Today, 6th July 2021, the Committee of Inquiry set up by the Minister of Interior to investigate the Ejura killings held its first in-person hearing.
Sadly, because this has remained a committee whose utility and legality has been made doubtful because the President refused to set it up as a Commission of Inquiry, we are in unchartered waters.
Predictably, the inquiry has, as I expected, put #FixTheCountry on the agenda. We were bound to get there. This is after all a committee with no clear terms of reference. There is no doubt that its questions would become unfocused and its interests rambling.
Evidently, the closer we watch, we might be better placed to unravel the real purpose of a Committee that has no power to compel witnesses or to compel the production of documents and which was literally “pleading with the Ashanti Regional Minister” to volunteer persons he claimed fed him information. The very information that led to the deployment of the military to Ejura. Yes, the military whose conduct, we assumed will be centred in all this.
Unfortunately, from today’s questions, it is fair to predict, where the conversation is going and always intended to go, by those who put the strictures on the Committee’s power. Not exactly surprising. We have already heard some of the talking points repeated by several government communicators already on social media. So, as you will be made to believe, if we hadn’t called Kaaka a #FixTheCountry activist, all this wouldn’t have happened. In reaching that conclusion, they will not ask any of the persons who were grieving Kaaka whether they did so because of #FixTheCountry’s press statement. How shallow and absurd that would be as a conclusion. How frankly disappointing it will be in our quest to build citizens of courage and conviction.
To be “fair”, the media was also put on the chopping board. For the media, it was being suggested that the fact that Joy News tagged the live videos of the shootings, as happening at a demonstration relating to the death of a “#FixTheCountry campaigner”; there was something sinister or irresponsible at play. Mind you, the Committee itself hasn’t led any inquiry into Kaaka’s fix the Country affiliation; and the reasons why Kaaka was killed is not part of its mandate, since it is an active criminal investigation. Also, Joy News’ tag was put on live video coverage of the killings as they happened. Not before. So, the fact that they were taking issue with the #FixTheCountry tag, doesn’t follow logically. But well, they need a dog to hang!
Because after all, what is violence by State agencies if we don’t distribute the blame equally. Just keep watching and wait for the report. We will be told that the people of Ejura provoked their own killing because they threw stones. For #FixTheCountry, our whole existence has been a pestling nuisance to establishment politicians and their elite appendage. So, trust that something uncharitable beckons. For the Media, if this inquiry doesn’t provide a linkage between them and the Rwandan genocide, the Srebrenica massacres and the Iraq war, the Committee wouldn’t have done its job well.
I am certain of one thing. Most of the people who will be testifying will not be the people of Ejura themselves. They will not get to tell their own stories. We won’t hear enough of their grief. The Committee will have no power to interrogate or vet anything public officials tell them. So, it is certain that blame will be made to go all around; and sufficient blame will land on #FixTheCountry campaigners. It has to. We were already accused of providing a vehicle for terrorist hijack by the Minister of Interior, who set up the committee. Anything less will surprise me.
But let’s get back to the real reason why I am writing this piece. To be honest, this is a piece I started writing on Wednesday 30th June 2021. That is when I first saw the media coverage of the events in Ejura. But I decided to shelve it, the next day. I had decided that in the interest of the ongoing police investigations into Kaaka’s death, I did not want to further deliberate the issue in the public domain.
But now, having watched the first day of this public Inquiry, I feel compelled to discuss this issue in further depth. For it appears to me that the Committee seems to be both conflating the issues and also overstepping its mandate, in a way that could undermine police inquiry into the Kaaka murder.
As far as I understand, there are two main questions regarding Kaaka and #FixTheCountry, which seem to be making the rounds indiscriminately, in this inquiry.
- Was Kaaka a #FixTheCountry campaigner?
- Was Kaaka killed because of his activism?
Now, these are two separate questions that deserve independent answers. With regard to the second question, the Police insist that they are still investigating the reasons why Kaaka was killed and by whom. For this reason, I think it will be interfering with Police work for the Committee to make a public show of that issue; especially as it has neither the mandate nor tools to make that determination. Even though the police themselves have continued to sensationalize the idea that Kaaka was killed by his brother, despite the insistence to the contrary of his family who were first responders to the scene, I have refused to take the bait.
I believe that the police work shouldn’t be rushed or a hatchet job. As such, they deserve to be given the space to do their work. I truly believe in this principle. It is also the reason why despite my own strong reservations regarding what I see to be calculated public “lynching” of Kaaka’s brother with every Police Press statement, even before the Police are done with their own investigations, I have refrained from addressing that question.
