Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Kugblenu Dies

As we went to press in the middle of the week, a few Ghanaian journalists were making 'discreet enquiries' about the funeral arrangements being made for John Kugblenu, who died in Accra aged 49.

Very few journalists in Ghana wanted to be seen openly grieving for the death of a colleague. The People's Daily Graphic carried a terse announcement of the death of John Kugblenu without any headline.

A family spokesman of John Kugblenu was quoted as saying that he had died in the early hours of Sunday, August 19 at the Psychiatric Hospital in Accra to which he had been taken by his family four days earlier. The same spokesman said that funeral arrangements would be announced later.

John Kugblenu was the editor of the Free Press, the privately owned newspaper, a hard working journalist of long standing, at his death he had become a pariah among his colleagues. The People's Daily Graphic did not consider him deserving of anything more than a terse, no headline announcement, the fact that he once worked on the Daily Graphic as it then was, did not matter.

The only important consideration was that John Kugblenu had spent the last year of his life in jail without any charges with the only apparent crime being that he was the editor of a paper that had been carrying critical articles and editorials on Flight- Lieutenant Rawlings and his Provisional National Defence Council.

John Kugblenu was arrested in June 1983 with his managing editor Tommy Thompson and Mike Adjei, a columnist of the paper.

A group of 'workers' then stormed and took over the premises of the Free Press offices, machinery, the printing press, and all. The take-over, Ms Joyce Aryee, the PNDC Secretary for Information had insisted, had nothing to do with the government. The 'workers' took over the Free Press and not one of those 'workers' had ever worked at the Free Press before, and the 'take-over' has become a reality in spite of the PNDC supposedly not having anything to do with it. Obviously any citizen can have his property taken over by the 'workers' and the government can disclaim responsibility.

In the meantime, John Kugblenu, Tommy Thompson and Mike Adjei stayed in jail until earlier this year when Tommy Thompson was released on health grounds.

As we published in Talking Drums a few weeks ago, Mike Adjei and John Kugblenu were released a few weeks ago - July 12 in much the same way as they were arrested: suddenly and without any explanations.

For all practical purposes, John Kugblenu died in Flt-Lt. Rawlings jail and his blood will be added to all those that have been victims of the senseless brutality that has been unleashed in Ghana.

It is sad, but not surprising that John Kugblenu was a broken man by the time the PNDC felt happy enough to release him after more than a year's captivity. He came back to no job and the typical Ghanaian reluctance to be seen to be associating with anybody that has drawn official displeasure.

The Ghana Journalists Association had up to the weekend not issued any statement of even condolence to the bereaved family, let alone of the association's part in the funeral. But then why should they care about the dead body when alive they did not consider it worthwhile to intercede with the authorities on behalf of their colleagues?

John Kugblenu would probably not be surprised, nor even mind, if the GJA is not represented at his funeral, he would be grateful for the few colleagues that would brave official ire to attend his funeral - he witnessed the funeral of Dr J.B. Danquah who had died in Kwame Nkrumah's jail and there were more security officers at his burial than mourners.

He might possibly ponder on Alex Hammah's unhappy words that "Ghana is not worth dying for" and he would surely regret that he had to leave his wife and five children in such dire circumstances.

But it might be some consolation to him that his courage and hard work will be recognised by Ghana one day.

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