Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

J.H. Mensah arrested

A court in Newark, New Jersey, USA, last Tuesday granted bail in the sum of 10,000 dollars with sureties to Mr J.H. Mensah, Chairman of the Ghana Democratic Movement.

Mr Mensah and two other Ghanaians resident in the US had been arrested on Sunday, December 8, 1985, at a car park in Newark with television cameras and journalists forming part of the arresting team.

They were later charged with conspiring to purchase arms illegally and export them. They were alleged to have been dealing with an undercover US customs agent.

News reports said that the three were trying to arrange the purchase and export of arms and ammunition, enough to equip 100 men and the arms were said to range from revolvers, mortars, anti-tank guns and surface to air missiles.

The arrest, which had all the trappings of a Hollywood 'cops and robbers' film, was staged to ensure maximum publicity with newsmen and cameras lying in wait and US network television stations on Monday morning showed the scenes with the three being led away in handcuffs.

Mr J.H. Mensah, an economist, was Finance Minister in Ghana's Second Republic and was a prominent member of the opposition Popular Front Party before the December 31, 1981, coup which brought Flt-Lt. Rawlings to power. He has since then been living mostly in London in exile and has been the most outspoken critic of the Rawlings regime, regularly speaking at lectures and symposia and writing letters and articles to newspapers and magazines. (He wrote a long rebuttal to Talking Drums on the subject of "Youth versus Age, Soldiers and Civilians, False Ingredients in the Ghana Crisis").

The arrest came two weeks after the spy swap between Ghana and the US which was followed by the expulsion of four diplomats each from both countries and had brought relations to a new low.

Since the PNDC has consistently accused the US of involvement in trying to destabilize the regime and giving help to dissidents, some observers have seen the arrest as the first step in trying to repair the damage caused by the Sousoudis affair. The PNDC will doubt- less be pleased that the US had provided evidence of a possible involvement of Mr J.H. Mensah with subversion.

The names of the other two Ghanaians arrested were given as John Boateng, a taxi driver, and Kwesi Baidoo, a computer technician.

The Ghana Democratic Movement executive in London has issued a statement reiterating its intention to "pursue the course of democracy and to continue working towards its restoration in Ghana"

The statement, signed by the Secretary- General, Shanco Bruce, said that the Movement was dedicated to the restoration of democracy in Ghana through peaceful and non-violent means and doubted that its chairman would be involved in an arms deal.

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