The Myths About The June 4th Revolution
3RD JUNE, 2010
This week marks the anniversary of the June 4th revolution or rebellion – depending upon one’s point of view. It was, perhaps, the most controversial 3 months in Ghana’s history.
As expected, the apologists and image-makers for June 4th are out in full force, to once again persuade us of the significance of what occurred and to refurbish the image of the presumed heroes of the revolution. While trying to avoid the embarrassment of openly celebrating an event banned by Parliament and the courts, President Mills has tried to support his former boss from a distance. Speaking in an interview, the President called “June 4th”, a historic landmark. Continuing, the President said “Probity and accountability are principles which I personally cherish. I always observe June 4th and not only when it comes.” Elsewhere, at a thanksgiving service for Chiana Pio, former President Rawlings, the man who has become the self-appointed first trombone of accountability for the last three decades, was doing his best to rouse the faithful. Declared the former President, “June 4th gave what Christ gave when he saw those countless robbers and thieves misbehaving at his father’s temple. He threw them away with a whip.” That is just the beginning. By the time this is over, June 4th will sound better than independence.
They will say that it brought us democracy in 1979 but that would be a lie. After a heroic struggle by the students and professionals of Ghana and the decisive rejection of the infamous Union government proposal at the polls by the people of Ghana, the Generals had agreed to return to the barracks and a vigorous Presidential and Parliamentary Campaign were under way when June 4th happened.
They will claim that it was the coup to end all coups but unfortunately, it was not. barely two years after handing over, the architects of June 4th betrayed their own revolution and all of us by staging another coup on 31st December, 1981. For such a small country, we have had so many revolutions. There was the Liberation on 24th February 1966, the Redemption on 13th January, 1972, the Revolution of 1979 and then our long, long Provisional Defense that started on 31st December, 1981. And yet, not much changed for the better.
They will claim that the 1979 revolution brought PROBITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY but it did not. That was the biggest bull of all the bulls that have become part of the mythology of June 4th. They lied to us then and as both President Mills and Rawlings’ statements show, the deception is still going on. In the years since then, the very people who wielded the weapons of accountability have become very unaccountable. -The SCANCEM SCANDAL - THE M and J SCANDAL - THE QUALITY GRAIN SCANAL - THE CHINCHINGA SCANDAL; just to mention a few, all stand as stark reminders that despite the fine words, the actions of the AFRC/PNDC/NDC cabal did not and do not bespeak accountability. Indeed, as the ultimate betrayal of the principles of accountability and natural justice, they have protected themselves with the transitional provisions of the 1992 constitution even while continuing to make meaningless calls for accountability for others. Indeed, if tomorrow, TAFRAKYE, GOD FORBID, some new messiah bursts upon the scene and applies the same yardsticks as were applied in June 4th, many of the leading lights of June 4th will end up in prison, in exile or dead, at Teshie firing range!. Kalabule, by other names, is alive and well and chopping Ghana small is still very much in vogue.
Of course, there are some truths that will not be mentioned this week. June 4th instituted the culture of disrespect for our national institutions, for our elders and for our women. It was the revolution that made routine the practice of Generals and Colonels taking directions from Privates and Lance-Corporals and that attitude, later copied by the PDC’s under 31st December, is the basis of our current indiscipline.
It was the revolution that made it routine for old men and women to be whipped, sometimes naked in public.
Today, Presidents and former Presidents insult one another routinely. In the political arena, young men and women insult venerable old men with abandon just because it can be done. When that revolution was all over, not much had changed for the better but a lot had changed for the worse. As President Mills lauded June 4th, it would have been helpful if he had forthrightly condemned the many excesses and reached out to the orphans and the widows of those who perished. Unfortunately, he did not.
As June 4th dawned, many lives were about to be changed, for better and for worse. On the campus of Presec, Legon, as the events of June 4TH unfolded, a little boy watched in fear—He was the son of the Head of State and Chairman of the SMC, General Akuffo. Elsewhere in Accra, a young woman followed the same events, with fear and hope. About 2 weeks earlier, her husband had been arrested for leading an uprising by Air-Force officers and was on trial for his life. He was Ft. Lt J.J. Rawlings. By the time it was all over, the little boy was an orphan, his father felled by a hail of bullets after condemnation by a mob pretending to be soldiers. That young woman’s husband, J.J. Rawlings, was rescued from prison and made Chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council. She is the former First lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings. As the students and the masses cheered them on, the revolutionaries issued edict after edict. As the students clamoured for blood, they gave them blood. In those three months, every soldier could be a law unto himself or herself. Any soldier could set the price of every produce or service. They could seize anybody’s car or property. Many women became unwilling consorts of all-powerful “abongo-boys”. Sure, there were winners—like the soldiers and the Rawlingses. But there were losers like my school-mate who became an orphan and many soldiers, who died on both sides of the fighting.
The question is “DID THE PEOPLE WIN?” “DID GHANA WIN?” To those who want to celebrate, let us think of the orphans and the widows and all those harmed in ways big and small by this revolution. The pain of those who suffered will always be with them.
Within a few years, the lessons of June 4th had been forgotten even by those who wielded the weapons of revenge. Only the bad lessons endured--- like the disrespect for everything that I have alluded to. This is what they will be celebrating. June 4th is an enduring scar, not just on our conscience but on our collective heart as a nation. Is it right for some people to appropriate the instruments of state and to visit on some of our citizens such injustice and pain? Is it right, after these egregious breaches of the rights of these victims, to visit year-in, year-out, upon their widows and their orphans, the indignity of watching their family’s agony celebrated? I do not believe in an eye for an eye. I believe in reconciliation. President Mills missed a great opportunity to acknowledge the genuine frustrations that led to June 4th while reaching out to the orphans and widows of June 4th. That would have been Presidential and enhanced his reputation as “ASOMDWEHENE”.
I do not think anybody should celebrate June 4th. Its celebration is mean-spirited and an affront to our common values of decency and community.
However, even as we forthrightly condemn the evil that was unleashed in the name of June 4th, we must be careful not to confuse the misguided revolutionaries for the genuine grievances that made June 4th possible and gave it so much resonance.
The people were and are scandalized by the arrogance of our leaders who sold to themselves national assets at DONKOMI PRICES --- then and now.
The public was and is angered by the culture of impunity – then and now.
The public was and is angered by the absence of genuine accountability--- then and now.
The public was and is angered by the contempt of the rulers for the ruled--- then and now. Despite its egregious excesses, let June 4th stand as a warning to our nation about what evil and suffering can be unleashed and harnessed by opportunists when the people lose trust for their leaders.
As John Kennedy once said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” Let us institutionalize perpetual peaceful revolution, based on accountability, probity, transparency and respect, for our institutions, our laws, our elders and our women.
Let us move forward, together, in acknowledgement of the lessons of June 4th, not in celebration but in solemn contemplation.
We must ensure that never again will such a calamity be visited on our nation.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy