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MEMORY LANE For the record: my June 4, 1979 story – a trilogy

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Today, June 4, 2022, on the 43rd anniversary of the Revolution led by Flt-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, which witnessed the execution of eight senior serving and retired military officers, I think I need to put on record that this column took a stand against the abominable killings, even before they took place.

I take special pride in the fact that I was the first journalist in Ghana to write condemning the threats of firing squad for officers who had been accused of corruption and abuse of office.

In the terrifying mood of the time, those baying ‘let the blood flow’, evidently saw execution as the only response to the allegations about abuse of office and corruption.

The events that marked the three-month rule of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), led by Flt-Lt Rawlings, so scarred the nation, that today mention of ‘June Fourth’ doesn’t even need the qualifier, ‘1979’ for the reference to be understood.

Notably, the term ‘June Fourth’ encompasses a whole range of experiences and events, which for many people were mostly traumatic and tragic.

Taking a trip down Memory Lane, the following are three abridged companion articles from this column, published that June, comprising my plea for no executions, a reader’s abusive reaction and my response.

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The column of Friday, June 8, 1979: had the heading ‘A SPECIAL PRAYER’:
My prayer and plea in these times is this reminder: there’s nothing so frightening as a revolution gone wrong.

Accountability there must be but care should be taken that things are kept under control. We don’t have to reach into history for proof of the necessity for caution.

There is the present Iran example, were it got to a point where the person who started it all, the Ayatollah Khomeini, was pleading for an end to the massacres.

The single, outstanding chilling fact of the present situation is that everywhere there is this openly expressed, gleeful feeling – ‘Oh well, it’s between the soldiers … As long as they’re killing themselves it’s okay …” Very sad. Soldiers, too, are fellow Ghanaians.

The point is not that some people have “chopped” and must pay with their blood. The point is that killing them will not solve the problem. For when it comes to real blame-sharing not many of us will have a clean slate.

Those found guilty of charges should be given prison terms and the illegally-acquired assets seized. Any punishment, apart from death.

We all want food, peace and stability. The way to these is surely not by carnage. Let us all contribute to the restoration of calm for justice to take its course.

True, as the late Chinese leader, Mao Tse-Tung said, a revolution is not a tea party. But it shouldn’t be a slaughter party, either.

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Column of June 22, 1979, ‘TOLERANCE, PLEASE’
Miss Yeboah-Afari, I was stunned by your article, ‘A Special Prayer’.
I would like to tell you that we the honest Ghanaians had our nerves stretched to breaking point when corruption was at its peak and no one raised an eyebrow.
Now that we (have) a Saviour in the name of Flight-Lieutenant JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS who had laid (down) his life to save us from total collapse, I do not expect a columnist of your category to educate us as to what is good and what is not.
If you are among those young girls who received posh (cars) from those corrupt officers, then you had better shut up and leave us alone to see how best we can find solutions to the numerous problems facing dear Ghana.
Yeah, JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, those found to have tainted hands, make them wriggle like worms. They must pay until the last hair on their wicked heads falls off.
Fred Aboyer,
P.O. Box 02180
Accra
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Dear Mr Aboyer,
Even if you disagree with me, why insult me? There was no need for personal insults to make your point: that there SHOULD be capital punishment.
Sorry to disappoint you, but I do not own a car and never have. And even if I did, would that disqualify me from expressing a view on a national issue – as you are doing?
People must allow the expression of opposing views if the country is to progress. It is because there had never been room for opposing views that this country is at the stage where the only thing that will satisfy some people is BLOOD.
Obviously you have a very low opinion of “a columnist of (my) category”, but if you read my piece again, you will notice that nowhere did I try to force my views on anybody. It was a “prayer and plea”.
You may be angry but I don’t think that gives you licence to disregard facts. It is not correct that “when corruption was at its peak no one raised an eyebrow”. Perhaps you are a new reader of this column, but surely you remember the protests of students, churches and professionals?
You and I are both entitled to our views. Why then be so rude? How can we ask for economic freedom, freedom from ‘kalabule’, while trampling on freedom of expression?
If you think it is a crime just to express a different opinion, why are you worried about the other ills in our society?
Thanks just the same for writing – and to all others who wrote similar letters. Without letters like yours it would be very hard for columnists to know whether their articles are read.
I would rather provoke a reader – whether for or against – than leave a reader indifferent.
Yours sincerely,
Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

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On June 16, 1979, former Head of State General Kutu Acheampong and Major-General Edward K. Utuka, former Border Guards Commander, were executed by an AFRC firing squad at the Teshie Military Range, in Accra.

A second batch of executions took place, on June 26: Head of State Lt-Gen Fred Akuffo and former Head of State retired Lt-Gen Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa; Major-General Robert Kotei, Rear Admiral Joy Amedume, Colonel Roger Felli and Air Vice-Marshal Yaw Boakye.

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Back to 2022: Did the executions eradicate corruption and abuse of office?
Four decades on, how I wish I could get an answer from all those who wrote to attack me for my June 8, 1979 column!

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