It is that time of the year again. And Flt Lt President, our Head of State for almost twenty years, between 1982 and 2000, is going to go through the rituals. He dons on his Che Guevara cap, poses for his poster campaign and comes to pontificate on what he claims is the “Spirit of June 4”. We may need to pause and ask what exactly is this spirit of June 4?
Ghanaians woke up in morning of May 15 1979 to hear that a young Lieutenant, called Jerry John Rawlings had attempted but failed to overthrow the then military regime led by General Akuffo.
When he was put on trial, he stated that he had intended to overthrow a system which had made the ordinary people poorer and which had rather encouraged the take-over of the economy of the country by Lebanese and Syrians. He was emphatic that he wanted to elevate the people from the state of lethargy in which the ordinary people had sunk and help institute a situation of equal opportunity for the ordinary people.
This message resonated so much with ordinary people throughout the country, as well as lower-rank soldiers in the army. Those lower-rank soldiers thought that such a person, who at the time, had professed so much goodwill for the ordinary people, including themselves, should not be allowed to be sacrificed and killed by the military government
That was how come, other-rank soldiers from the 5th Battalion Infantry, led by then Lieutenant Baah Achamfuor, Lieutenant Agyeman Bio, Cpl Tasiri, Cpl Atiemo, Cpl Sarkodie-Addo, Cpl Owusu, Pte Adu, Cpl Amartey Tetteh and others fought their way to overthrow the Akuffo government and subsequently released Flt. Lt. Rawlings from military custody. For these soldiers, they were inspired by what they had heard Flt. Lt. Rawlings say during his trial. For these people, they never imagined that this event would eventually lead to a situation whereby Flt. Lieutenant Rawlings could manipulate the state of affairs to fabulously enrich himself and his family, casting aside the ordinary people, as well as the soldiers who saved him from certain death in June 1979.
Forty-one years on, the extent of riches of Flt. Lt Rawlings will shame what General Akuffo and General had, and for which Flt. Lt. Rawlings had them killed. Forty-one years on Mrs. Akuffo, and Mrs. Acheampong, old and frail in London, would be asking themselves for what reason Flt. Lt. Rawlings killed their husbands. It is even more pathetic, to remember that, one of the members of Rawlings’ Pre-Trial Investigation Team, Squadron Leader Darko Kumi, who recommended for the execution of Major-General Kotei, later married Major-General Kotei’s wife, with the approval of Flt. Lt. Rawlings.
One may therefore wonder, what is the real reason behind Flt. Lt. Rawlings’ marking of June 4; a celebration, a memorial, an observance or what? The point is that he has never explained why he ‘marks’ the event.
Is it a solemn memorial for the Generals he executed or a memorial for the soldiers who died fighting on the day, and who mistakenly thought that they were fighting to liberate the ordinary person in the street? Otherwise, which memorial is it then? If it is a memorial for the Generals, then does it mean he now regrets their killing? If so, why doesn’t he call out their names on June 4 and say sorry to their widows and families? And if so, why doesn’t he ask their families how they would want to remember their loved ones? Or he thinks he owns the memories of those whose deaths he ordered, and had buried in mass graves?
On the other hand, if it is a memorial for the soldiers who died fighting on the day to release him, why has he not published their names? Why don’t they appear in the backdrop of the podium in place of his favourite picture in which he is caricatured as Che Guevara of Cuba? This mimicking of Che is an interesting one. I understand that in Cuba today, when school children are asked who they would like to grow up as, most of them respond that they would like to be as Che Guevara. This is because they know that Che helped to free them from something sinister. How many children in Ghana will say they would like to be like Rawlings? And what did Rawlings free them from? Yet Flt. Lt. Rawlings would like to be seen as some Che. How laughable.
Did Rawlings ever care to know the names of those soldiers? Or did he ensure that their wives received their widows’ pension? Has he ever invited their wives and introduced them at any of his shows? Has he tried finding out how their children are doing? Or is it all about the Rawlings Foundation?
