Two lecturers, are worried about the silence and lack of action by the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, over the brutal force and human rights abuses which occurred last week at Ashaiman, following the murder of a soldier, Trooper Imoro Sherrif, on Saturday dawn at Ashaiman-Taifa.
Prof Kwesi Aning, the Director of the Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) and an Associate Professor at the School of Law, University of Ghana, Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, are pushing President Akufo-Addo, to speak on the matter and discharge the military personnel involved in the swoop.
The President, who is the Commander-In- Chief of Ghana Armed Forces, has always claimed to be a believer of rule of law and human rights activist, for almost a week now since the incident, he is yet to author a word.
Indeed, many are beginning to associate him with the press statement issued by the Military High Command that the presence of the soldiers at Ashaiman with military trucks, a helicopter, combat guns and the human rights abuses that ensued were sanctioned.
According to Prof Appiagyei-Atua, the actions of the military officers on Tuesday, March 7, are unpardonable, thus he was of the expectation that the President would have publicly addressed the incident and in turn dismiss some people from office.
Speaking on Newsfile on Saturday, Prof Appiagyei-Atua, disclosed that after the brutal occurrence on Tuesday, he had received messages from various quarters justifying the actions of the military.
However, the professor insisted that since Ghana is a democratic country, something of that sort should not have happened because the military is supposed to be accountable to a civilian head, who is the President of the State.
He told the host, Samson Lardy Anyenini, “The soldiers are supposed to be accountable to a civilian authority, and the civilian authority is the Commander-in-Chief and he should make sure that by this time there would have been some dismissals.”
Additionally, Prof Appiagyei-Atua pointed out that, although the operation was sanctioned by the Military High Command, the President has a superior hand and could axe out the military personnel that meted out the brutalities on the innocent victims.
He explained that his suggestion will be plausible because, although the GAF claims that the occurrence was an intelligence-led operation, the aftermath of their actions proves the contrary.
“If they [GAF] would talk to him [the President] that maybe it was an intelligence-led operation but it has proven that it is not an intelligence-led operation, it was a swoop which led to many innocent people, almost everybody who was arrested and what did they find? Some…cocaine and so on, that is not what they were going to look for.”
Prof Appiagyei-Atua added that “So, the president should own up, and he should dissociate himself from the statements made by the Minister of Defence and the Deputy Minister, to say that no, this is not how the process should have gone, this is not how the operation should have been orchestrated so, you are suspended.”
He further added that attention must be paid to the police for failing to intervene to see that the military troops involved in the ‘swoop’ were dealt with in accordance with the criminal laws of the State.
“There are rules, there are tribunals under the security and intelligence act. There are Armed Forces Act, the Police Service Act, there are rules there. The constitution tells about the responsibilities of the police. And that should also be one place to look at.”
“The shirking of responsibility on the part of the police for not coming out and taking any actions to ensure that these soldiers are also dealt with according to the criminal laws of the country,” Prof Appiagyei-Atua stressed.
On his part, Prof. Kwesi Aning noted that the Ashaiman brutality proves the military does not understand its mandate and explained that the existence of the soldiers is to protect the lives of people against external threats and not attack them.
Also speaking on the Newsfile, he stressed that a look at the brutality in the community left him disappointed.
“There was a sense of shock, of sadness and a sense of failure. Failure not in the context that we could not protect it but failure in the sense that hard work that has been done to try to build a society in which those in service understand their role that when we use taxpayers’ money to train you, feed you, educate you and arm you that our role is to serve but service has a synergetic relationship.
“That those who are served accept that service and in return have a dialogic consensual respectful collaborative relationship and my dismay at the failure is that almost 20 years or so of hard work seeking to build civil-military relations,” he told host Samson Lardy Anyenini.
Prof Aning’s comment comes in the wake of what he describes as a recurring struggle between civilians and the army.
In 2017, Major Maxwell Adam Mahama was murdered by some residents of Denkyira Obuasi in the Central region. Six years on, there are alleged reports of the killing of another soldier, Sherrif Imoro in Ashaiman.
On the back of this, Prof Aning believes much has to be done to bridge the tension between civilians and the military in such a manner that civilians play an effective oversight role in the military.
“I think you’ve cited 10 cases and we don’t seem to be learning any lesson at all and the failure is not only from the military side the failure is also from the civilian oversight side,” he said.
Making reference to one of the videos in which a soldier could be heard audibly saying “mo nsua nyansa” which translates to ‘learn to be wise’ he stated that this indicated that the military was yet to come to terms with the fact that it was possible to discipline people without violating their rights.
“I think we need to understand that what took place is part of that cultural historical struggle within the army itself to move away from the ‘bo nkutuku’ mentality and this I am borrowing from Raymond Atuguba. The culture that says you know I am not going to argue with you I give you a couple of very dirty slaps and that will change you.
“When someone says learn to be wise or intelligent or behave in particular once that same person is flouting your rights then it creates a particular time of danger because it tells you the way that threats are constructed and how enemies Imagine and re-imagine,” he said.
He insisted that some heads in the military must be held responsible for the brutality that happened on Tuesday and noted that the routine use of violence to intimidate and sow fear cannot be legitimised.
He explained that “the brutality that we have seen has heightened the vulnerabilities that we already face.”
“Some heads must roll…when somebody says the military high command sanctioned it, who in the high command sanctioned it? Who in the high command planned this intervention? What were the rules of engagement? Were the rules in such a manner that you go out there and use violence to seek to get the information?” he quizzed.
Prof Aning believes the military and those at the helm of this operation must answer questions raised especially since the Police have been able to get access to the information needed (and arrested key suspects in the murder of the slain officer) without undue brutality.
“As Commander-In-Chief, he must be asking what are the risk and threat assessments that were made prior to the operations, in terms of how the operation was carried out what can be the intended fallout for the wider security of Ghana?”
“I can say very confident that the unintended fallout is very negative because if you listen to the discourse, people are frustrated and angry,” Prof Aning said.