It is not because I do not understand what is at play; or that I do not intuitively see the strong incentive that exists to minimize the long-documented attacks on Kaaka due to his activism. For once it is concluded that this is only a case of fratricide, it makes everyone’s job easy. So, I won’t get into the second question, out of respect to the rights of the defendant (who is still without legal representation) and of the need to accord the police the space to do their work
But it is important we do not confuse or merge the two questions above. And it is important that the Committee of Inquiry is mindful of the detrimental effect it could create by sojourning into ill-advised territories, which are properly within the competence of the Police. Its place is to leverage and amplify establishment-friendly speculations.
So, in writing this piece, I am only concerned about one question that has seemingly confused the media and now the Committee of Inquiry. That of Kaaka’s FixTheCountry membership card.
On Tuesday 29th June 2021, 2 young people lost their lives, and several others were injured after military officers opened fire indiscriminately on unarmed civilians and children in Ejura. Many were returning from burying Macho Kaaka. In the evening press, coverage of the #EjuraMassacre was the lead story and dominated media attention for the later hours of the day.
You won’t believe what I am telling you if you just went by the front page of the National Daily Graphic the next day. Even though the Ejura killings generated nearly over 100,000 tweets yesterday and saw the President commission a public inquiry the next day, you would have to read till page 20 of the Graphic, to see that 2 people died when they apparently “clashed” with the military. How people who were shot in the back, fleeing were said to have clashed with the military, will take a longer piece to unravel.
But this piece isn’t about the sort of journalistic standards that persists in trivializing State violence and supplies the language for excusing murderous misconduct. I do not go into the psychology of what it takes for mainstream media, even in the face of raw footage of a military massacre of innocent citizens, to opt to describe “stones thrown by citizens” as “missiles targeted at the Military”. I offer no explanations as to why they always default to false equivalences by opting for blame sharing words like “clash” instead of the factually accurate descriptors like “indiscriminate shooting of unarmed civilians and children by heavily armed military forces”.
It saddens me though that I am having to write a piece that is not centred on that murderous evening nor on the kind of coverage we were subjected that lacked both truth, humanity and compassion. Similarly, I would rather have been writing on the emotional and intellectual violence obtained when media houses lined up security expert after security expert who unleashed on us a virulent strain of faux intellectualism that was weightier in sensationalism than compassion. The kind of linguistic sleight of hand that acknowledges to you that it is true that State security forces murder citizens and terrorize entire communities – sometimes just because a soldier misplaced their phone -, and that this happens on a daily basis in Ghana and consistently.
But, in the next breath tells you that, those acts of security forces terrorizing communities do not imperil the State. Not only. Apparently, those acts only show that more training is needed for security forces. Instead, the real tragedy and what will cause the State to implode, we are told, is when frustrated citizens block a public access road or children run after a police van fitted with water cannons. In their estimation, that shows clearly that the people of Ejura, including their children, have determined that their lives are simply not worth living. How absurd. Never mind that that Police Van had actually followed the people of Ejura to the cemetery where they were burying Kaaka. How insensitive. Never mind that 99 per cent of the people running after the Van were children. Never mind that in their time of grief, the people of Ejura were again being subjected to police violence and intrusion in their most sorrowful moment.
So, what is this piece about if not all of the above? Well, this piece, if you need reminding is about what preoccupied the morning press coverage, while the family and people of Ejura prepared to bury Ibrahim ‘Kaaka’ Mohammed. It is about what now seems to preoccupy the Committee of Inquiry.
You see, when news of Kaaka’s death was confirmed to us, #FixTheCountry and one of our convenors, the Economic Fighters League, had by our separate Press Statements broken the story that one of our activists, Ibrahim Kaaka had succumbed to wounds sustained when he was attacked. We bemoaned the inhumanity of his killing and called for justice. Many did not know that we had been following the story from the moment Kaaka was attacked. Many did not know that we had refrained from issuing a statement in order to get as much information confirming his linkages to #FixTheCountry and the threats on his life due to his activism.
Naturally, death draws the fly. So, media attention in the story was peaked. Not the whole story though, just one particular aspect. Mainstream press coverage in Ghana became awash with the contrived interest in an apparently thorny, hard to decipher and all at once complex issue: as to whether Ibrahim ‘Kaaka’ Mohammed, was, in their words “a member of #FixTheCountry” and tangentially the Economic Fighters League.
