RSM Joseph Mensah
RSM Joseph Mensah

Let not sleeping dogs lie?

When I read a March 7, 2024 article titled: “A Tribute from fellow Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) Members” in which they “shed tears” and eulogised a recent-dead colleague, implicitly justifying their past actions, I asked myself, have these people heard the saying, “let sleeping dogs lie,” or “rub salt in the wound?”


Knowing the atrocities they committed against Ghanaians, and their individual and collective role in the killing of the Army Commander, Major General NA Odartey-Wellington in June 1979, one wonders why they would open up old wounds forty-five years after the event, and after the 2002 National Reconciliation Commission!

Watching TV on Ghana’s 67th Independence anniversary parade at Koforidua on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, a word which was used many times by the commentators was “Patriotism.”

 The word has been defined as “devotion and vigorous support for one’s country.” (Wikipedia)

Regimental-Sergeant-Major Mensah

For most Ghanaians, the name of an unheralded non-political soldier may not mean much. So, the name Regimental-Sergeant-Major (RSM)/Warrant-Officer Class One (WO1) Joseph Mensah, an AFRC victim who spent over seven years in prison for his patriotic defence of Ghana in 1979-1981, might not be of much interest.

But for those of us who served with him in the then “Recce Regiment,” during the upheavals of May 15, 1979, June 4, 1979, and December 31, 1981, RSM Mensah, who was buried at age 83 at his hometown Ejisu-Besease on Saturday, March 2, 2024 will be remembered as a patriotic Ghanaian.

In 1979, led by our Commanding Officer (CO) Major Abubakar Sulemana (Rtd) now the Tolon-Na, officers and men of the Recce Regiment, RSM Mensah fought mutinying soldiers, led by Lance-Corporal Tasiri who initiated the mutiny from our neighbouring unit at Arakan Barrack.

Before discussing RSM Mensah, former Chairman of the National Media Commission, Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, will consider my write-up a “sheep-able offence,” if I fail to educate Ghanaians on the military as he demands.

Sheep-slaughtering is the standard punishment for any perceived offence/misdemeanour.

 The offender is made to, twa odwan in Twi, that is to say sacrifice a sheep as an atonement for any perceived “iniquity!” The chief’s linguist and elders constitute themselves into prosecutor/judge and jury!

Incidentally, Nana is a sub-chief in his village.


The Army comprises Officers and Men.

A rough approximation in Commonwealth armies of British tradition, has Officers as Management, and Men as Union. An Infantry Battalion/Regiment is made up of approximately 800 Officers and Men commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel (Lt-Col.).

The RSM, a Warrant Officer Class one is the most senior of the Men.

 He works in close co-operation with, and assists the Commanding Officer through the Adjutant (CO’s “Secretary”) in ensuring discipline in the unit/regiment.

So was RSM Mensah’s position in the Recce Regiment in 1979 and 1981.

Born in 1938, he joined the Ghana Armed Forces in 1958 after his Middle School Leaving Certificate examinations. In the early 1960s, he served in the Congo. Going through the mill as a career Recce soldier, he did the Regimental Gunnery Course in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s.

In 1976, he was posted to the Regimental Headquarters of the Recce Regiment, Accra as the RSM. He was a disciplined, courageous, loyal soldier and an effective RSM.

In the tumultuous days of May 15, 1979, June 4, 1979, and December 31, 1981, RSM Mensah together with officers and men of the Regiment led by our Commanding Officer, Major Abubakar Sulemana (Rtd), courageously fought off the mutineers/revolutionaries then led by Flt Lt Rawlings who was freed from the guard-room by Lance Corporal Tasiri. He was facing treason charges for the May 15, 1979, mutiny.

This was the era of mayhem in the country with the military bearing the brunt.

 The period saw the execution of three former Heads-of-State Gen IK Acheampong, Lieutenant General FWK Akuffo, Lt Gen. AA Afrifa, Border Guards Commander Major General EK Utuka, former Army Commander Major General REA Kotei, Navy Commander Rear-Admiral Joy Amedume, Air Force Commander Air-Vice-Marshal GY Boakye and Col Roger Felli, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.


While Generals Acheampong and Utuka were executed by firing squad on June 16, 1979, the rest were executed on June 26 1979. Major General Odartey-Wellington, the Army Commander, was killed in action (KIA) on June 4, 1979 defending Ghana from the mutineers.

 Their ages ranged between 38 for Admiral Amedume-45 years for General Acheampong.

On June 30 1982, three High Court Judges and a retired Army Officer were abducted during curfew hours from their residences.

The charred bodies of Justice Agyapong, Justice Sarkodie, Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow, and that of Major Sam Acquah were later discovered at the Bundase Military Range.


Ghanaians and the international community were shocked at the bloodthirstiness and barbarity of the revolutionaries whose clarion call was “let the blood flow!” Young lecturers and academics provided the academic justification for the kangaroo-court trials, while young military officers and soldiers administered the coup de grace!

Though he survived death, RSM Mensah was incarcerated in the Nsawam Prisons for seven years, three months and seventeen days.

He was tortured, brutalised and humiliated, coming out a broken man. However, his indomitable spirit saw him rebuild his life.


Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote states;


“A nation that does not honour its heroes will not endure for long!”

For a country whose former president described us as a people with short memories, it is important to remember Abraham Lincoln’s quote.

 Patriotic soldiers such as RSM Mensah must not be forgotten.

I was asked once by a student that apart from the wealth amassed by the revolutionaries for themselves and their families/cronies including appropriating state assets built by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah to themselves, what national developmental gain came out of the revolution and aftermath? Ironically, the revolution provided fertile grounds for corruption/indiscipline/impunity/disrespect, the very things it sought to eliminate!

May RSM Mensah’s soul and those of Officers and Men of the Recce Regiment and other soldiers who died in 1979/1982, as well as the Judges and retired Major Sam Acquah, and all unsung patriotic Ghanaian heroes rest in peace.

In mourning their dead colleague, the revolutionaries, one hopes, remembered to “shed tears” for the thousands of Ghanaian families who still suffer the pain/anguish for dead relations at their hands. For the revolutionaries, may they live with their blood-stained consciences!

They must also not open up old wounds and let sleeping dogs lie.

While wishing Ghanaians a Happy 67th anniversary, condolences to the family of Flight-Sergeant Armah who died after collapsing during the March 6, 2024 parade at Koforidua.
God bless Ghana and make our nation great and strong!

Leadership, lead by example! Fellow Ghanaians WAKE UP!
The writer is former Chief Executive Officer, African Peace Support Trainers Association
Nairobi, Kenya, and Council Chairman Family Health University College, Accra                                                                              

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