|Source: Bernard Quanson/Peacefmonline.com/Ghana|
Friday, February 26, 2010
|Source: The G. Observer|
At dawn on a Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14 this year, fire razed down the official residence of former President Jerry John Rawlings. It is by divine intervention that Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings and one of their daughters, who were asleep, escaped death.
Since the tragedy, Ghanaians from all walks of life have proffered goodwill and sympathy to the former first family. Indeed, it was a noble sight when the four major political parties in the country sent a common delegation to sympathise with the Rawlingses, underlining the Akan saying that it is when you are involved in a tragedy that you see your genuine friends.
We all agreed that the tragedy was unfortunate and, therefore, everything must be done to resettle the family as early as possible. All those who have commented on the tragedy had done so convinced that the catastrophe could have happened to any other person.
However, the goodwill and the sense of purpose that the tragedy engendered had evaporated when it emerged that the police had acted disproportionately in arresting a radio commentator, alleged to have made an irresponsible statement in his reaction to a newspaper publication, which had brought up three theories as the possible sources of the fire.
The newspaper had claimed that some of the people it had interviewed had suggested that the former President Rawlings himself could have set the fire to his residence, but added that it had no independent source to confirm the allegation.
In his comments, an over-zealous party activist, 27-year Nana Darkwa Baafi, stated that he would go with the theory of self-inflicted tragedy and could confirm that he was convinced Flt Lt. Rawlings committed that crime of arson to see the house rehabilitated or get his family relocated.
Before majority of the people could even hear what exactly the boy said, an aide to the former President, Kofi Adams, who is also the Deputy General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is said to have made a report to the police. However, the police also claimed that they had information that a group was massing up to attack Top Radio, because of comments made by Nana Darkwa and, therefore, rushed there to give him protection.
The next was that the young man was brought before a judge, who ordered him to be remanded and to reappear on March 3, 2010, and since then, the whole country has been in turmoil as everything had been directed at this single incident, which touches at the core of fundamental human rights, the rule of law, due process, constitutionalism and separation of powers.
Indeed, the Minority in Parliament resolved to boycott proceedings in the House until the right thing was done. Expectedly in a partisan manner, the Majority denounced the boycott as unconstitutional, although they did not cite the specific provisions the Minority breached.
The President justifiably issued a statement decrying the abuse of process and system. Equally, an executive member of the NDC has also denounced the police action, which has overnight turned Nana Darkwa, whose irresponsible comments could not be supported by any well-meaning Ghanaian, from a villain to a hero.
The National Media Commission and the Ghana Journalists Association, as well as the Committee for Joint Action, have all expressed their position on the matter.
Whereas almost every well-informed and objective Ghanaian has condemned the irresponsible comments by Nana Darkwa, they are also at ad idem that the police reaction and proceedings in court undermine the rule of law and democracy.
The point is that the young man was charged under Section 208(1) of the Criminal Code 1960 (Act 29), which states that, “Any person who publishes or reproduces any statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace, knowing or having reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report is false is guilty of a misdemeanour.”
What investigations did the police undertake to come to the conclusion that the statement is false and that the boy has committed a crime? For, whilst we all agree that the statement was irresponsible, that does not mean that he has committed a crime.
Again, since the matter is a misdemeanour, it means that it is not a grievous crime. More important, when the courts were called upon to decide on such matters in Adusei II v The Republic and Ayeh v The State, it was held that the mere making of a false statement was not the crux of the offence, but its publication to the public in such a way as to cause alarm and fear. It was held that the essence of the offence was to protect the body of the public from unnecessary fear and alarm.
For all intents and purposes, if one alleges that a certain person is about to cause a coup d’etat in the country, just as the hoax about the earthquake, that is more likely to cause alarm and fear rather than the reaction of individuals massing up to assault another for expressing an opinion they do not like.
Turning to the judge, since Nana Darkwa was charged with misdemeanour, that is not a major crime. Therefore, he should have been summarily tried. In that wise, in the opinion of A.N.E. Amissah, former Director of Public Prosecutions, Justice of Appeal, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana and Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in his book “Criminal Procedure in Ghana,” the “Court has power in its discretion to adjourn hearing of a case to a time and place to be appointed and stated in the presence of the parties or their respective advocates present.
The Court may, in the meantime, let the accused go at large, or on bail or commit him to prison. Such an adjournment must not be for more than 15 days, but if the accused is committed to prison, the adjournment shall not be for more than seven days. In either event, the day following that, on which the adjournment is made, is counted as the first day.”
It is, therefore, good news that Nana Darkwa has been granted bail, but he must be advised not to think that what he did was just. He is no hero, except that the desire of some overzealous public officials to please rather ended up subverting the system and abusing processes.
Those who have been entrusted with national responsibilities and clothed with discretion must understand that under Article 296 of the 1992 Constitution, it is provided that, “Where in this Constitution or in any other law discretionary power is vested in any person or authority, that discretionary power shall be deemed to imply a duty to be fair and candid and that the exercise of the discretionary power shall not be arbitrary, capricious or biased either by resentment, prejudice or personal dislike and shall be in accordance with due process of law.”
It appears to me that in the handling of the affairs of the irresponsible statement, we have failed in exercising discretion the way our constitution wants us to act. We need to guard and guide against a repetition of a similar incident, and this must be seen from a Ghanaian perspective, and not from the NDC nor NPP perspective.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Ghana will build a deep sea port and rehabilitate its railways as the West African nation prepares for production in its oil sector, President John Atta Mills told lawmakers.
Oil revenue will “change the country’s economic paradigm” as it develops infrastructure and other industries, Mills said today in his State of the Nation speech to Parliament.
Mills didn’t say where the port would be built. The country now has a port at the industrial hub city of Tema, 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Accra, the capital, and a smaller port in Takoradi, 250 kilometers from the capital in the Western region, where much of the offshore oil exploration has taken place. Ghana is “laying the foundation” for the development of industries including petrochemicals, fertilizer and integrated aluminum, Mills said.
A bill on how revenue from the nascent oil and gas sector will be managed is still being drafted and will go to Parliament for approval, Mills said, without providing a date. Revenue will be used to build roads and improve electricity and water utilities, he said.
Ghana will start earning revenue when oil production at the offshore Jubilee field begins in the fourth quarter of this year. The revenue from the sector could account for 6 to 7 percent of Ghana’s gross domestic product, the International Monetary Fund’s First Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky said on Feb. 17. He didn’t say when that may occur.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The US is undoubtedly the biggest arms exporter to Africa contributing to about 50% of all arms export to the continent. It is an understatement to say that arms exports to Africa and political instabilities, armed conflicts, economic underachievement and poverty are closely linked
The continent today is littered with hundreds of millions of small arms and light weapons that fuel conflicts and instabilities, making it difficult for any economic development to take place. Tens of millions of Africans have died from the export of arms to the continent and several millions others injured. About 90% of all civilian casualties in the wars come from the use of small arms and light weapons.
Besides, billions of dollars meant for economic and social development have been squandered on arms procurements to fund the instabilities while poverty is swallowing the people. It is estimated that the continent has lost about 500 billion dollars to arms imports alone while children have no access to education, medicines, water, shelter, food and clothing.
|Thousands of 'illegal' firearms are destroyed by Kenya government|
The arms are also used for external aggression as is evidenced by the involvement of Rwanda, Angola Uganda and Zimbabwe in DR Congo’s internal affairs. Some of these arms have found their way into rebel hands, organised criminals and bandits. Despite the billions of dollars in aid from US, Europe and Japan and several billions of dollars in loans from IMF and World Bank over the years; poverty, malnourishment and disease are still endemic in African societies with children and women bearing the brunt.
The failed state of Somalia where armed groups have been battling one another for nineteen years should inform the president of the dangers of small arms and light weapons sales to the continent. Today in Somalia, pirates have succeeded in disrupting the international shipping route in the Indian Ocean with daily hijackings and kidnappings. The cost of the piracy to international trade runs into several hundreds of millions of dollars and with the everyday security risk that the pirates continue to pose, the cost could soon reach billions of dollars. Piracy has become possible due to availability of small arms and light weapons shipped to the horn of Africa region by Western defence contractors and their counterparts in Asia.
In Nigeria, armed bandits continue to disrupt the international oil market with constant kidnappings and destruction of oil installations while the federal government has used arms to kill about 20,000 of her mostly unarmed civilians, thanks to the steady flow of arms to the West Africa sub-region.
The continued instabilities in the Great Lakes Region and the constant arm struggles in Burundi, northern Uganda and the Rwanda genocide should inform President Obama about the dangers arms shipments from America and Europe are posing to the continent.
The genocide in Darfur cannot stop unless there are concrete efforts to obtain an international arms ban against the Sudanese government and the rebel groups. Almost two million Darfurians are now refugees with little or no shelter, food, water and are under constant threat of attacks from the Janjaweed militia. These refugees were at the mercy of International Aid Organisations who recently have been kicked out by Omar Al Bashir.
In Ethiopia, millions of people face starvation every year while hundreds of millions of dollars are used to import arms. The active but widely forgotten wars in the Casamance Province of Senegal, Western Sahara, Ivory Coast, Niger, Chad and Burundi will negate any economic aid to these countries and territories unless arms shipments to both the governments and the rebels are ceased. The wars in Chad will not stop unless the flow of arms to the government and the rebels are cut.
President Obama ought to use his good office to help ban the sale of small arms that have been used to terrorise Africans. He should encourage western countries notably the UK and France to ban arms sales to the continent. The UK and France together account for 10% of the total arms market in Africa.
The US should prevail upon China which has continued to export arms to Sudan despite mounting evidence that the arms are being used to commit genocide in Darfur. In 2008, when the people of Zimbabwe were starving and undergoing election tensison, China shipped arms to the country. Such actions by China, North Korea, Russia and other undemocratic nations must stop. They should be made to sign up to international laws banning and criminalising the sale of small arms and light weapons to the continent.
President Obama should know that the waves of civil wars that hit and devastated Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Congo, Chad, Central African Republic, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Angola, Niger and Guinea were made possible through the sale of small arms and light weapons to governments and rebels alike by western defence contractors and arms companies including those from the US.
A report published by the UN in October 2002 accused 85companies most of them Western companies of directly financing the war in DR. Congo in order to have free access to the minerals and other resources located in the East of the country. These companies have been accused of arming the armies of Uganda and Rwanda to go to war in DRC so that they could exploit the rich mineral wealth for them. Of the 85 companies named in the October 2002 report, eight, including Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings Resources International, Trinitech International, Kemet Electronics Corporation, OM Group (OMG); and Vishay Sprague, are U.S.-owned.
A document prepared by Amnesty International entitled “Our Brothers Who Kill US” that when read will chill you to the bone has also detailed the atrocities committed by Rwandan and Ugandan troops in Congo as they battle each other for control and in the process killing many of the unarmed civilian population in Eastern Congo. An excerpt of the report could be found below.
In a six-day battle in June 2000, more than 1,200 civilians were killed and many thousands wounded as Rwandese and Ugandan forces fought for control of Kisangani. Scores of civilians had died in earlier battles in August 1999 and May 2000 for Kisangani, with its strategic position on the river Congo and its diamonds, coffee and timber. As Ugandan forces tried to seize control of the city centre, the two sides poured indiscriminate fire into houses, schools, churches and workplaces. The death toll was highest in the residential districts to the north, especially the communes of Tshopo, Makiso and Mangobo. In July 2001, a local human rights organization, Groupe Lotus, named 253 civilians who were killed during the battle: they included 106 children.