On the other hand, if the event is a celebration of the killing of the Generals, why hasn’t he ever said ‘Thank You’ to those who initiated and fought on the day which led to his release from prison and saved his life? If it is celebratory, why does he now claim on YouTube that he was forced to kill the Generals whom he now claims he knew to be good men? Perhaps Ghanaians need to know why, after forty-one years since the event, he still justifies the killing of Generals Acheampong, Akuffo, Afrifa, Boakye, Utuka, Kotei, Amedume and Colonel Feli in all his unsurpassed wisdom.
This is someone who, in the 1980s used to force his opponents to watch films of the executions of some of his victims such as Cpl Giwa, Awah, Aliu, Sarkodie-Addo, Sgt Malik, Pte Tanti, Amartey Kwei, Maj Nana Akwasi, Dzandu, Tekpor, Sgt Yaovi Anku, Maj Twumasi Anto, Baba Shaibu Ibrahim, Sgt Joseph Issaka, Maj J.A. Ocran, WOII Charles Aforo, Yaw Brefo Berko, Kyeremeh Djan, Godwin Mawuli Dra-Goka, Pte Charles Koomson, Samuel Boamah Panyin, Cpl Martin Adjongba, Pte Henry Obeng, Cpl Edward Offei , Mustafa Bruce, Godfred Nyavie, Atta Bruce, Moses Akrong, Eric Addo, Vincent Ayivor, Zakari Salifu, Issah Isahaku, Kwame Nkansah, Kweiper Yartey, Yaw Medagodzi, Benjamin Mireku, Samuel Akiti, Odartey Aryee, Ahmed Smide, Abu Hasiru, Kofi Kodua, Mohammed Ali and John Kudjo. He should show us how right he was and how all these killings were justified.
Can he, on the 41st anniversary of June 4 take time to tell us how corrupt the Generals were and how much wealth and property they acquired that merited their killing. And while he is at it, he should juxtapose their “loot” with what he has himself acquired and explain to us how justified he was in killing them.
Or is the event a recall of some salient national achievements? In that case, he should please outline them and tell Ghanaians how he appropriated state properties and companies (including Nsawam Cannery) and handed them over to his wife.
In my view, this event has become nothing, but an abject portrayal of political hypocrisy, considering its original aims and its subsequent catastrophic consequences.
It is my view, and one shared by many of the key participants in the uprising that he does not have the moral authority to organise this event, except to triumphantly celebrate how he was rescued from execution. This is because for me, Captain Baah Achamfour was the officer who helped plan D-Day and was at the starting line at the H-hour. It is people like that who have the moral authority to mark the day, even if there is a need to do anything like that. Being in prison at the time, he an evacuee from the May-15 prison camp who got lucky. He just happened to have benefited most from the uprising – it saved his life and started his story of from rags to riches. Sometimes, I wonder why it does not embarrass him to appropriate an event which is not his.
He is now the antitheses of the original aims of the June 4 uprising. The uprising was aimed at lessening the burden of the ordinary Ghanaian and to make it possible for most Ghanaians to make an honest living without having to do the famed ‘kpa kpa kpa’ acrobatics.
Flt. Lt. Rawlings has stated severally that corruption is worse now than in 1979 and that the Generals he killed were good men. In that case, how can he, hand on heart, and looking at present-day events, claim that the aims of the uprising were achieved?
I wonder how he chose these few good men to be killed. I have also often wondered what role his lawyers and grey-haired cousins, who were always with him in Arakan Barracks, played in the choice of these few “good men”. The reason for my curiosity is that some of his cousins were involved in the ‘One Man, One Matchet’ failed coup attempt against Gen Acheampong in 1975.
Yes, by all means he should feel free to celebrate the moment that marks the beginning of his transition from rags to riches. However, whilst at it, he should be mindful of the numerous Ghanaians who now remember this event with annoyance and trepidation. That annoyance is not only borne out of concern that the factors that caused them to initiate the uprising are ever so present, but also at the fact that he manipulated the uprising for personal gain.
One would have thought that he would have had a humane side which should have tampered his need to celebrate the fortunes it has brought him, with the misfortunes of those who suffered or died needlessly. One would have thought that he would show some humility and compassion in his twilight years. This is because he might, in the near future, just need some assistance in bearing his cross.
When I saw an online photo of Rawlings, in deep reflection, at his brother’s funeral, I just wondered whether his own future passing was crossing his mind. I wondered whether the deaths of the Judges, Amartey Kwei, Awah, Aliu, Kojo Lee, Bannerman and others also crossed his mind. None of us can avoid death! He may, however hope, as we all do, that his passing would not be as dramatic as the type he happily inflicted on the Generals, my colleagues and several others even in 1993. I often wonder whether he took any counsel during these ‘can-float-on-water’ days of his.
Why did he, in July 1993, as civilian President had executed by firing squad twelve prisoners who had been on death row for ten years? What was the need? Did he just wake up on 12th July 1993 and remembered that he had forgotten to get these death row inmates executed?
June 4 was aimed at reminding those who are lucky to get into power that any misdeeds on their part would eventually catch up with them. It was meant to encourage officialdom to set good examples in the course of their stewardship and to be prepared to account for their tenure of office when called upon. These ideas existed in Burma Camp particularly Recce and the 5th Battalion of Infantry long before we, other ranks and young officers in these twin units first heard of Mr. Rawlings on the 15th of May 1979. What he did was to cunningly adopt these aims as a convenient conduit to win the support of most soldiers. Having secured power, it was not long before he showed his true colours after 31st December 1981.
His annual appearance in public on 4th June jolts most Ghanaians and nudges people towards a unity of purpose to pray for the success of the 4th Republic despite its serious flaws. Ghanaians are prayerful that another hypocrite like him will not emerge. It is also the reason why the tarnished Rawlings brand was so heavily and disgracefully defeated by Asomdwehene.
The only reason he seeks to celebrate June 4 and 31st December is to promote the ‘Rawlings brand’ as one associated with probity and accountability – good governance. But he himself has shown not to be accountable nor acted with integrity. Otherwise, why would he glorify himself for seeking to profit from the dead, who died because he decided their fate?
Many Ghanaians know that the indemnity clauses in the constitution stop Ghanaians from probing his stewardship and stops anyone from going to court to ask him to account for the nineteen years that he and his cousins ruled Ghana. How can he claim to support probity and accountability, but arrogantly exclude himself, cousins and friends from any probe and accountability? This is plainly narcissist. How can anyone join him in celebrating June 4, and for that matter, probity and accountability, if they don’t know which version of probity and accountability they are asked to celebrate? Is it the theory which was applied to the Generals or the Practice which is only applicable if one is called Rawlings? Perhaps the upcoming book of his, which he threatens to release but never does, will expatiate on the conflicting interpretations of probity and accountability.
In some of his own words recently, he has requested and accepted ‘envelopes’ from the presidency since 2012; but when convenient, he has cried corruption against them.
It is my observation that the fear of the consequences of corruption is non-existent among Ghanaian officialdom these days because of him. He is a living proof that if one plays their cards well, they can get away with any amount of corruption. He has discouraged people who, hitherto had considered integrity in politics as essential.
Whereas for many ordinary people at the time, this event was the point of reference which gave them hope that their leaders would be circumspect in power, he has destroyed all that hope for them with his actions since before leaving power.
He is, in my view, the only president to have come to power in ‘rags’ and exited as a multi-millionaire. Check it out – Nkrumah, Ankrah, Afrifa, Busia, Acheampong, Akufo and Limann. Even the big six who led Ghana to independence do not collectively deserve the wealth he has taken from the Ghanaian state but he still continues to demand more from the presidency (in his own words). More recently, he went to beg the Akufo Addo government for a car to give to his friend. He should stop been hypocritical, because it sullies the spirit of June 4 for all those who care. Such behaviour diminishes the image of June 4.
Thank God, Ghana was blessed with people who, in leading the country to independence (big six), never wanted anything back for their personal sacrifices and that, he was NOT one of them.
The June 4 uprising was a reaction to the ‘create, loot and share’ culture that had become commonplace among the elite of our society by 1979. This culture of impunity had become so pervasive that most ordinary Ghanaians, including many soldiers had no choice but to participate in these nation-wrecking practices in order ‘to put food on the table’. By 1978, the country was ripe for a change of direction, no matter how it was going to come, for it seemed the Acheampong regime had run out of road. Partly because General Acheampong’s initial policies were very progressive, the West imposed draconian sanctions on Ghana, leading to the shortage of goods on the market. These shortages resulted in the hoarding of these scarce goods and their sale at exorbitant, under-the-counter prices. This practice of hoarding and selling of scarce goods at exorbitant prices is what is generally described as kalabule. Most Ghanaians became increasingly rebellious and some soldiers had human waste thrown at them in Makola Market. This was because the military uniform had become synonymous with the enduring hardships.
The senior generals in the SMC, led by General Akufo thought it smart to depose Acheampong and create an impression of renewal. This, they thought would create a sense of hope among Ghanaians and buy them time to create a desired exit for themselves in the fashion that General Afrifa and the NLC had done in 1969. Flt. Lt. Rawlings’ attempt on 15th May 1979 was just a mere bump on the road leading to the uprising of June 4. Many soldiers in my unit, the 5th battalion of infantry became more motivated in the plot to overthrow the General Akuffo-led SMC because that regime had removed General Acheampong, a very popular former commander of the unit.
General Acheampong was still popular because he continued to live an ordinary life in the same residence he occupied prior to becoming head of state. His children, Daniel and Isaac attended the local school in the barracks, unlike the children of Rawlings who attended expensive schools abroad and learnt how to parachute and pilot planes using Ghana Airforce planes under his instruction! For several years, General Acheampong’s wife continued to be the nurse that she had been, before becoming first lady. General Acheampong’s children never even dared to take a pillion ride with a police outrider whilst their father was in power! That is how modest that first family was in contrast to Mr. Rawlings. Even he, must now see how hypocritical he has made the whole June 4 event.
Since nobody advises him now, he should advise himself to stop this hypocritical show. Many now choose to ignore him. Has he considered why his cousins, who proudly wore camouflaged military uniform in 1979/1982 and carried AK47s like MPLA guerrillas, don’t stand with him anymore on 4th June? Is the emperor naked? Could their absence be because he embarrasses them with his hypocrisy or that they are now too decent to rejoice at the loss of a ‘few good men’ as he now describes the Generals?
I wonder if he confuses the event of 15th May, which is entirely his, with the uprising of 4th June. Whereas May 15th was planned by him and resulted in Major Suleiman arresting him single handedly by ordering him to ‘put your gun down’. June 4 was organised and executed in the 5th Battalion of Infantry, the unit which, Cpl Tasiri, Captain Baah Achamfour, Cpl Atiemo, Cpl Sarkodie-Addo, Cpl Owusu, Pte Adu, Cpl Amartey Tetteh and other AFRC members belonged to. It was my unit too.
In view of this, I wonder why Rawlings does not celebrate May 15. He is free to mark 15th May in any manner he desires, but he should stop denigrating the June 4 event, no matter how much he may want to celebrate it. Yes, he has several personal reasons to want to celebrate, but he should do so on 15th May, not June 4th.
I reflect on Awah in particular every June 4 and 31st December because he knew he will be targeted because of his association with me. He predicted that I will survive and he would be killed. He insisted I fix my disagreements with Rawlings and made sure he accompanied me on my numerous visits to him (Rawlings) to avert the looming troubles at the time. I did all I could, but sadly I failed. Then all Rawlings does now, in the full regalia of his acquired blings is to taunt people like me and those who even have bigger reasons to mourn on such days. Worse still, Ghana got nothing from him in return!
He once called others “greedy bastards” because of an argument he had with them over the distribution of the ‘Abacha five million dollars ($5m)’. Interesting! As much as this is unforgivable, he would have received some sympathy from observers, had he used a portion of this ‘gift’ from Abacha to assist Corporal Tasiri in seeking meaningful medical help. He didn’t. He only cared for his wife and his cousins. Today, Cpl Tasiri continues to suffer from being poorly in his hometown, requiring nothing but medical support; the type that Rawlings could have provided him had he been so minded. Cpl Tasiri was very instrumental in bringing about the June 4 uprising and was a war ‘General’ on 4th June, particularly during the golden hours of the uprising. I took time to personally tell this to Mr. Rawlings before because he was in prison during the fire-fight and wouldn’t have known.
I happen to know that Rawlings never offered a share of this ‘wonderful Abacha gift’ to a soldier like Cpl Albert Gbafa. If he had done so, he would have deserved some understanding from observers, but he didn’t. Instead, Rawlings left Albert Gbafa to his fate and he reportedly borrowed money and went to London and then on to the US in a desperate search for a living wage. He was forced to return to Ghana having failed to secure any meaningful employment. Albert’s predicament should shame Mr. Rawlings. Whilst he has secured his own and his children’s financial futures in greedy excess, he has in my view, abandoned a very loyal soldier like Cpl Albert Gbafa to his fate. Cpl Gbafa was, and perhaps still is just as loyal as Amartey Kwei was to him and it is not right, the way Rawlings has used and discarded him. Amartey Kwei does not now need Rawlings’ help, but it is not too late for him to help others like Albert Gbafa and Peter Tasiri. And there are others too. He can allocate them ‘something’ from the Abacha money or single plots of land from the numerous acres of prime land that he now owns in his private name or in the name of his wife and the Rawlings’ Foundation. He famously travelled to Nigeria and gave an interview to the Guardian in which he complained that the courier of the $5m had retained a portion of the ‘Abacha gift’ for his services. I wonder if he wanted him to make good the balance ‘due’. In any case, should he not have surrendered this ‘gift’ to the Ghana Treasury?
What happened to his probity and accountability credentials when he saw five million dollars ($5m) in cash? So, who is the greedy bastard among all past presidents of the 4th Republic?
Remember he could still be made to answer for this ‘gift’ because the period in question is not covered by the transitional provisions, so watch out.
In his moments of frustration, in my view, resulting out of his powerlessness to act arbitrarily he calls for changes to the constitution. I join him in this call and it is the only thing on which we both agree. However, he should note that were the indemnity clauses or the statute of limitations to be expunged, the lawfulness of many of his actions, particularly the killings of the Generals, Yeye Boy, Kojo Lee and Mathew Awah would all be investigated. Awah was killed whilst in handcuffs and laid out on a stretcher. I was smuggled out from my prison to see his body at the 37 mortuary after Kojo Tsikata came to inform me that my friend had died accidentally. Awah, was still in handcuffs. When Rawlings rightly condemns Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd in the US, he should reflect on the death of Awah too, who was later acquitted of all charges. It took more than a week for his brother to secure the release of the handcuffs. The soldier who came to release the handcuffs commented that the handcuffs were needed elsewhere! If we succeed in expunging the indemnity clauses, a fresh and proper investigation into the murder of the Judges and the Army Major would be in order. The Abacha $5m, the Ghacem sale, The Nsawam cannery and GNTC land sales would all be revisited. The ownership of the yatch moored off his private island on the Volta River would also be investigated to determine whether it should not have been handed over to President Kufour. The circumstances of the fire which burnt down his previous residence would all be looked into.
If Rawlings should still go ahead with his June 4 celebration or memorial event, which I urge him not to, then I suggest he assuages the pain of Ghanaians (somewhat) by announcing that he and his wife will return the Nsawam Cannery Lands to the poor farmers who are in court over their small holdings, which were taken from them because June 4 made it possible for him to do so. How can these peasants ever believe in June 4 when they know their predicament was made possible only by June 4 propelling Rawlings to the presidency? June 4 was all about the common man so why should peasants lose their lands to no other person but him, the so-called champion of probity and accountability? How he is able to find any sleep over this issue is mind boggling.
In any case, Rawlings and his wife do not need all these lands, particularly in their later years and he is storing up unnecessary trouble for his children to deal with on his passing. His intimidating clout will surely not survive him to ward off the demands of the children of the plaintiffs. He should remember that even as head of state, he claimed his children had to attend schools abroad because they were being hounded in Ghanaian schools? Again, not long ago, he publicly threatened to physically protect his wife against a prominent woman whom he claimed had treated his wife to a President Macron type of handshake. What would happen if he is not around to protect his wife and children with his omnipotence? He must recognise that the peasants are natives of that area and that is all they have. They have no Ghana Airforce or Presidential pension with all that it comes with. They literally have nothing, just the piece of land bequeathed to them over the generations.
