It is very unfortunate that the Ghana Police Service chose to prosecute, instead of referring Amina for psychological counseling. All indications seemed to show that she needed help. Incarcerating her without bail appeared to be in bad taste.
Amina’s problem started when she opened her mouth too wide on a radio program about an armed robbery incident which took place on October 12, involving a Yutong bus travelling between Accra and Tamale around 2:00 a.m. Indications were that the incident occurred at a spot at Kubease, near Ejisu on the Accra-Kumasi highway, and that she and others in the bus were attacked by a group of armed robbers, who also forced some male passengers to have sex with the women in the bus at gunpoint. The highlight of the incident was where a father was compelled by the threat of gun to break the virginity of his own daughter.
When news of the incident came out, various people reacted differently, including the President, Prof. Atta Mills, who charged the security forces to be more vigilant. Within twenty four hours, the Police Administration went to him with the message that their thorough investigation had found the story not to be true.
According to the police, “The reportage regarding the purported mass rape story tried making the public to think the police were not on top of their jobs.” This made Koku Anyidoho, Presidential Spokesperson, to describe the whole story as a hoax. Meanwhile, Mae Kelbergh Femke, a 25-year-old woman Belgium tourist, and her boyfriend, Nuru Yahaya Ole, 25, who were on the bus, told the Northern Regional Police Command that the robbers fired at the bus, but the driver drove on until he got to the nearest police station, and reported the incident.
The Minister of Information, John Tia Akologo, on November 1, 2010, in a complaint to the National Media Commission (NMC), accused Adom FM and Joy FM of ‘lack of basic ethics of the journalistic profession,’ because they had put the story on radio ‘without the requisite background checks’ … and that the story was ‘nothing but a fabrication.’
Stan Xoese Dogbe, a member of the government’s communication team, accused both Joy FM and Adom FM of putting out a “false story” which sought to create the impression that the country was unsafe and also to cause disaffection for the government”. The National Democratic Congress’ (NDC’s) Allotey Jacobs accused the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) of concocting the story to create the impression that the country was unsafe, and also to cause disaffection for thet government. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, National Chairman of the NPP, responded harshly, and described the claim as “absolute rubbish.”
One wonders the basis for the description of the story as a hoax, when it had been established that: a Yutong Bus with registration GN 263 – 10 made the trip from Accra to Tamale on October 11, 2010; the bus was attacked by a group of armed robbers, who fired at the bus at a sport near Kubease on the Accra-Kumasi highway; that a formal complaint was lodged with the police at Ejisu, which had been confirmed by both the Ejisu Police Commander, ASP Stephen Awuah, and the Ejisu Police Station Diary of October 12, 2010, entry at 2:20 a.m.; that the driver of the bus had been identified as one Samuel Asiedu; that persons like Issah, Mae Kelberrgh Femke and Nuru Yahaya had all been identified as some of the passengers in the bus. With this entire verifiable information, one believed that the denial of the story went far.
The story appeared to have two parts – armed robbery and rape. What probably was being denied was the rape part. If this was the case, the denial should have specified, so instead of ‘the whole thing was a hoax, or concocted to create the impression that the country was unsafe,” even the rape aspect of the case should not be simply brushed aside with the back of the hand, just because there was no confirmation from any of the passengers.
The original story, as reported, had it that the passengers agreed among themselves that because of the embarrassment associated with the incident, nobody was to talk about it. This should have informed the police that they were dealing with a psycho-traumatic case, instead of a crime, and should not have rushed to court.
Prosecuting Amina for a traumatic experience would not help anyone, but rather, in this case, would lead to the public staying away from the police. Amina needed help, not prosecution, to unravel whatever she might have been exposed to. The woman, as seen through her picture, would not be socio-politically sophisticated enough to fabricate the story to “cause disaffection for the government.”
There are certain factors within our society that would prevent the passengers in the bus from talking about the rape aspect of the incident, that is, if it actually happened. It would not be possible to go through all these, but a few examples would do.
The Ghanaian society has some inhibitions about sex, whereby it is a taboo for a married woman to be known to have had sex with another man, irrespective of the circumstances. It is a prescription for divorce. In this case, the married women would be tight-lipped about the incident.
It is considered an abomination for a father to have carnal knowledge of his daughter. In 2009, a man was publicly humiliated in Goaso, in the Brong Ahafo Region, for allegedly having sex with his daughter. A sheep was slaughtered, and the blood besmeared on his body to “cleanse” him while people looked on. Why would anybody expect the father who, according to the story, was forced to rape his daughter, come out in the open to admit to such behaviour? He would prefer to die in silence to avoid the humiliation and embarrassment associated with that behaviour.
What about the 14-year old girl, who supposedly had the unfortunate incidence of being forced to have sex with her own father? She and her father would not be the same till their deaths. They would need professional help to go through life.
One of the girls this writer grew up with had the misfortune of being raped while still in the elementary school. She was nicknamed variously as “net-breaker” and “bulldozer,” in apparent reference to Wilberforce Mfum’s (of both Kotoko and Black Stars fame) shot that broke through a net of the goal posts at that time. She never had any counseling. She was always quiet. She died early. She was never seen with any boy or man when she grew up. It is on this basis that it is believed the little girl in this case would not come out to tell anybody of her ordeal.
Some people believed the Headmaster of the girl’s school would call the police if it really happened. It should be noted that the girl was making her first trip to the school, as a first year student, so if anything, the Headmaster/Headmistress would not even know her. Even if she/he did, it would not be in the interest of the school for such an action to be taken. No reasonable individual or institution would want to be identified with negativity. One would also have to consider the age of the girl in its relationship to the issue at stake – sex. Legally, she is a minor, and needed to be protected about negative sexual matters.
In a society where public discussion of sex is a taboo, one has to be careful not to rush people with such narratives into the courts. Individuals react to situations differently. None of the women involved in this case would like to discuss her ordeal.
Amina is the one talking, because, according to her, she was the only woman among the lot who was not raped. She might have been traumatised by the gun shots and the discussions that followed, after they had lodged the complaint with the police.
Probably she had been raped, or had become a victim of a nasty sexual experience days before/ after the incident, and was being haunted by both incidents happening to her in succession. These are some of the indications of someone who needs help. There could be something affecting her so much so, that the only recourse for her, would be to go public, and in the process get some help.
It is being argued that the prosecution of Amina, as a criminal, is not the appropriate way to handle matters of this nature. Somebody should refer Amina to a psychiatrist, instead of making her face a judge. Amina has been traumatised. She would do well if given some help. Amina needs counseling not prosecution.