The question had gained apparent urgency because, in the press statement put out by #FixTheCountry, we had gone ahead to describe Kaaka as “a colleague, friends and #FixTheCountry activist”. They found less pertinent the other bits in the same statement where we said, “This is murder of an innocent citizen! Kaaka’s blood is a formal indictment of us all and our refusal to stand up and challenge a false democracy! If this is truly a democracy, give us justice. Tomorrow, we shall seek a formal audience with the Inspector General of Police relating to this matter. May we not rest until Kaaka receives justice”.
Anyway, by the traditional mainstream media standards, Kaaka’s affiliation with #FixTheCountry called for a proper inquiry. It seemed quaint to me their rabid fascination with a question that could have so easily been disposed of. But I quickly came to understand that once they settle for themselves the thorny matter of how Kaaka obtained his “membership”, Ghanaians could perhaps finally modulate how their outrage should be expressed or how much coverage they could give to the issue. He was after all an illiterate man, with no verified means of employment; and who had died in a poor Zongo settler community in Ejura. How often do poor people’s lives and their deaths make an exciting news to cover?
I confess that when we were putting together the draft of that statement, I did not foresee that barely 24 hours after Kaaka died, our description of him as a friend and #FixTheCountry activist, would be the part that would arrest media attention the most.
As the media set about on this path, it did not matter to them at any that point, that Kaaka was actually not described as a “member” of FixTheCountry but as an activist. Tomato-Tomato. Who cares for the devil in the detail?
Anyway, the elite snoops were soon deployed for their mission. To do this the media deflected to simpler tools. Why not just ask one of his brothers? They thought to themselves. But why a brother, and which of the brothers? Should we even reach out to #FixTheCountry? Ah, what is the point of that, they must have reasoned. When has “journalism by panyarring” not worked before?
So, in the haste, critical questions were jumped over or laid aside. In the grand mission to unearth Kaaka’s membership status of #FixTheCountry, no one asked, but wait:
- What does it mean to be a member of #FixTheCountry?
- Who are the members we know of #FixTheCountry and by what criteria did we assess them to be members?
- How does one become a member of a Hashtag?
- Is it possible to become a member of a social media hashtag?
- Do you use the hashtag while drawing attention to social issues; to show your support? Or do you have to formally apply to join the hashtag?
- When you use the hashtag to a draw attention to social issues in your community, just as #FixTheCluntry has been mobilizing, what does that make you vis-à-vis the call to action?
- What was Kaaka doing differently that would make or unmake him a “member” of #FixTheCountry?
How boring, and mundane, they must have concluded.
So, this is how their investigation went:
First up, CITINEWS
- CITI-FM: Was Kaaka a « Member » of #FixTheCountry, as far as you are aware?
- One of Kaaka’s young Brother: No, not that I am aware of.
Mystery solved. Establishment affiliated blogs declared victory. Their headlines went….:
On their own website, CITINEWS opted for tentativeness. So, they went with “Unconfirmed reports suggest he’s a member of the Economic Fighters League and recently the #FixTheCountry movement.”
Next Up: ADOM FM
Adom FM: We have here Abi Wakas Umar, family member of Kaaka. Abi, was Kaaka part of #FixTheCountry?
Abi Wakas Umar: Yes, he was part.
What a displeasing response! Let’s get it from the brotherly source, they said to themselves.
Adom FM reconvened on Dwaso Nsem: “We have here: Brother of the deceased, Mahawia Ibrahim, he said his brother never identified himself as a member until his sudden demise.”
[His name is actually Mahawia. Their website in reporting the story and called him “Maria”]
Mahawia: “I have heard it being said that my brother is FixTheCountry, I beg of you. My brother is not FixTheCountry. What I know is that he goes about Ejura, and where there are issues which are not going well; where there are things the MP or the Municipal Chief Executive are supposed to be doing and they don’t; He speaks about them. Where the is a toilet which is not dilapidated or full, he demands that things be done. He videos these things and he posts them on Facebook.
ADOM FM: Do you know Abi Wakas Umar, is he your sibling?
Mahawia: Yes, he is. He is part of the family.
ADOM FM: We interviewed Abi Wakas earlier and he said that Kaaka was part of FixTheCountry.
Mahawia: No, he wasn’t.
ADOM FM: Thank you Mahawia.
