“I had never witnessed anything like that in my lifeâ€¦it was one of the darkest periods in my life,” recounts Mr Albert Sam, a Public Relations Practitioner and member of the governing board of the Ghana News Agency, on the horrific public execution of some top military officers and heads of state some 39 years ago.
Tuesday, 26th June 1979, is described by most Ghanaians as the darkest day in Ghanaâ€™s history after six senior military officers namely; F.W.K. Akuffo, former Head of State, Gen Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa a former military ruler, Gen Robert Kotei, Col Roger Felli, Air Vice-Marshal Yaw Boakye and Rear Admiral Joy Amedume were blindfolded, tied to the stakes and executed without proper judicial process for allegedly engaging in corruption and embezzlement of public funds.
The generals were tried on charges of corruption, abuse of power and treason by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), led by Flight Lt J.J. Rawlings.
“Execution Day…sudden hush fell on spectators”
A disturbing account of the harrowing scene available online reads: “There were six stakes, each with a rope dangling about it. Sandbags were piled behind each stake up to the shoulder level. Some twenty-five or so feet in front of the stakes were open ended tents for the firing squad.
The door of an ambulance was flung open and out stepped F.W.K. Akuffo, the immediate past Head of State. He was followed by Gen Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa a former military ruler, Gen Robert Kotei, Col Roger Felli, Air Vice-Marshal Yaw Boakye and Rear Admiral Joy Amedume. All of them were blindfolded and led by the soldiers towards the stake.
A sudden hush fell on the teeming spectators.
The six condemned senior military officers were led to the stakes and the ropes tied across their chest and around their legs. First was Gen Akuffo, then Gen Bob Kotei, Gen Afrifa, Air Vice-Marshal Yaw Boakye, Col Roger Felli and last, towards the sea, Rear-Admiral Joy Amedume.
Hardly anyone saw the firing squad enter the tents, all attention was on the condemned officers. And there was no audible order to fire. Just a sudden: â€œko. koâ€¦.ko.ko.koâ€. From my vantage point just besides the tents, I could see the blood soaking through their dresses where the bullets hit.”
In 2008, Former President Rawlings told the media that though the killings were regrettable, there was no way his AFRC junta could have avoided them.
â€œ…very painful and regrettable, but there was no other way out,” he told members of a Forum organized by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
According to him, if the executions had not been carried out, the rank and file of the Ghanaian Army would have slaughtered the officer corps.
Sharing the traumatic experience in an exclusive interview with Kwami Sefa-Kayi in an interview on Peace FM morning show â€˜Kokrokooâ€™ Tuesday, Mr Sam, who was then a Daily Graphic reporter and present at the scene of the execution, described the sight as pitiful, very awful, and ignominious.
â€œPersonally, I was traumatised. It was a pathetic scene I sawâ€¦I was grief-strickenâ€¦,â€ he painfully recalled.
According to him, â€œthat day will remain indelibly imprinted in my mind until the Lord our savior calls me to eternityâ€.
Coincidentally, June 26th is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. A day set aside by the UN to speak out against the crime of torture and to honor and support victims and survivors throughout the world.
May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace.