Assistant Commissioner of Police, (ACP), Dr Benjamin Kwasi Agordzo has told the Financial and Economic Division of the High Court in Accra that his comments on Arab Spring has no link with criminality.
He said he never also entered into an agreement with anyone to overthrow government.
Prosecution has accused the senior Police Officer of abetting Chief Executive Officer of the Citadel Hospital, Dr Frederick Yao Mac-Palm of (blessed memory) to stage a coup.
But, mounting a defense to the charge, ACP Agordzo, said as an opinionated person as he is, his comments on Arabs Spring was purely to describe a “manifestation.”
He told the court that, Dr Nyaho Tamakloe, a founding member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in a radio interview on 27, August 2019, decried the massive corruption under Akufo-Addo led administration and “warned that the situation could lead to civil uprising.”
Dr. Tamakloe he said again, in explaining civil unrest, “described Arab Spring as a revolution that happened in North Africa, but he was not arrested because expressing his opinion on the subject matter by way of caution just like he did, did not constitute a crime.”
ACP Benjamin Agordzo also wondered why Presiding Archbishop and General Overseer of the Action Chapel International Ministry, “Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams who spoke on the possibility of civil uprising in Ghana was also not arrested.”
He said, “the Archbishop predicted an uprising akin to the Arab Spring after 2020 in Ghana and West Africa if the high levels of youth unemployment and animosity in African politics continued.”
ACP Agordzo made this known while opening his defence before a three-member panel of the Accra High Court presided over by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, a Justice of the Court of Appeal, sitting as an additional High Court judge on the charge of abetment.
ACP Agordzo and eight others are currently before the court facing their respective charges and have pleaded not guilty.
Discussions on Arab springs
ACP Agordzo said, aside Alert with Adam Bonaa, “Arab Spring is also an issue I have broached in my Power Point presentation on Conflict Prevention, Management and Transformation class with Masters Students at the Centre for Conflict, Human Rights and Peace Studies at University of Education, Winneba.”
“The prosecution also accused me of abetting an alleged attempted coup of Dr Mac-Palm because I responded to a question on the possibility of spontaneous uprising in Ghana using Arab Spring as illustration.
“I like to state that I merely expressed an opinion on an issue that does not have any link whatsoever with criminality.
“This is because Arab Spring is just like any form of mass demonstration or uprising of citizens; and that it is a democratic means of expressing dissent or disagreement,” ACP Agordzo stated.
“It is never the same as a coup d’état as the prosecution seeks to portray. I wish to reiterate the fact that the term “Arab Spring” is not different from Civil Unrest, Civil Agitation, Civil Uprising, Civil Disobedience, Mass Uprising and Spontaneous Uprising among others.
“Arab Spring is merely a term used to describe manifestation of one or more of the aforementioned because a series of demonstrations broke out in several Arab countries hence the term ‘Arab Spring,’ he explained.
“That is why in explaining Arab spring, one could hardly do without mentioning civil unrest and civil uprising among others. This also explains why the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
“Besides, the opinion I expressed on Arab Spring is in accordance with article 21(b) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana which states “All persons shall have the right to – freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom.”
“Such expression of opinion could not amount to criminality unless those alleging criminality have a predetermined agenda,” the Senior Police Officer stated.
“Furthermore, this is a subject matter I have expressed my opinion on at several fora including my discussions on other WhatsApp platforms such as Alert with Adam Bonaa of which the Minister of Defence, Dominic Nitiwul, the Minister of the Interior Ambrose Dery, senior police officers including the Inspectors-General of Police, media practitioners, academics and members of civil society organisations, are members.
“The conversation on civil unrest on that platform was triggered by a post by a member attributed to Nyaho Tamakloe that “Civil unrest imminent in Ghana” on 28 August, 2019 which elicited a number of reactions from members of the platform including mine as follows:
“From the chats above, it is clear that I do not shy away from sharing my opinions on various subject matters including issues bothering on security on Alert with Adam Bonaa platform.
“Again, it is clear that I was not the only person who agreed with Nyaho Tamakloe even though a few other disagreed with him.
“Therefore, my response to Mac-Palm on the possibility of a spontaneous uprising in Ghana was nothing new especially when I am familiar with the subject matter.
“Aside Alert with Adam Bonaa, Arab Spring is also an issue I have broached in my Power Point presentation on Conflict Prevention, Management and Transformation class with Masters Students at the Centre for Conflict, Human Rights and Peace Studies at University of Education, Winneba.
“This presentation was used in my bail application at the latter part of 2019 and a copy served on the prosecution.
“The prosecution can, therefore, not claim they are unaware of the existence of such a document,” ACP Agordzo explained.
Context of Arab Spring
While explaining the context of in which he said, “but it is important that I explain the context with in which I expressed my opinion on the possibility of a spontaneous uprising or Arab Spring in Ghana.”
“How such opinion expressed within the above context constitutes abetment of high treason still beats my imagination,” he wondered.
“In any case, there are countless prominent individuals including President Nana Akufo-Addo (then candidate), members of the clergy, members of Parliament, academia and officials of state institutions in Ghana who have openly spoken and warned governments about the possibility of civil unrest in Ghana if steps are not taken to address prevailing structural and situational factors in order to avoid spontaneous uprising in the form of Arab Spring.
