Former President John Dramani Mahama has likened the violence that marred the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election to one that would happen in a war zone in Afghanistan.
A group of masked national security operatives fired gunshots and wounded some 16 supporters of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) at La-Bawaleshie near the private residence of Mr Kwesi Delali Brempong, the NDC candidate, barely an hour into the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election on 31 January 2019.
Opposition Member of Parliament for Ningo-Prampram, Mr Sam Nartey George was also slapped by a security operative during the melee.
In the opinion of Mr Mahama, the videos of the violence, which he said were captured by the media and have become the toast of social media, showed the reality of the scenes, adding that he did no wrong by screening the same videos to the diplomatic community a couple of weeks ago when he met them at Peduase.
“When I showed the videos to the international community, [they say] I’m painting Ghana black. Ayawaso West Wuogon is black paint. There is nothing pink or yellow or green or white about it. You cannot colour it in any other colour … I didn’t manufacture those videos, the media shot them and they are all over social media. I was getting calls from Nigeria and other places and people were asking me what was happening in Ghana because when you see some of those videos it looks like Afghanistan, it doesn’t look like Ghana. It looks like some war zone. You see somebody with an axe hitting somebody on the back; a defenceless person, he is unarmed and you can’t believe this is Ghana,” Mr Mahama told Accra-based Radio Gold on Friday, 22 February 2019.
Mr Mahama further accused the authorities of doing everything possible to do a cover-up job.
“What do we see in Ayawaso West Wuogon? Cover-ups. Even though people have been identified who were part of those who did what they did, everything is being done to cover up the matter. None of them has been invited and the one who slapped Sam George, by now police should have his statement and his identity”.
In his view, nothing should stop the police from investigating the matter and bringing the perpetrators to book.
About a week ago, Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo described as “shameful” and “unpatriotic”, what, in his view, was former President John Mahama’s portrayal of Ghana in unpleasant terms to the diplomatic community when he met them.
“To say the least, this is unpatriotic and shameful”, Mr Osafo Maafo said.
He explained: “It is because if he gathered Ghanaians, call it Ghanaian professionals, Ghanaian businessmen, and he talked about matters of concern to him, I’ll have no problem.
“He’s a former head of state and, therefore, a very important opinion leader. But to gather foreigners and try to paint Ghana black is just not acceptable. What is he really after? What does former president Mahama want to portray? Why does he want to paint Ghana black when, indeed, there’s nothing to paint black?”
In Mr Osafo Maafo’s view, even though “there was some violence, it didn’t happen at a polling station, it happened, as it were, in the parliamentary candidate’s house away from any polling station and we’re yet to know who even shot”, and, so, wondered: “Why would you want this to look like it’s a national disaster?”
“This really is not good and I will never support such a thing but if you look at what happened in previous by-elections in this country, this is nothing more than what had happened earlier. Somebody drove through a crowd in a by-election in Atewa. What happened?” Mr Osafo Maafo said in an interview with Accra-based Joy News.
President Nana Akufo-Addo has set up a Commission of Inquiry to probe the matter. It is chaired by Justice Emile Short. Its members include world-renowned legal luminary Prof Henrietta Mensa Bonsu and former IGP Patrick Acheampong with the former Dean of the Faculty of Law of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Dr Ernest Kofi Abotsi as its Secretary. The Commission has a month to present its report.
In his meeting with the diplomats over the issue, at which they were shown several videos of the shooting and violence perpetrated by the national security operatives against the NDC supporters, Mr Mahama said the by-election violence was a criminal act that must be prosecuted straightforward.
“It is my belief”, Mr Mahama, who is running for the flag bearer slot of the NDC ahead of the 2020 polls, said: “That the President would have known what security arrangements were being made”.
“These are all issues that have come up. We believe that this is a straight criminal case and the people involved, many of them have been identified and the Police should have invited them, taken their statements and started their investigation. Instead, they have decided to set up a Commission of Inquiry.”
“We all know what happens when Commissions of Inquiries are set up. The main usefulness of a Commission of Inquiry is to bring out the facts and put in place measures to ensure that such a thing does not happen again but it is not the most convenient way for sanctioning criminal conduct.”
Mr Mahama also told the diplomats that the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) has trained vigilante groups, some of whom were deployed to mete out violence to NDC supporters.