Friday, November 27, 2009


If I had the President’s ear, I will advise him to fire Mr. Mark Wayongo the Upper East Regional Minister with immediate effect. This gentleman has proven, by comments he made after video evidence emerged showing the extent to which military offices tortured and dehumanized suspects in Bawku, that he is not cut for that important position. In an earlier article, I criticized the action of the soldiers who stripped two suspects naked and paraded them in the street of Bawku. At the time, the soldiers had attempted to rationalize their action in a most uncanny way, albeit unsuccessfully. The video provided proof that the soldiers lied through their teeth when they claimed they didn’t molest anybody. Faced with this evidence, the President’s representative in the region, Mark Wayongo  is asking Ghanaians not to “over-flog” the issue for the following reasons:

Mr. Wayongo has demonstrated that he doesn’t understand what constitutional rule is about. Perhaps he was one of the people who enjoyed the “good old days” under military rule and is relishing the prospects of a return to the lawlessness that characterized those periods of our history. 

It may be pardonable if ordinary citizens call into radio stations and suggest that it is ok to abuse the rights of people in conflict zones, but it is totally unacceptable when a minister of state tows that line. Mr . Wayongo and anybody else who thinks like him must understand that you cannot teach the soldiers one way to behave in Bawku and another way to behave in Accra, no matter the circumstances. Perhaps he will understand my point if he pictures a hypothetical scenario where soldiers take up arms and usurp political power (as they did in 1981) and they decide that that parading ministers of state like Mark Wayongo naked on the streets will restore discipline in the country. He should just picture himself being paraded naked in his home town for whatever reason, and rethink his stance. I do not have to remind him that the soldiers actually stripped women naked in Accra during the so called revolution.

I will be quick to stress that like any decent Ghanaian, I want the Bawku crisis solved pronto. In fact I made the point strongly in an earlier article, Bawku’s Bunkers and Baulkers. But in our attempt to get rid of impunity up north, it makes no sense to encourage a more dangerous kind of impunity in which the military are made to feel they can take the law into their own hands when they deem fit and get away with it.

Mr. Wayongo should also understand that a suspect is not a criminal. What will he say if a court of competent jurisdiction looks into this case and realizes that the suspects have had been wrongfully accused? Does he know of any way to restore their dignity in Bawku?

 Mr. Wayongo asserts that soldiers will get disillusioned if we insist they behave right in a conflict zone. I wish to remind him that it is such trail of thought that has kept the murderers of Issah Mobilla out of jail till this time, a situation the minister’s party made campaign capital out of. Let me also remind him that American servicemen in Iraq haven’t remained aloof because some of their colleagues are serving time for abusing prisoners’ rights in Abu Ghraib prison. When we deploy our soldiers anywhere, the least we expect of them is professionalism and discipline that upholds our constitution and international law. The soldiers only abdicate these values because they know their commanders and politicians like Mark Wayongo will come to their rescue. If the message is sent throughout our society that we abhor such barbarism as took place in Bawku, the soldiers will behave. Why do you think our soldiers earn all those accolades when working under UN instructions on peace keeping duties? They only follow the standards. Do our soldiers live up to their international reputation when working in Ghana? I think no. And this is because our society makes apologies for unprofessionalism of the kind exhibited by the soldiers in this instant.

Does the regional minister actually believe that the impunity in Bawku will be curtailed by further impunity? Sending soldiers and policemen to Bawku to “discipline” suspects before a competent court of law has an opportunity to assess their guilt will only draw the military into the fracas in the north. They will lose support of innocent citizens who should be strong allies in stopping the conflict. Winning hearts and minds is key to the to a resolution. Encouraging military brutality will only entrench the conflict. If President Mills wants to solve the protracted conflict in Bawku, he must get rid of this man, he lacks the skills to bring peace to the town.

I am not a fan of Spio Gabrah, but he was spot on when he said some of these ministers should never have made it to the substitute bench.  Mr. Mark Wayongo has demonstrated that he is one of such. He has flaunted the opportunity to prove that he is belongs to Team A.

The military is a very important institution in Ghana’s development. We love them and we want to be proud of them at all times. Therefore when such infractions occur, we expect the leadership to come out and assure us that as an institution, they haven’t given up our shared values, and that they will rein in the deviants in their fold

The ilk of Wayongo must understand that human rights are universal non-negotiable rights that differentiate us from animals. That is what guarantees each of us the sanity we enjoy in Ghana. If we contrive to give it away as we have done in the past, we will live to regret it. For a minister of State, he must understand the constitutional position on such things. That is why Mr. President must get rid of Mark Wayongo from his government to show that we care about our own rights.

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