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General News Thu, 29 May 2003

Rawlings ordered judges' murder - witness

Another witness at the National Reconciliation Commission on Wednesday said he was told by Johnny Dzandu that former President Jerry Rawlings ordered the murder of the three High Court judges and retired Army officer.

Naval Captain Joseph Ampaabeng Kyeremeh, former Commissioner for Cocoa Affairs, said Dzandu made the statement to him while they were both in detention at Nsawam prison.

He said Dzandu told him that Flt. Lt. Rawlings, then Chairman of the erstwhile Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), popped Champagne when they reported back to him that they had accomplished the task.

Naval Capt. Kyeremeh said he met Amedeka, one of the named killers of the justices and the army Major, and Dzandu at the Nsawam Prisons. He said he prayed with Amedeka and assured him of God giving him a good life in heaven, if not here on earth.

According to Naval Capt. Kyeremeh, he reported at the Air Force Base after radio announcement following the 4 June 1979 coup asking political office holders to report themselves to the nearest police station or military barracks.

He said he was slapped and beaten and then made to face the Preliminary Investigations Team (PIT) at the Air Force Guardroom, which accused him of using his political position to amass wealth.

The former Commissioner said unknown to him, the panel made of Capt. Michel, Capt Korda, and Capt. Okaikoi, winked to someone who was standing behind, who slapped him as the interrogations went ahead.

Naval Capt Kyeremeh said the PIT sentenced him to a life imprisonment, but his sentence was reduced to 20 years when he faced the People's Court at Peduase Lodge. His assets, comprising three cars, three houses and oil palm plantation were confiscated to the state. His bank account was also frozen.

At the People's Court, a screen separated the accused and the panel and he got to know later that one Dedeji served on one of the panels. He said he was sent to Nsawam Prisons, where about 90 senior officers and public office holders were imprisoned. Naval Capt Kyeremeh said he was in the Prisons for four-and-a-half years.

According to the former Commissioner, now resident in Burkina Faso, 500 inmates died within three months due to starvation and a strange disease in 1983. He praised the Catholic Church, for organizing food and relief items for the inmates.

Naval Capt. Kyeremeh said Dr. Blay Miezah, the late business tycoon framed him up, with rumours as having stolen a shipload of cocoa beans. There were also allegations of drugs against him. He expressed his appreciation to God for the establishment of the Commission to clear his name. He said he wished he would hold a press conference to how the ship got missing.

He said his family members lived like beggars when he was in prison and friends had to take care of them. Also, his oil palm farm in Sekondi was destroyed by members of the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR).

He said the Tema Oil Refinery wanted to give him back his house, which it was occupying at Tema, but the Confiscated Assets Committee will not allow him to take it. He said he had not officially been discharged from the Ghana Armed Forces and was therefore not on pension.

He added that during the Limann Administration they decided to finish paying the arrears owed him, but the 1981 coup happened and he had not received anything from the Ghana Army.

Commissioner General Emmanuel Alexander Erskine said it was a great shame that officers should be subjected to torture. Naval Capt Kyeremeh agreed to the request of Commissioner Charles Palmer-Buckle to furnish the Commission with a memorandum of his conversation with Dzandu and the conditions in the Prisons.

Commissioner Prof. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu said the politics of calumny had been a problem in the country and asked journalists to guard the press freedom in the country.

Farouk Martin Darko, a farmer at Kwasi Nyarko, near Adeiso in the Eastern Region, said he was a half-brother of Lance Corporal Halidu Giwa who led an abortive coup in June 1983.

Darko said he went to stay with his brother who was then in exile in Cote d'Ivoire. One day, he said, his brother told him he was going on an excursion to Yamoussoukro, but he heard later that Halidu Giwa had been arrested at the border and executed.

Darko prayed the Commission to help Giwa's family find his body for a fitting burial. Another witness, Mrs Olivia Ako-Adjei walked with much difficulty with an aid to the witness seat. She said in 1983, she was a nursing officer at Pantang Hospital and also nursing a baby.

On 22 June 1983, she was waiting in front of the Flagstaff House for a vehicle when a stray bullet hit her forehead. She was rushed to the 37 Military Hospital and was in coma for two weeks. She was hospitalised for six months.

Mrs Ako-Adjei said she was declared 75 per cent disabled with speech impairment, memory deficit and could not move her right hand. The Government of the erstwhile Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), gave her compensation of ?200,000. She said the compensation was "woefully inadequate" to cater for herself and her three children.

Mrs Ako-Adjei said the Ministry of Health paid her salary until May 1994 and then redeployed her. She said she wondered why the then Government failed to send her abroad for further treatment when a medical report had made that recommendation but and a military officer in a similar condition was flown out.

Mrs Ako-Adjei prayed the Commission to put her back on the MOH pay roll and all arrears in salary paid her since her redeployment.

In another narration, Madam Botwe said despite the cuts she had on her back as a result of the whipping, the soldiers warned her to continue preparing the kenkey else they would visit and cane her again. This was because they did not want the people to go hungry and then insult them and accuse them of being the cause of the shortage of food.

She said the soldiers distributed all the kenkey free of charge to those who witnessed the beating. Madam Botwe said she saw a doctor at the Nsawam Government Hospital on three occasions in a week, adding that though she was not feeling well, she was forced to continue preparing the kenkey because she was afraid the soldiers would come back if she did not.

She said the soldiers came back again and when they realised she was selling the kenkey at 10 pesewas and her product was considerably bigger than that of other kenkey sellers they left her.

Madam Botwe said she was too scared to make any formal complaint to the police. She said she had five children, the eldest who was 20 years old at the time, adding she could not cater for them as she wanted due to the pain and pleaded with the commission for compensation.
Source: gna