Wa Military abuse: 86 soldiers sanctioned

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
 Mr Dominic Nitiwul — Minister of Defence
Mr Dominic Nitiwul — Minister of Defence

Eighty - six young soldiers of the 10 Mechanised Battalion in Wa who stormed Tindama, a suburb of the town, and brutalised some residents of the area have been punished, the Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, has said.

He told Parliament yesterday that, with the exception of the duty officer, all the personnel who were on duty on the day of the incident had been “charged, tried and punished as appropriate”.

According to him, the Orderly Sergeant, who was a Staff Sergeant, had had his rank reduced to Corporal; the Guard Commander, who was a Corporal, had been reduced to Private, and the Sentry on duty, who was a Lance Corporal, had also been reduced to Private.

“The trial of the Duty Officer, who is a Lieutenant, will commence on or before Wednesday, July 14, 2021. All the above trials are without prejudice to the outcome of the subjects under other forms of investigations,” he stated.

Detention and transfer

Presenting a statement on the alleged brutalities by the young soldiers in Wa on July 1, 2021, Mr Nitiwul said eight other soldiers who were deeply involved/visibly identified in various videos brutalising some residents had been charged, tried and given 30 days each in detention by a disciplinary board chaired by the Commanding Officer.

He added that the remaining soldiers who were involved in the incident would be transferred out of the region.

Chronology of events

Giving the background to the incident, Mr Nitiwul said on July 1, 2021, 86 young soldiers of the 10 Mechanised Battalion in Wa stormed Tindama, a suburb of the Wa municipality, in search of a colleague’s smart phone which had allegedly been stolen.

The soldiers, he said, assaulted some members of the community, an incident that triggered public condemnation across the country.

The Minister said subsequently on July 2, 2021, a delegation led by the Chief of the Army Staff visited Wa to assess the situation.

To ascertain the circumstances that led to the said brutalities, he said, the military high command was tasked to collaborate with the National Intelligence Bureau to investigate the matter.

Subsequently, a four-member team, made up of Colonel B.Z. Ayorrogo as team leader, Lieutenant Colonel G.B. Eduah, Mr Francis Aboagye and Mr Maxwell Dassah, all from the NIB, was tasked to do the investigation.

He said the victims who were interrogated reported the loss of 13 mobile phones, a tricycle and an amount of GH¢1,460.

“However, seven mobile phones and the tricycle have been retrieved and returned to the owners. No money has yet been retrieved.

“Mr Speaker, notwithstanding the above incident and other incidents, it must be stated clearly that the members of the Ghana military are very disciplined, well-trained and respected across the world for their professionalism,” he said.

Unacceptable conduct

Responding, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said while he found the sanctions against the soldiers reassuring, the conduct the personnel put up during the search for their colleague’s mobile phone was unacceptable.

He said he was optimistic that the sanctions would allow for some order and send a signal that lawlessness would not be tolerated within the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF).

He said a few miscreants should not debase the standing of the GAF as a disciplined professional entity that owed the people the responsibility to keep the peace and not lead the breakdown of law and order in the country.

Healing damaged relations

Contributing, the Majority Chief Whip, Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh, said the reputation of Ghana’s military was not in doubt locally and internationally.

He said while the sanctions being initiated were commendable, further steps needed to be taken to heal the damaged relationship between civilians and the military in Wa.

“We need to do more than just investigating and meting out deserving punishment. We need to heal the psychological effects for what has happened to the people of Wa,” he said.

Investigations

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Modey writes from Wa that investigations into the circumstances surrounding the military brutality of civilians in the municipality entered the fourth day yesterday, with the committee members visiting the various crime scenes with the victims, as well as gathering evidence from the soldiers.

Eighteen victims led the committee to the various places where the soldiers brutalised them without any provocation.

They also visited the Wa Regional Hospital and gathered views from one of the victims, Gafaru Mahama, who was still on admission.

The investigation comes to an end today.