Senior Ugandan officers effectively cornered the market in diamonds, entering into deals with a number of trading houses (maisons d’achat or comptoirs). In one incident on 25 December 1999, Ugandan soldiers beat and detained customs officials at Kisangani’s Bangboka airport who attempted to seize part of a consignment of US$600,000 in Congolese francs, escorted by Ugandan soldiers on an aircraft from Kampala and destined for a diamond trading house. Deus Kagiraneza told the Belgian Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry: "We were outraged to see the Victoria Company, sponsored by the Ugandans, sign contracts without the Rwandese. That’s the sole reason we went to war against the Ugandans, because we alone wanted to control the diamonds."
“The battles for Kisangani ultimately left the city of Kisangani in the hands of RCD-Goma. But most diamond mining zones in the north of Kisangani were left in the hands of the Ugandan army and the MLC. This and the steep levels of taxation levied by RCD-Goma authorities in Kisangani encouraged most diamond traders to export their production through the Central African Republic and Uganda. It is estimated that in 2001 US$3.8 million worth of diamonds were exported to Antwerp, Belgium, from Uganda, which has no domestic diamond production. The RCD-Goma authorities in Kisangani have since concentrated on other commodities such as palm oil to supplement their income”. (Source: McCamy Taylor in an article entitled “Dear Mr. President: Only YOU Can Stop the World’s Longest, Bloodiest War...And It's NOT Iraq” and http://www.democraticunderground.com/.)
It is clear from the above reports and indeed many others that the beneficiaries of the wars are the western companies, rebel groups, army generals, a shadow economy, corrupt politicians in Rwanda, Uganda, DR. Congo and their allies in Europe, North America, China and Japan who enrich themselves while the people face death, famine, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, diseases, starvation, have no access to health, education and are refugees within and outside their countries. As of 2008, the war and its aftermath had killed 5.4 million people most of them Congolese civilians. These wars apart from its human cost have contributed to the destruction of roads, harbours, airports, railway lines, telecommunications, hospitals, schools and the livelihoods of the people. The wars have decimated regions, countries, communities and families. It has brought poverty, hunger and misery to the people on the continent. It may be right for these companies to get rich on the back of dead Africans but it should not be right for your government.
On democracy, there are few places in Africa today where people could choose their leaders freely without fear of intimidation, harassment or arrest. The people in Libya, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sudan, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Tunisia, Cameroon, Guinea, Mauritania and Uganda cannot democratically change their leaders.
The continent is full of tyrants, dictators and kleptocrats whose grip on power has enslaved the people and put them in perpetual bondage. These largely corrupt and undemocratic leaders have prevented genuine democracy, freedom of speech, assembly, association and other freedoms from gaining root. As a result, there is constant threat of wars and instabilities in these countries and the desire by the people to overthrow their undemocratic leaders is growing by the day. This is not good for economic, social and political development and will make nonsense of any economic package you may have in mind to help the people. How on earth should a person continue to rule for 40 years when he is not a monarch? Even monarchs sometimes abdicate in favour of change.
Why has Omar Bongo of Gabon been in power for 42 years now? Gaddafi of Libya has ruled for 39 years, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea 28 years, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe 28 years, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt 27 years, Paul Biya of Cameroon 26 years, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda 22 years, Omar Al Bashir of Sudan 19 years, Iddriss Derby of Chad 17 years, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia 14 years. Tunisian president has just announced that he is going to rule for life. Are these tyrants monarchs?
The aforementioned heads of state ought to peacefully give up their hold on power, unban opposition parties, free political prisoners, organise free and fair elections and understand that politics is about winning and loosing. It should be possible for opposition parties to win elections as happened in Ghana, without hell breaking loose.
What Africa needs is economic development- not guns and weapons. President Obama ought to urge African leaders to choose democracy and economic development over dictatorship, armed conflicts, corruption and political repression. It is time the US, Europe, Russia and China acted together, called their defence contractors and defence companies to order and gave Africa peace to develop.
By Lord Aikins Adusei
Lord Aikins Adusei firstname.lastname@example.org is a Ghanaian based writer.
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