Frustrated by the lack of persisting clarity, government-proximate media had to jump in. So, in came Asaase Radio. They sent a reporter to Ejura to inquire from the source.
Asaase Breakfast Show (The Lady): Was he was a member of #FixTheCountry, as far as you are aware?
Reporter on the Ground (Nana Ofori): “As at now, we have not heard anything like he being a member of #FixTheCountry”.
Asaase Breakfast Show (The Lady): Was he a member of the “Economic Freedom Fighters”?
Reporter on the Ground (Nana Ofori): “Maybe. We can say maybe.”
Asaase Break Fast show (the Guy): It is very clear that he is not a member of the FixTheCountry movement, but not too sure about the “Economic Freedom Fighters”, which is part of the coalition. But he was most definitely a member of the NPP…. We are not too sure what he was doing, but it seems that what he was doing was a documentary.
Asaase Breakfast Show (The Lady): It seems like he was a citizen’s journalist.
Asaase Break Fast show (the Guy): We urge caution in our reportage and understand that in emotive situations people do tend to, well simply they don’t have all the facts. Well, none of has all the facts.
So, in one breath, they concluded that they did not have the facts; and that “maybe” Kaaka was a member of the “Economic Freedom Fighters” [They meant Economic Fighters League and not the Economic Freedom Fighters, which is Malema’s organization in South Africa]. However, in another breath, they seem certain that Kaaka was perhaps even not an activist at all, he was now for convenience rechristened a “citizen journalist”. Certainly, what he was, was an NPP member; and by extension, they concluded that he could not be a FixTheCountry activist.
Yeah, the last part was a head scratcher for me too!
So, all that conclusion reached despite admitting they did not have “all the facts”? Okay!
As much as I have found this sort of media coverage strangely amusing, I have also been frustrated by the persisting impoverished understanding of #FixTheCountry; how it is intent on mobilizing differently. I am also worried that despite the care and consistency with which we apply to framing our advocacy and to how we describe ourselves, none of that was given intellectual audience in these conversations.
From the very beginning of this call to action, (By the way, have you noticed that, whenever I talk of #FixTheCountry, I always describe it as a “call to action” or a “call to fix the country” and on just one occasion as a “spontaneous movement”. Never a group; entity; agitators; protestors; radical group or any of the flowery ways the media discusses and introduces us), Anyway, from the very onset of these conversations, I wrote an often-reference opinion piece where I said “For the avoidance of doubt, the call to Fix the Country, has no leaders. It has no followers. It is the bubbling up of spontaneity and citizen action at its finest.”
In fact, I went on to say that “the tragedy of politics in this country is that it has killed all that is good in us. It has nurtured our very worst; set us against each other. We have been convinced that we are either NDC or NPP and by that strange affiliation, we are enemies. Even in the face of a spontaneous movement that many people do not understand and are struggling to comprehend, the same discredited frameworks for dividing us are still being
deployed to undermine us. No matter where you are and what you are doing; do not wait on any leaders. Speak your own truth, demand better! Demand that they FixTheCountry!”
Long story short, like proper millennials, labels are not our thing, we are just “vibing”!
I assumed the Media had been taking notes. But, unlearning my assumptions of the media has been the biggest maturing I have had to do in this whole FixTheCountry mobilizing.
But, yes, I genuinely thought they were paying attention. I mean, remember when Bernard Avle of the same CITI did his editorial on #FixTheCountry? For a whole hour, he stressed on why he doesn’t think #FixTheCountry should become a formalized group.
In fact, when I appeared on that show weeks later, he suggested that #FixTheCountry had not taken take his advice because he felt that a semblance of leadership of the call to action was crystallizing. A misapprehension I felt constrained to dispel. I told him specifically that we started mobilizing as a leaderless call to action, long before he and other mainstream media jumped on the hype. But I also explained to him that being leaderless does not imply structureless; and that the only thing a number of us have done was to put together a media engagement team, in order to ensure consistency in the messaging. This we deemed important because of the risk that some political actor or other establishment affiliated persons could go on air and say nefarious things about the whole call to action. In fact, there had been a point where a list had been circulated by some calling it the #FixTheCountry 10 commandments.
But that was not the only media appearance where the ethos of what #FixTheCountry was about had been laid out. In fact, if you pan back to a sit down interview I had done with Abdul Hayi Moomen on #FixTheCountry, the very issue of the media list came up. Moomen had asked if the fact that I and others had denied knowledge of an individual who was self-describing as PRO of #FixTheCountry meant that we do in fact have leaders. I said to him that it is precisely because we do not have leaders, that the idea of someone describing themselves as « PRO » seemed intuitively out of place and against the ethos of our call to action.
