treatment being meted out to him and the others and threatened to report the matter to the Castle.
Mr Sawundi said after several days of torture, he booked an appointment to see Mr Nanfuri, during which he told Mr Nanfuri that he was forced to mention the late Asantehene, Otumfuo Opoku Ware, Lt George Pattinton, Lt Iddrisu as people who had met to plot the assassination of the Chairman of the erstwhile PNDC, Flt Lt J. J. Rawlings. He said Mr Nanfuri replied that he thought he (Sawundi) was coming to confess to their plot to assassinate Flt Lt Rawlings.
He said he was later taken back to custody for three months during which one of the caretakers came to inform those who were in custody that “some of you will be released while the others will be sacrificed for June 4 celebration”.Mr Sawundi said later he was asked to come out, so he thought he was the lucky one to be released. He said as soon as he came out, he was told that he was a threat to national security and was, therefore, being taken to a hotel.
He said he and another soldier he named as Cpl Issaka were taken to the James Fort Prisons and later transferred to the Nsawam Prisons where he was kept until he was released. Mr Sawundi said his wife, who was the only person who visited him, was involved in an accident while his son had to drop out of school because there was nobody to care for him.Right now, the boy, 32, is a truck pusher at Obuasi, according to him.
He said when he was released, he went back to the barracks in Kumasi only to be informed that he had been dismissed in June 1990 for misconduct but after several petitions for his benefits, the military authorities agreed to pay him from February 10, 1985 to June 20, 1992 at a reduced rank of private.Lt Gen Emmanuel Erskine, a member of the commission, and other commissioners, expressed their sympathies to Mr Sawundi and said all serving officers should feel ashamed at the way and manner they treat each other.
On his part, Togbe Satsimadza, alias Christian Afaglo, a businessman, said that he was wrongly arrested and tortured by soldiers during the PNDC regime. He said after the torture he fell sick and was admitted at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra but he managed to escape and went into exile in the Republic of Togo. Togbe Satsimadza said while in exile, the government in Ghana tried him in absentia.
He said the military tribunal that tried him accused him of diverting cement meant for the construction of a 31st December nursery at Akatsi.According to him, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment and his property confiscated.Togbe Satsimadza said after staying in exile in Togo for five years, he returned home to claim his property but the chief and people of Klikor accused him of being a criminal who used the name of the town to acquire property.He said the youth caused an announcement to be made in the newspapers that he is a criminal and that people should beware when they are dealing with him.