One of greatest things to have happened in the political life of Mr Jerry John Rawlings was his decision to apologise to former Presidents John Kufuor and John Mahama. The former military strongman had described the duo as evil and rogue respectively. Though the two former presidents did not officially react to the diatribe, Mr Rawlings, upon second thoughts, decided to apologise for the unfortunate comment.
Enter June 4th celebration. Whilst most Ghanaians thought the Dzelukofe-born former military ruler was again going to vent his spleen on his political opponents and elements within his own National Democratic Congress (NDC) party, he swerved them all by refusing to make an explosive speech.
The Chronicle, which has been one of his number of critics, congratulates him for turning a new leaf. Attacking political opponents is not the best way to resolve political matters, therefore, if Mr Rawlings has, today, seen the light and decides to do the right thing, he needs to be congratulated.
But in so doing, The Chronicle is also reminding him that so many things went wrong when he staged his June 4 uprising, and must, therefore, apologsze for that as well. Though the state has the power to take the life of any Ghanaian if the person falls foul to the relevant laws, the way and manner the former military officers were killed leaves much to be desired. For one to be sentenced to death by a court of competent jurisdiction, the person would have gone through the rigorous process of the law, which can sometimes take years.
Unfortunately, the trial of General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, Commander Joy Amedume, General Utuka, Colonel Roger Joseph Felli, General Robert Kotei, Air Vice Marshall George Yaw Boakye, General Afrifa, General F.W.K. Akuffo, among a host of others did not go through this rigorous legal process. They were all tried by a military court and sentenced to death by firing squad within three months.
Taking human life is not easy, and that is why the current 1992 Constitution has prescribed a laid down procedure, including the right to appeal against the sentence up to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, these military generals did not have the offer of appeal and were killed like fowls at the military shooting range at Teshie, a suburb of Accra. Commander Amedume was killed because he secured a loan of 50,000 cedis from a bank.
Many years down the line, Mr Rawlings, who came back to seize power after handing over to the democratically government of Dr Hila Limann in 1979, admitted that the former Nigeria military dictator, General Sani Abacha, gave him, in his own words, $2 million, which many Ghanaians considered a bribe at the time. Though The Chronicle had done behind the scenes investigations and broke the story that Mr Rawlings had taken a $5 million bribe from Abacha, the then president kept quiet.
The opposition then, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), tried to use the platform available to them in Parliament to cause an investigation into the case, but that attempt was blocked after Mr Rawlings’ government had accused The Chronicle of cooking up the story, which had no basis. Almost twenty years down the line, Mr Rawlings came back last year to tell Ghanaians that he actually took the money, but that it was not $5 million as reported, but rather $2 million.
Somebody took a legitimate loan of 50,000 cedis and you ended his life, and now you have gone for as high as $2 million, and, yet, you are walking a freeman – this is a complete travesty of justice.
We believe the youthful exuberance led Mr Rawlings and his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to commit those atrocities in the name of a revolution.
Now, at 70, and still counting, Mr Rawlings should sit down and reflect on the past and judge himself whether he was right or not. If this is done, he would come to appreciate that he was, after all, wrong in executing the military men – because the worst forms of crime they were accused of committing is happening now, with he, Rawlings, being one of the culprits.
This is the reason why we are asking him to apologise and be forgiven by his maker and Ghanaians. Failure to do that will mean he still stands by the past, and this is not a good legacy he would like to leave for his family and Ghanaians as a whole.