Imoro Sherrif, the soldier whose murder led to personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) on the authority of the Military High Command, visiting mayhem and barbarism on innocent citizens at Ashaiman, with blatant impunity on Tuesday in a reprisal attack, has been buried.
Interestingly, aside the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) whose head, Joseph Whittal, has condemned the military brutality, which took place on March 7, 2023, at Taifa, a suburb of Ashaiman, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and several others, have surprisingly remained tightlipped over the naked lawlessness exhibited by the Ghanaian soldiers.
Imoro Sherrif’s body was transferred from the 37 Military Hospital mortuary to the Burma Camp military cemetery in Accra, where he was laid to rest yesterday in accordance with Islamic rites. A group of soldiers gathered at the cemetery to witness the burial of their 21-year-old late colleague.
The young soldier was allegedly stabbed to death in Ashaiman, where he was discovered in a pool of blood near the Amania Hotel. He was said to have been killed by a jealous rival with whom he was double-dating a girl. He had gone to pass the night at the lady’s house and was waylaid and stabbed to death.
But his mother, Afia Akyaa, gave a different account on the circumstances surrounding the young soldier’s death, insisting he was mistaken as a thief, although he pleaded for help no one, including the Assemblyman in the area, went to his rescue.
His death led dozens of military officers to invade Ashaiman in the operation that saw some soldiers entering the town in trucks, with an armoured car plus a helicopter hovering over the town in the early hours of Tuesday, beating up residents, particularly men with sticks and batons. They were also made to roll on the floor and in muddy water.
Several videos of the incident captured by some residents went viral on social media. In some of these videos, the rampaging soldiers were seen physically assaulting those who were outside of their rooms at Official town in Ashaiman.
The GAF, has since stated that the March 7, 2023 swoop at Ashaiman, was not to avenge the killing of the late Sheriff Imoro, but rather to fish out perpetrators of the murder.
The Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) responded with a condemnation of the military brutality which took place at Taifa, a suburb of Ashaiman.
“Because of their personal interest, they come (to Ashaiman), take over the law and do what they want. I completely condemn it. It is a degrading and dehumanizing treatment to put such persons who are going to their work to arrest them, make them do press-ups in mud, sitting down with all their clothing removed apart from some briefs is completely unacceptable and that this is exacted by the army of Ghana? It’s completely unacceptable,” the Commissioner of CHRAJ, Joseph Whittal, lamented.
GAF’s Public Affairs Directorate in a press statement dated March 7, 2023, admitted authorizing the operation and that it was not targeted at innocent civilians, but was an intelligence-led operation conducted on suspected hideouts of criminals and crime-prone areas in the Ashaiman.
The statement released in the early hours of March 8, said the swoop led to the arrest of 184 persons, as well as the seizure of suspected illegal drugs. It acknowledged excesses may have resulted in the swoop but failed to apologize for or commit to conduct a probe on the same.
“Personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) on Tuesday 7 March 2023, conducted a swoop in Ashaiman and its environs in a man-hunt for some criminals, who are suspected to have stabbed and killed a young soldier (Trooper Imoro Sherrif) in the early hours of Saturday 4 March 2023, at Ashaiman-Taifa.
“Trooper Sherrif, who is stationed in Sunyani, was in Accra on a Course and had sought permission to visit his parents at Ashaiman where he grew up, but was found in a pool of blood in the early hours of Saturday near the Amania Hotel in Ashaiman.
“GAF wishes to state categorically that the military operation, which was sanctioned by the Military High Command, was NOT to avenge the killing of the soldier but rather to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crime.
The statement added that: “Following the operations at Ashaiman-Taifa and Tulaku, the military personnel picked up about 184 suspects aged between 21 and 47 years old and have since handed them over to the Military Police and subsequently to be sent to the Ghana Police Service for screening and for further action.
“During the swoop, the personnel seized 9 and 57 mini slabs of suspected indian hemp and amnesia among other forms of narcotics,” it added.
Ernest Henry Norgbey, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ashaiman has since disclosed that 150 people assaulted and arrested by the military during their March 7 swoop have been released as of March 8, 2023.
The MP said he went into a meeting with the group and their families immediately after their release, adding that 34 others remain in military detention for continued screening.
“Out of the 184 suspects, 150 have been released as we speak now, we have about 34 still with the military, which they say they are still screening them. So, by the close of tomorrow (March 9), we will know whatever outcome will come out from the screening.
“I just met that 150 including their family … calming situations down and then assuring them that we are taking charge of the situation and also, none of them should take the law into their hands,” Norgbey told Accra-based TV3.
“Out of the 184 [detained by the military], 150 have been released. As we speak, we have about 34 yet to be released by the military, and they state that they are just screening them”.
“So by close of today [March 9] we will know whatever outcome may come from the screening. I just met with the 150 including their families and calmed the situation down and assured them that we are going to take charge of the situation and also provide some leadership for them so none of them should take the law into their hands,” the Ashaiman MP said.
The mother of the soldier who was murdered in Ashaiman in the Greater Accra region has disclosed that the deceased was mistaken for a criminal and was subjected to mob justice.
She said, reports indicated that the late Trooper Sherrif Imoro told his assailants that he was not a thief and further pleaded for assistance, but no one was able to save his life.
Speaking in an interview with Joy News she explained that the late Sheriff Imoro called the Assemblyman of the area for assistance as he struggled with his attackers but he was ignored and mistaken for a thief.
“… I heard the news about how my son struggled and called for help but nobody was willing to help him out. My son shouted for help, explaining that he was a soldier and not a criminal, but no one would listen. I have even heard that the Assemblyman for the Taifa area was called to intervene, but he told them the person could be a criminal so he refused to come out to help.
“My son cried for help; he called out to people to save his life; explaining that he wasn’t a criminal, but no one could help my dying son,” she lamented, adding that the nature of her son’s death had left the entire family traumatized.
But reacting to the incident in an interview, the Commissioner of CHRAJ, Joseph Whittal, said the exercise does not pass the test for an intelligence-led operation while adding that the military acted wrongly.
“Because of their personal interest, they come (to Ashaiman), take over the law and do what they want. I completely condemn it. It is a degrading and dehumanizing treatment to put such persons who are going to their work arrest them, make them do press-ups in mud, sitting down with all their clothing removed apart from some briefs is completely unacceptable and that this is exacted by the army of Ghana? It’s completely unacceptable,” the Commissioner lamented.
He stated emphatically that “any defence of it by any leadership of the military is a misplaced support…We need to call what is wrong wrong and what is right right but the action by the military is completely wrong” Mr. Whittal added.
However, the Commissioner of CHRAJ has advised the Ashaiman community to discard any plans of a reprisal attack and hold themselves and allow lawful bodies like the Ghana police to investigate and take the right steps.
Mr. Whittal noted that the military still have weapons that they can always apply, and stressed that CHRAJ “when called upon will take the right steps because it is the ombudsman that has constitutional powers to investigate military issues in the event that the military go beyond their normal duty and it affects the right of people.”
However, for a CHRAJ investigation to take place the process can only be triggered if an official complaint is filed on the matter, Mr. Whittal explained.
Meanwhile,the Centre for Democracy and Socio-Economic Development, (CDS Africa) has called on the leadership of the Ghana Armed Forces to call its men to order and ensure those responsible for the attacks on civilians are brought to book as soon as practicable.
In a statement signed by the Assistant Programmes Officer, Edna Asante, CDS Africa said the murder of the young soldier was crude, inhumane, and animalistic, and mourned with the family who has had to deal more directly with the gruesome murder of their son.
However, it said the response by some military personnel in the form of attacks on residents of Tafia and the whole of the Ashaiman community is undemocratic.
“The use of force against innocent civilians is a violation of their fundamental human rights and ought to be condemned. The leadership of the Ghana Armed Forces must call its men to order and ensure those responsible for the attacks on civilians are brought to book as soon as practicable,” CDS Africa stated.
CDS Africa, “It is essential to recognize the importance of upholding the rule of law and due process, especially in a democratic country like Ghana. Violence is not a substitute for anything, in a democracy.”
It noted that the violence perpetrated on the residents of Ashaiman has far-reaching consequences for our democracy and peace, adding “For instance, it may deteriorate relations with the security agencies, unduly delay and make the investigative work of the Police even harder because residents may become withdrawn or refuse to cooperate with investigators to identify and arrest the actual criminals who murdered Imoro Sheriff in cold blood,” CDS Africa stated.
It therefore called on all to exercise restraint and observe the law. “The rule of law is the way of democracy, and the Military must comply with the law. The Ministry of Defense must ensure that the Ghana Armed forces reflect the democratic values of Ghana,” CDS Africa added.
One, Adib Saani, a security analyst, has called the GAF out on its statement admitting that their officers’ invasion of Ashaiman was sanctioned, describing it as bogus and senseless.
In reaction to the GAF statement, Adib Saani slammed the military and demanded that heads must roll.
”For the military to take matters into their own hands in a situation which is interior and not defence, it is wrong. The statement is bogus, to say the least. It is pure nonsense. That was wrong. It should not have happened.”
Speaking on Rainbow Radio 87.5Fm, he stated that those responsible for the invasion’s sanctioning must be found and dealt with, adding nobody is above the law, he said, and no one should be spared for ordering the invasion.