The demise of SMC II saw a new military junta – The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council – AFRC, on the Ghanaian political scene. Rawlings became the Chairman with Major Boakye Gyan as the Spokesman. Other members were Major Mensah Poku, Major Mensah Gbedemah, Warrant Officer Class II Obeng, Private Owusu Adu, Corporal Owusu Boateng, Staff Sergeant Alex Adjei, leading Aircraftman Gatsiko, Lance Corporal Sarkodee Addo, Lance-Corporal Peter Tasiri, Lance-Corporal Ansah-Atiemo and Corporal Sheikh Tetteh. General Hamidu was named as the Liaison Officer between the AFRC and the government bureauracy.
The AFRC declared that the coup d’etat was not to stop the return to civilian rule but to clear up the mess created by the previous regimes. As pointed out by Rawlings in a Radio and TV broadcast on June 30, 1979, “The action represented a revolt of the ordinary Ghanaian against social injustice, against economic hardship and against the cancer of corruption that had eaten deep into the fabric of our society”. They were to ensure that the “gap between the haves and have-nots, the rich and poor is bridged”.
As an explanation for the country’s economic and social woes during a meeting with staff, workers and students of the University of Science and Technology on July 6, 1979, Rawlings identified lack of moral courage to challenge leaders with dubious character and hoped that Ghanaians would gather courage to show “red cards” to future politicians who would indulge in dirty tricks to plunge the economy into further mess.
Rawlings thus openly advocated a “house cleaning” operation that would erase all manifestations of corruption, profiteering or malfeasance associated in any way with previous governments. Second, he wished to bring about a moral turn-about, to reinstitute a norm of public accountability, and awaken the masses to their rights and responsibilities.
As a first step in the “house-cleaning” exercise, Mr. I. K. Acheampong and Major General E. K. Utuka were executed at the Teshie military range on June 16, 1979 after a hastily assembled revolutionary court. Ten days later, (June 26) the death sentence on General F. W. K. Akuffo, Lt. General A. A. Afrifa (ex-Head of State and Chairman of the NLC), Major-General R.E.A. Kotei, Air Vice-Marshall George Yaw Boakye, Real Admiral J.K. Amedume, and Colonel R. J. A. Felli was pronounced and implemented. They had apparently been found guilty by a People’s Court for offences under AFRCD 3 1979 Section 3(1) sub-sections (a) to (e).
After these executions, the whole country was subjected to a state of terror as the organised violence in the military camps spilled over into the civilian sector. The administration of justice was instant and at times brutal. Women arrested for selling commodities above the control price were stripped naked and whipped in the open. Many Lebanese, Syrian and Indian businessmen, who had always been alleged to be part of the corruption spree were rounded up at random and brutalized, some had their houses looted.
Summary dismissal of public servants, confiscation of assets and property were applied as a means of stamping out corruption and other malpractices which crippled the country’s economy. Alarmed by the excesses, the Ghana Bar Association demanded an open trial for those accused under AFRCD 3. Section 3(1) sub-sections (a) to (e).
Leaders of political parties, the Christian Council of Ghana, the National Catholic Secretariat and the Ghana Assembly of Women appealed for justice to be tampered with mercy. But many ordinary people, workers and especially students from the universities demanded – “Let the blood flow”. For instance on July 2, 1979, students of UST paraded the principal streets of Kumasi in support of the “secret trials” and the executions. Students of the University of Ghana also demonstrated their support with a march on July 3, 1979. Some held placards reading “Kill them all”. Even the Christian paper, the Catholic Standard in its editorial of June 24, 1979 captioned “The Great Lesson”, supported the executions.
People’s Revolutionary Courts thus continued to try and impose heavy sentences on people found guilty of ‘doing an act with intent to sabotage the economy of Ghana’ and other charges. Among those jailed were J.W.K. Harlley, former IGP and member of the NLC (25 years), E.O. Boakye (alias Boakye mattress, businessman) – 25 years, Ernest Ako, former IGP (25 years), B.S.K. Kwakye, former IGP (25 years) and E.K.. Owusu of Kowus Motors (25 years).
Others were U.K. Yemoh (alias Kojo Sardine, businessman) – 20 years, Squadron Leader George Tagoe, Squadron Leader Abebrese, Col. Ahlijah, Group Captain Jackson and Col. Amevor, were jailed 20 years each.
On July 4, 1979, the Inspector General of Police, C.O. Lamptey announced that 36 senior police officers were to proceed on compulsory leave as part of the “cleaning up exercise”. They were accused of “straight forward” cases of stealing, hoarding, profiteering, amassing illegal wealth and acting as frontmen for women and other business concerns in the procurement of essential commodities. Some of them, the announcement continued, had indulged in various acts of gross dishonesty “as far as morals are concerned.” Colonel P.H.S. Yarney was to refund to the state, immediately, an amount of £7,433.00 (C14,940,33) approved by the NRC as Special Advance to enable him wind up his duty in London and assume duty in Ghana as Commissioner for information. Tax evaders were given deadlines to settle their tax obligations “or face revolutionary action”.
Within months, the AFRC had recovered millions of cedis (C23,954,536.00) in tax arrears which were paid into AFRC Account Number 48 at the Burma Camp branch of the Ghana Commercial Bank. The government also took over private companies which were found to have indulged in economic sabotage including tax evasion. Among them was Tata Brewery. The Makola Number 1 market, which was considered the citadel of kalabule, was demolished on Saturday, August 18, 1979.
On July 11, 1979 the AFRC directed all top management personnel of state corporations and enterprises to declare their assets by July 17, 1979. And in a government White Paper issued on September 12, 1979 the Cocoa Marketing Board was dissolved with its Board of Directors to be replaced by a Cocoa Council. The Ministry of Cocoa Affairs was also abolished and its personnel redeployed. As a relief to the working class, the AFRC ordered landlords to reduce rents by 50 percent. ’ Landlords were to seek approval from the government before ejection. Cocoa farmers were not left out in this exercise as the producer price of cocoa was increased from C80.00 to C120.00 to revamp the industry. The inefficiency of government departments came under focus. For instance, the Ghana Highways Authority and the Cape Coast District Council were given three days to fill the pot holes in the streets of Cape Coast. Also, the Chief Justice was given the power to suspend the salaries of judges and magistrates who failed to deliver judgments within the prescribed time limits.
Civil servants and the working class in general were advised about their attitude to work. They were not only to report to work on time but must be seen behind their tables attending to their schedules. Despite the successes of the AFRC in its bid to ensure social justice and to rid the country of corrupt practices, it went to extremes with serious consequences.
The execution of the three former Heads of State and other top brass of the army led to international outcry and condemnation. These actions caused loss of confidence among overseas investors. The IMF and other sources of investment and aid dried up. Moreover, in protest against the political executions, foreign suppliers started an informal economic embargo, inducing further food and crude oil shortages.
For example, a Japanese shipment of canned fish mysteriously never arrived. And an oil tanker from Nigeria entered the Tema Harbour, turned around and steamed back to Nigeria as news of Akuffo’s execution was announced; Ghana’s credit period for Nigerian oil was cut back from ninety (90) to thirty (30) days and immediate payment for outstanding bills was demanded.
It needs to be emphasised that these reactions attracted sharp condemnation from Ghanaians, especially university students. In their demonstration on July 3 in support of the AFRC, some of the students held placards some of which read: ‘Hands off Ghana’, ’Expose the British hypocrisy’, ‘Shut up Nigeria’, ‘keep your oil, we’ll burn wood’, ’Obasanjo, who are you?’.
As the regime was not able to keep all the soldiers under control, some of them went about not only maltreating law abiding citizens for no apparent reasons, but shot and killed defenseless Ghanaians for alleged offenses which otherwise would have attracted no punishment in any well constituted law court. For instance, at Agona Swedru, one Mr. Asante, a businessman, was shot and killed by a trigger happy soldier for alleged hoarding of cement. Mr. Asante however had a building project in progress. And at Gomoa Abaasa near Agona Swedru, a woman was shot dead for allegedly hoarding two half- pieces of GTP wax print.
The result of the indiscriminate sale of existing stock of commodities at “control prices”, led to empty stalls. Farmers also refused to bring their food to urban centres for sale for fear of their produce being seized by soldiers to be sold at confiscatory rates.
The result of these reckless acts was that prices of essential commodities and foodstuffs increased astronomically which was beyond the means of the ordinary Ghanaian. Though Rawlings became an instant hero for his patriotism, courage and dislike for injustice, Ghanaians were not enthused about the country experiencing another long period of military rule and therefore the AFRC had to abide by its own promise of going back to the barracks on October, 1, 1979. For these reasons, the elections which had been slated for June 18, 1979 were duly held.
Of the nearly two dozen parties (19 in all) that were launched after the ban on party activity was lifted, six survived a series of mergers and realignments to contest the elections. They were: the People’s National Party (PNP) headed by Hilla Limann, the Popular Front Party (PFP) led by Victor Owusu, the United National Convention (UNC), under the leadership of William Ofori Atta, and the Action Congress Party (ACP) with Colonel (Rtd.) Frank George Barnasko as its head. Others were the Third Force Party (TFP) and the Social Democratic Front (SDF) led by John Bilson and Ibrahim Mahama respectively.
Besides these leaders, other four candidates – R.P. Baffour, Imoru Ayarna, Kwame Nyanteh and Diamond Mark Addy – contested the post of president as independent candidates.
When tallied, the parliamentary votes showed a clear majority for the PNP, which secured 71 out of the 140 contested seats. Hilla Limann, the PNP presidential candidate, together with his running mate, J. W. de Graft Johnson, polled 630,034 votes representing 35.51 per cent of votes cast, as opposed to the Victor Owusu- Tolon Na, Yacobu Tali slate of 526,249 votes or 29.66% of votes cast.
Though the PNP won the majority in the parliamentary elections, its candidate failed to poll 50% (plus one) of votes cast as required by law to have outright victory and therefore another balloting had to be organised between the two leading contestants, namely, Hilla Limann and Victor Owusu. In the second round of the presidential election held on 9 July, 1979, Hilla Limann polled 1,118,305, i.e 61.98% as against Victor Owusu’s 686,097, i.e 39.2 per cent. On September 24, 1979, the AFRC handed over power to Dr. Hilla Limann.
Anthony Obeng Afrane