Justice Apau gives a weird interpretation of a pure crime of murder in Yendi

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Folks, the nasty events that occurred in Yendi (Northern Region) on March 26 and 27, 2002, leading to the murder of the Ya-Na and 40 of his followers still feature in public discourse for various reasons: they reflect the age-old problems of succession in Yendi (and the Ghanaian chieftaincy system, generally); they bring to the fore the long-standing dispute between the Andani and Abudu lineages and why such a dispute is difficult to resolve; and they portray pure wickedness. Above all, they speak volumes about political interference and manipulations that must be condemned.

No matter what happened, lives were lost just because some people took up arms and attacked others in the Gbewaa Palace who were not prepared for “war” nor did they provoke any war. I am talking about the Ya-Na and his 40 followers who were gunned down when they were not on the battlefield. They were at home when they were attacked by the rival Abudu faction and snuffed out.

Nothing has been done to punish the perpetrators, apparently because the events have been heavily politicized. While the NDC seeks to use it to fight its anti-NPP cause, the NPP also seeks to present the problem as an NDC-created one.

The ding-dong mud-splashing game has been in full swing for 13 years now. Nothing done so far has solved the problem. Raw nerves are often touched by comments and fear looms that unless the problem is solved for the Andanis and Abudus to re-unite, the situation in Yendi and Tamale (or the entire Northern region) will not normalize anytime soon. And the politicians are ready to exploit the situation only to worsen the problem. In effect, then, Yendi and Tamale have been sitting on a time-bomb all these years.

Within this context, it is strange to read news reports quoting a Supreme Court nominee, Justice Apau as saying that the Ya-Na died “in battle”, which is why it is difficult for anybody to be found guilty of a crime (of murder) and punished. (See: http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2015/June-2nd/yaa-naa-died-in-war-no-evidence-of-murder-against-suspects-justice-apau.php)

I strongly disagree with Justice Apau’s comments. There was no “war” or “battle”. What happened was a pure crime committed by the Abudu elements who took up arms and murdered the Ya-Na and his loyal followers at a time that many happenings before March 27 had foreshadowed but were not properly handled by the government and the security agencies—which was why the Kufuor government, especially some well-placed Yendi/Dagbon government functionaries (Malik Alhassan and Major (rtd.) Sulemana and General Joshua Hamidu, among others) were accused of being part of those wishing the Ya-Na dead to favour the Abudus.

That was why all efforts made by the Kufuor government in connection with the events ended up in smoke and why Akufo-Addo (then Minister of Justice and Attorney-General) is still not in the good books of the Andanis.

I disagree with Justice Apau because what happened was the commission of a crime by the Abudu elements. There was no war!! Even in a war situation, crimes are said to be committed and the perpetrators punished according to the law. What was happening in Yendi was no war. Otherwise, why would the Kufuor government sit down unconcerned for such a “war” to be waged? Yes, there were intermittent conflicts, a curfew was in place, and security agents deployed to ensure law and order; but no war was being fought!!

By his submission, Justice Apau has given a weird meaning to this particular crime and re-opened the Pandora’s box on the Yendi crisis. His understanding of the situation is warped, and he should be told the truth. A war situation isn’t the same as what happened on March 27, 2002 at the Gbewaa Palace. The Abudus premeditated the crime, armed themselves, and launched the attack.

The Andani section (especially the group surrounding the Ya-Na) never expected to be attacked. They were not forewarned to be forearmed for any “battle”. They were just pounced on like sitting ducks and snuffed out at the Gbewaa Palace. Of course, they might have taken arms to defend themselves; but that action can’t be said to be a well-coordinated one in battle-readiness. The victims should be respected, at least, if no solution can be found to the problem.

If Justice Apau thinks that what happened on those two days amounted to a “war” or “battle”, he must come clean to elaborate. Otherwise, I regard his submission as problematic. For the avoidance of any doubt, let it be known that the Ya-Na and his fellow victims were brutally murdered by the Abudu faction in pursuit of the golden trophy (the Gbewaa Palace and the Yendi skin). That was a pure crime for which the perpetrators should have been fished out and severely punished. But because of the heavy politicization of the occurrences and the huge investment that those with the clout have in the Yendi conflict, nothing satisfactory can be done.

Yendi is still volatile despite the seemingly peaceful atmosphere prevailing. That explains why the definition given by Justice Apau to the fate of the Ya-Na and his loyalists is unacceptable. It is objectionable, coming from someone seeking to sit on Ghana’s highest court. What will he do if circumstances change and the perpetrators are found out and brought before him for trial, already prejudiced as he appears to be? A very loud “Tweeeeeeeeeeeeaa” to him and all others thinking like him!!

I shall return…

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