Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The spy swap - one for eight plus families

By Elizabeth Ohene

In last week's issue of this magazine we reported about a possible spy-swap between the US and Ghana governments. Early this week the deal was made.
A hero's welcome was being planned for the arrival in Accra at the weekend for Mr. Michael Sousoudis after his four months incarceration in the United States.

Mr Sousoudis was released by the American authorities on Monday November 25 as part of a deal struck between the USA and Ghana whereby o Ghanaians accused of spying for the CIA would be exchanged for him. The historic swap, the details of which had been in the making for the past three months took place on Monday November 25.

Mr Sousoudis, the first cousin of the Ghanaian Head of State, had been arrested on July 10, 1985, in Washington DC with Miss Sharon Scranage, a black American CIA employee described by the FBI as the lover of Sousoudis.

In court last Monday, the press and the public were again cleared but like the week before, the Ghanaian ambassador to the US, Mr Eric Otoo, was allowed to stay in, Mr Sousoudis then pleaded 'nollo contendere' to the charges that had been preferred against him. He was then sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and then released into the custody of the Ghana Ambassador on condition that he left the US within 24 hours.

On Tuesday, Michael Sousoudis then left the US, most probably for the last time after many years stay. His 'minder' for the homeward journey was Lt-Col Mensah-Gbedemah, the only member of the former AFRC apart from Flt-Lt Rawlings to be closely associated with the present ruling PNDC. It is a measure of how highly Sousoudis is regarded and his importance to the PNDC that no less a person than Lt-Col Mensah- Gbedemah was sent from Accra to accompany him.

Lt-Col Mensah-Gbedemah returned to Ghana last year and has been with the PNDC Secretariat and is generally regarded by observers as currently being a very powerful member of the regime. The Prime Minister', an accolade that had hitherto been reserved for Mr P.V. Obeng, is increasingly being used for the colonel. "He has the right ear of Rawlings," is the verdict of an insider. For the freedom of Sousoudis, the Ghana government took the unprece- dented step of releasing eight Ghanaians who had been accused of spying for the CIA and gave them and their families to the American Ambassador.

It is understood that all eight people were taken before a Tribunal hurriedly on Monday, convicted of espionage offences imprisonment. and, like Sousoudis, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, then taken to the border and given to the American Ambassador. It is believed that a special US plane was on hand to take them and their families from Togo to West Germany on the first leg of their journeys before eventually arriving in the US.

Among those that the Americans have taken out are said to be the four that have been tried for spying for the CIA in Ghana. They are Inspector Theodore Atiedu of the Special Branch who had been sentenced to 25 years; Felix Peasah, former Special Branch employee, and employed by the American Embassy in Accra as a security officer, who got life imprisonment; Stephen Baffour Ofosu- Addo, a former Chief Superintendent of Police who also got life imprisonment; and Robert Yaw Appiah, a communi- cations technician who got 22 years'

The identities of all four came as something of a surprise to most Ghanaians. where popular belief was that 'CIA agents' were more likely to be very senior officials or prominent personalities.

It will be recalled that when the CIA spy scandal first broke in July, two of the officials said to have fled the country because they feared their covers had been blown and faced imminent arrest, were the Navy Commander, Commodore Opong, and Mr Joe Edusei, a Principal Secretary at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Miss Sharon Scranage, the 29-year-old black American CIA officer who was described by the FBI as Sousoudis' lover, was also sentenced to five years imprison- ment and put on two years probation and 1,000 hours of community service. The judge suggested that she be paroled in 18 months.

The offences she was charged with normally carry a maximum sentence of 30 years and a $70,000 fine and it was obvious that the judge was persuaded by the mitigating plea entered by her attorneys. They pointed out that CIA records show quite clearly that Miss Scranage had been targeted by Ghana's security services and yet nothing was done to protect her from her vulnerable position and in spite of her lowly position, was not moved into a US compound. They argued that even after her house had been broken into by Ghanaian soldiers and she had been threatened by Sousoudis nothing was done to protect her. Her attorneys claimed that even when Miss Scranage's CIA boss told her to break off her relationship with Sousoudis, it was more of a request than an order.

It is understood that not all the people on the list given by the Americans whose release was asked for have left the country. It is being rumoured that four of the people whose names appeared on the list expressed surprise that they should have been included and not only denied any involvement with the CIA, but also refused to leave the country, thus posing a most acute problem for the PNDC, since the government appeared to have no evidence to link them with any CIA spying activities. This has led to the increasingly persuasive speculation that even during the swap, the CIA was trying to score one over the Ghanaians by including names that would cause consternation among the government.

Obviously the movement of personnel in government positions will be watched very closely in the following weeks for any indications of more repercussions.

It however appears as though part of the deal was that the identities of the eight people be kept secret. That, however, has not stopped the names of several people being bandied about and some of them would be a great surprise to many people. One thing is definite though: the identities of the 'CIA agents' must have come as a shock and disappointment to the PNDC. It would seem to have con- firmed a Ghanaian proverb popularised in a high-life song by the ace trumpeter and band leader Jerry Hansen, which loosely translates into English as "the scorpion, tarantula or snake that stings or bites you, is invariably from inside your own cover-cloth". The PNDC would have learnt that those who criticise the regime are not necessarily the foreign agents.

That possibly explains the studied 'under-reaction' that has characterised the PNDC's attitude since the outbreak of the scandal. Obviously the political climate has changed very much from the early days of 1982 and 1983 when there was left-wing rhetoric and the US was the enemy. Today IMF money keeps the regime afloat and the US is seen as friendly, or at least Ghana cannot afford to be seen to be unfriendly. It would have suited the PNDC immensely if the 'CIA agents' had turned out to be 'the enemies of the revolution'.

The identities of the people is not likely to remain unknown for long in the tightly- knit Ghanaian community.

talking drums 1985-12-02 The spy swap Sousoudis for 8 Ghanaians and families