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Martyrs Day: The Massacre of Three Judges; Lessons For Ghana's Feeble Democracy [Feature]

Ghana as a country, has experienced a number of events since independence, that can only be described as the "dark days" in history. The overthrow of Dr Kwame Nkrumah by General Kotoka and his allies on 24th February 1966 marked the beginning of series of events that would dent the image of young Ghana as a "shinning star of Africa". One of such events is the massacre of three Justices on June 30, 1982. It is imperative to note that three years earlier, a number of senior military officers and head of states were executed by the AFRC in the infamous "house cleaning exercise" based on allegations of corruption.

In June, 1979, Rear Admiral Amedome, a Navy Commander; General A.A Afrifa, Head of State (1986-69); General F.W.K Akuffo, Head of State (1978-79); General R.E.A Kotei, a former Depeuty Head of State and Head of Defense Staff; Air Vice Marshall Yaw Boakye; the Air Force Commander; General Kutu Acheampong, Military Head of State, (1972-78); General Utuka; Col. Emmanuel Enningful, Chairman of the Military Tribunal; General Odartey Wellington, an Army Commander among other high profile individuals were executed under the Armed Forces Revisionary Council.

Then, June 30 1982 came. A day Ghana lost three(3) distinguished judges: Mrs Justice Cecelia Koranteng Addow, a high court judge; Justice Fred Sarkodie and Justice Adjei Agyepong, who were both Supreme Court justices. According to a Historian, Madame Adjei, these judges were abducted and murdered in cold blood by the agents of the goverment of the day, the PNDC led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings.

The historical records, as recounted by Madame Adjei, shows that Justice Koranteng-Addow was tricked into believing her colleague, Justice Agyei Agyepong, was sick in a car outside her house and wanted to see her. She went outside with her husband only to see soldiers waiting for her instead. The soldiers bundled her into a car to be executed, upon coming out of her room.

Justice Koranteng-Addow was then taken to the homes of Justice Agyepong and Poku Sarkodie, where she was used as a bait to get them out of their homes to be abducted . The three, in addition to Major Sam Acquah who was also picked later were driven to the Bundase Military Range where they were shot by the soldiers in cold blood.

Their 'crime' was that "all the three had adjudicated on cases in which they had ordered the release of persons who were sentenced to long term imprisonment during the rule of the AFRC".

A Special Investigative Board was later constituted following pressure on Chairman Rawlings and his PNDC goverment to find the murders; culminating in the recommendation of ten(10) people to be prosecuted in connection with the murder, including Amartey Queye and Daniel Akata Pore, who were both members of the PNDC. The name of Rt. Capt Kojo Tsikata, a Special Advisor to the PNDC and Head of National Security at the time also pooped up, as having hands in the murder. An allegation which he vehemently denied.

Five of the accused, including Michael Senyah, Tekpor Hekli, Johnny Dzadu, Corporal Amedeka and Amartey Queye were tried, convicted, and eventually executed by firing squad.

Vital Lessons

One factor that has constantly been cited as a ground for the overthrow of political regimes in Ghana is corruption. For instance, the leaders of the National Liberation Council, including General Kotoka, A.A Afrifa and others charged Dr Kwame Nkrumah and his CPP goverment of corruption and abuse as justification for the 1966 coup. Also, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, headed by J.J Rawlings also cited endemic corruption on the part of Lieutenant Colonel Acheampong and his National Redemption Council goverment, as the basis of the take over on June 4th 1979. However, the AFRC which later metamorphosed into PNDC could not be said to be incorruptible during a decade of governance.

Fast forward, the birth of the 1992 constitution urshered into being, the fourth Republic. Eight democratic elections have since been held. In each of these elections, corruption and its related activities have been used as a major campaign tool by the opposition against the incumbent goverment.

By counting the loses and the fact that military takeovers have never resulted in an end to corruption is clearly an indication that no matter what the case maybe, coup de'tat is never an option in any country. Again, the murder of those three judges is a reminder of the need for a country like Ghana to jealously protect her feeble democracy, whilst instituting measures that will help consolidate the gains.

So, the next time you pass by the premises of the Supreme Court, take a minute and salute the three statues directly in front of the beautiful edifice. They are the Martyrs of Rule of Law.

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Africa Ghana Kwame Nkrumah Martyrs Day

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