Finally, I invite him to recall that I offered him counsel several times on how to avoid the confusion and confrontation over economic policy which loomed large in August 1982. I warned him that there would be unnecessary bloodshed. I visited him on numerous occasions in his castle bunker at dawn and pleaded with him to consider my advice. I told him about my fears. At the time, no one had been publicly executed. I offered to resign several times if he thought that would help ease the tension, and he refused each time. I asked Colonel Asaase to convey my advice and concerns to him several times, and he did. Instead, Rawlings chose a violent resolution to our differences having been listening to the counsel of his cousins, external advisors and close friends. All the killings which then ensued only after our falling out and my imprisonment along with my colleagues are now all heaped on him and nobody else. He alone now carries the burden of all the killings.
Even Riad Hozafeh, his trusted aide in the killings, has jumped ship and run away to Lebanon. Although all his cousins and friends with whom he made the critical decisions have evidently done well too, they take no responsibility and Rawlings now stands alone! It seems to me that he also now may be feeling betrayed in the same manner that he betrayed Chris Atim, Nicholas Atampugre, Yen Nyeya , Tata Ofosu, Kwasi Kamasa, Cpl Mathew Adabuga, Baba Kankani, Carlos Giwa (RIP), Eric Asare, Sackey (RIP), Solo, Moro, Zaya, Kwasi Adu, Explo, Nubour, Brimah, Mawuko, Nyamekye, Agyekum, Aliu (RIP), Kwame Adjima (RIP), Quarshie, Mathew Awah (RIP), Attah and me. He betrayed all of us without flinching! He turned us from comrades (who would have been executed with him had the 1981 coup failed) into strangers and his sworn enemies. He should remember that none of his cousins would have been held responsible had the 31st December coup failed. One of them, Captain Kojo Tsikata, was mothballed in a Lome Hotel on the day and only came back weeks after the success of the coup and quickly settled into the position which was rightly Chris Atim’s. The only reason this happened and became, the source of all the problems which skittled all the plans for the ‘revolution’, was because one was his cousin, and the other was a peasant’s son from the North.
He turned a beautiful portrait into a mess by pouring the blood of former comrades all over it. He had the goodwill of all Ghanaians, including students who were prepared to sacrifice everything, including their education, for a better Ghana. He inherited a cohort of young Ghanaians who had grown up through Nkrumah’s young Pioneer movement and were deeply imbued with the patriotism which the Kwame Nkrumah Young Pioneer Movement taught them. Not even Nkrumah’s government had that amount of initial quality support and yet, he failed pitifully because he was bent on hoodwinking everybody for his private interests. Having betrayed us by killing some, imprisoning or exiling others, he replaced us with a new and pliant PNDC2, some of whom he now calls “greedy bastards”. Because he could, he physically abused some of the PNDC2 members and continued to remind them to be grateful to him. He cowed them into silence and they were therefore unable to challenge him. This allowed him to slip into the brutal excesses that led to most of the killings. That is the fault line of all dictators.
By the way, Mr ex-President, must know that I am also protected by indemnity clauses so he cannot investigate my motivation for sitting up all night to write this piece. All he can do is guess whether I took money from someone or was inspired by my late brothers and comrades Sgt Awah (RIP) and Kwame Adjima (RIP).
I suspect he will choose the former because he thinks everybody is like him.
By the way, since Rawlings claims to detest corruption so much, he should take a moment and ask himself just one question. Ever since he cast out those people who were initially with him on 31st. December 1981, has he heard that any of those people (who were lucky to be alive) have been corrupt in their working lives? If he comes up with one, I will apologise to him.
About the author: Sgt Alolga Akata-Pore is a Ghanaian politician and former soldier. He was a member of the Provisional National Defence Council which ruled Ghana following the military coup d’état on 31 December 1981.