What’s more, in all my media appearances, where I get the opportunity to self-describe, I call myself one of two things: (1) I say I am one of several Convenors who tried to organize a failed protest march. In that connection, I often stress that I had become functus officio specifically because the Police stopped us from going on that protest. In my opinion, you convene an event, a conversation, not an organization. (2) Or I say, « I am one of the young people mobilizing with the hashtag FixTheCountry »
So, as I sat listening and watching this media circus going on and on, even I began to wonder what my relationship with or connection to #FixTheCountry would have been appraised, if I was robbed of my own voice? Would they have asked my father, who is at the verge of losing his marbles because he is so worried that someone will surely kill me for my online activism? So much so that he doesn’t even want to hear the words FixTheCountry? Or would they ask my mother and my sisters who urge me on, in what they consider a noble cause? Or my younger brother, who was arrested at the High Court with Efia Odo and others, while waiting for the verdict in the #FixTheCourt injunction application. Evidently, you can tell that is became a head scratcher for me.
I kept wondering, is mainstream media actually planning to confirm Kaaka’s “membership” (whatever that means) in #FixTheCountry by just asking one of his brothers? What would be definite proof for them in this event? Perhaps, locating Kaaka’s #FixTheCountry membership card or completed membership application form?
Considering that #FixTheCountry has primarily mobilized on social media, it seemed absurd to me that they did not try to piece together Kaaka’s connection to #FixTheCountry from his own social media pages? Particularly, when there was persistent and credible information, that Kaaka consistently self-described as speaking up as part of the #FixTheCountry call to action.
Anyway, for those who minded to being led by the facts; and who are attentive to allow Kaaka speak for himself, it seems prudent to go through Kaaka’s social media activity, to perhaps establish what his views might have been in connection to #FixTheCountry.
- Kaaka created his now known Facebook account [ Macho Kaaka] on 23 March 2021. However, his first [publicly available] substantive social media post on that page was on 3 June. It was a picture of “Ejura Ashaakooko Naana Junction” which showed the road in a terrible State.
- Kaaka’s next post was on June 7. It was a video of 19:39 minutes. In that video, he stood in front of the “Pangabu T.I Ahmadiya school” and sought to draw attention to the deplorable state of the School. But that video was more than that, he also discussed his motivations in detail and why he was doing the videos despite ridicule and attacks on his person
- A cursorily walk through Macho Kaaka’s Facebook page will show you that he was someone who campaigned on issues affecting Ejura with #FixTheCountry consistently. In fact, in his last activity on Facebook, Kaaka shared a post criticizing the arrest of Efia Odo and the 14 others; and ended it with #One = All ».
- A lot of Kaaka’s videos were posted in a Facebook group called “What is going on in Ejura” and as such are not publicly available on his Facebook page. You would have to go into that Facebook Group to find them. In one of the videos, Kaaka did a live video explaining what #FixTheCountry means to him and confirming that the fact that he was NPP doesn’t mean he could not be part of those campaigning for #FixTheCountry. He explains that several campaigners of #FixTheCountry are NPP members like himself. All you have to do is to click on this link to watch that video.
Interestingly, even though #FixTheCountry has been consigned to the virtual space, the inquiry as to its reach and as to who its sympathizers are not start in the virtual space. For that reason, the media gave the platform to persons who believed that because Kaaka was semi-literate or that because Kaaka was a NPP supporter, he could not be a #FixTheCountry campaigner. How absurd! How elitist and exclusionary! How very contrary to the mission and purpose of what #FixTheCountry stands for.
The call to #FixTheCountry is a multi-partisan platform even as it is decidedly nonpartisan in its approach. Its appeal is for everyday Ghanaians to believe in their power to mobilize and to hold institutions to account outside of partisan structures. Kaaka got that message and understood its potential.
So, I hope that this piece gets to the Committee, because I am uncertain now that they know where to look, in answering a question that seems to engulf them. I hope that for Kaaka’s legacy and sake, they make the attempt to do more than just perfunctory work, which serves no one but legitimizes establishment narratives.
For me, Kaaka’s death is a loss to our democracy and to its ability to deploy its citizens to keep its elected officials in check.
May his legacy never be forgotten!
We Are All Kaaka!
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