Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


The Killing Fields Of Ghana

A new round of executions has started in Ghana once again and all the indications are that there are many more on the way.

This time, it is not the people who have been accused of plotting to overthrow the regime of Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, three people have also been executed for having defrauded a bank and another nine have been sentenced to death as we went to press.

It is quite possible that Flt-Lt. Rawlings is still trying to portray a tough and revolutionary image for his Provisional National Defence Council that has been ruling Ghana for the past three and a half years. The feeling seems to be prevalent among his group of friends that you cannot be a self-respecting revolutionary unless you swim in a river of blood spilled by the people you are seeking to rule.

Now that some of his former friends have been accusing him of having betrayed the revolution, Fit-Lt. Rawlings obviously feels the need to reinforce credentials by executing some more people.

It surely must have dawned upon even the Flight- Lieutenant by now that if he has been executing so-called coup plotters to serve as a deterrent to other prospective ones, then that strategy has failed and he is likely to reach the stage when he would have to become the executioner himself. For as long as the majority of the people have no say in how they are governed or who governs them, some people will continue to try to remove what they see as the obstacle to such a state of affairs, ie, the PNDC regime.

It ought to worry Flt-Lt. Rawlings that many of the people that he has been executing recently for alleged involvement in plots to overthrow him are people who have been part of his revolution. He might stop to consider the possibility that the fault might not all be with his former friends.

And these people are being executed on the strength of convictions handed down by tribunals that have not got the confidence of the public and which have been shown to be at best inconsistent in their interpretation of the laws under which they are supposed to operate.

Apart from killing people to stay in power, Flt-Lt. Rawlings has also apparently discovered that he has to start killing people to keep up the charade of presiding over a clean administration.

The entire economic programme of the PNDC rests for its success on the basis that all the citizens commit fraud on a gigantic scale in one way or another. At one point in his life, Fit-Lt. Rawlings considered a situation in which workers couldn't afford chicken at 70 cedis scandalous enough to justify the overthrow of a government. He is presiding over a situation where a whole day's wages cannot buy one gallon of petrol or a loaf of bread or a kilo of meat.

Most people have not, of course, reached the brazen heights of defrauding banks for millions of cedis, but if he cared to look, he will discover that everybody is engaged in something which, not to put too fine a point on it, is called fraud. There is not one of his Secretaries that lives on his salary, nor is there any messenger that survives on his wages. The economic programme is designed to make it impossible for anybody to survive on his declared income and has forced honest people to unsavoury practices.

If Flt-Lt. Rawlings is going to execute people who are engaged in fraud, he might think of where he would draw the line. Does the accounts clerk who fiddles the books at a state corporation for an extra 1,000 cedis qualify for the stakes or will it be limited only to those who go for the millions or are you damned once you take a pesewa out of public funds?

In which case, would the moral be that more people will rather opt for the millions and take their chances on the premise that they might just as well be hanged for a sheep as for a shilling?

Legal pundits will doubtless continue the debate for a long time to come whether the money from a commercial bank constitutes public funds. Supposing that the fraud had taken place in Barclays or Standard Banks - both foreign-owned banks or UAC or CFAO (foreign-owned companies) would the people have met the same fate? Supposing that a privately owned company or a private individual had been defrauded of the same millions of cedis, would those involved also end up at the stakes?

Recently there were rumours that one of the Secretaries of State had been involved in very serious irregularities. If such a person had been hauled before a Tribunal, he would have ended up at the stakes. But he is free today because he is high enough in the hierarchy not to have been prosecuted on the basis of rumour.

There is a cavalier disregard for the value of human life that has been displayed by Flt-Lt. Rawlings since he seized power in Ghana.

People have been executed on the flimsiest of excuses and sometimes without even going through the motions of the mockery of a trial.

The regime has now woken up to the fact that fraud and corruption have now reached unprecedented levels in the country at a time and their simplistic, if predictable, answer is to execute people.

In the past three and a half years, the PNDC and its foreign supporters have come to believe their own propaganda that corruption was a thing of the past. The fact of the matter is that if Flt-Lt. Rawlings should want to carry the executions to their logical conclusions, there will not be many people left in the country.

He has made it impossible for honest people to survive in the country. Those who remain honest have chosen to play dumb, for if Rawlings does not get you on fraud, be will get you on subversion.

talking drums 1985-06-03 new spate of executions in Ghana - how west african are we west africans