“I wonder why such personalities had not been invited for questioning if discussions on the possibility of Arab Spring in Ghana constituted a crime,” he stated.
Nyaho Tamakloe’s example
He told the court that, “a founding member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Ghana, Nyaho Tamakloe,2 in an interview on Atinka FM on 27, August 2019, decried the massive corruption under Akufo Addo led administration and warned that the situation could lead to civil uprising. According to Nyaho Tamakloe,
“Again, in explaining civil unrest, Nyaho described Arab Spring as a “revolution that happened in North Africa.”
“But again, Nyaho was also not arrested because expressing his opinion on the subject matter by way of caution just like I did, did not constitute a crime,” he pointed out to the court.
“The level of corruption under Akufo Addo’s government is the worst ever in the history of Ghana and if he doesn’t take care, there’ll be a civil unrest under his leadership just like the revolution that happened in the North of Africa,” he stated.
Archbishop Duncan-Williams’ example
ACP Agordzo, “another personality who has spoken on the possibility of civil uprising in Ghana is the Presiding Archbishop and General Overseer of the Action Chapel International Ministry, Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams.
“The Archbishop predicted an uprising akin to the Arab Spring after 2020 in Ghana and West Africa if the high levels of youth unemployment and animosity in African politics continued. He stated emphatically:
“If sharing opinions on the possibility of civil uprising in the form of Arab Spring were a crime, then what was worse than what the Archbishop said? But he was not arrested either because expressing opinion on the subject matter by way of caution just like I did, does not constitute a crime,” he told the Court.
“I wish to say that I am first and foremost a citizen and also a very opinionated Police Officer. By virtue of the roles I have played in the Ghana Police Service both nationally and internationally, I have been teaching and speaking on these national issues such as political vigilantism, election security, election violence and contemporary security challenges among others at different fora in different capacities.
“Indeed, I had collaborated with the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) and the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) to tour the country and discuss some of those issues across the country with the approval of the Police Administration after the 2016 general elections.
“I also had close collaboration with the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) where I gave a number of lectures on security-related issues.
“I, therefore, did not see anything wrong with expressing the same or similar opinions in conversation with Dr Mac-Palm and on other WhatsApp platforms.
“I definitely was not inciting or encouraging the members of ALERT WITH ADAM BONAA (including the Inspector-General of Police, and Ministers of Defence and Interior or my audience at IDEG and CODEO to overthrow the government by unlawful means when I addressed similar comments to them, yet in my conversation with Dr Mac-Palm, the said comments have been taken out of context to mean that I was encouraging him to undertake a coup. How strange!
“For instance on 28 March 2017, at a CODEO Post-Election Review workshop at Ada, I made the following statement after a careful analysis of the political vigilante activities and security situation in Ghana:
“The event brought together politicians, civil society organisations, academia and security chiefs including Maj-Gen Andoh who was then in charge of Military Intelligence.
“Other statements I made during that presentation include: Vigilante groups are at the heart of the control of political parties almost taking the place of foot-soldiers (slide 13 of my IDEG Presentation, 2018) If nothing is done to stop this menace, we’ll be witnessing Rule of Political Parties; not the Rule of Law (slide 15 of my IDEG Presentation, 2018).
Prosecuting electoral offenders
Section 42 of the Representation of the People Law, 1992 P.N.D.C.L. 284 states;
“A person shall not be prosecuted for an offence under this Act without the consent in writing of the Attorney-General…”
Effect of this provision is that Police can only arrest, investigate and submit dockets to the Attorney General’s office for advice (slide 16 of my IDEG Presentation, 2018)
Unless and until the Attorney-General consents and/or permits an entity to prosecute alleged electoral offenders, the offenders cannot be prosecuted.
In whose interest is this Section in the Representation of the People Law? Is it not a means by which Attorney General would shield supporters of their political party thereby perpetrating impunity?
Need for Ghanaians and Civil Society Organisations to work toward amending this section of the law to allow for prosecution after investigations by the Police once there is evidence. This would go a long way to neutralizing the hands of politician in electoral offences (slide 17 of my IDEG Presentation, 2018). You cannot tie the hands of the Police with the kind of constitutional arrangement that we have and expect them to be professional (slide 18 of my IDEG Presentation, 2018).
“The current constitutional arrangement of appointment and removal of the police leadership does not easily embolden police Chiefs to act impartially. For the Ghana Police Service to be impartial and completely insulated from all kinds of interferences implies embarking on robust constitutional reforms (slide 19 of my IDEG Presentation, 2018).
“It is not enough to disband or prosecute members of political vigilante groups. It is also important to appreciate that the political vigilantes went through a process or some kind of orientation or radicalisation to assume the postures they exhibit. Need to re-orient or de-radicalise them to accept the realities of their situation. They must not be made to feel neglected and abandoned by a system they have worked for (slide 29 of my IDEG Presentation, 2018).
“The belief system nurtured in political vigilante members must be neutralized. This is because the motivation for joining political vigilantes group is not different from the motivation for joining a rebel or terrorist group. If they feel neglected, we might end up producing a ready army of disgruntled and disillusioned youth with no loyalty to the state and therefore vulnerable to all kinds of deception (slide 30 of my IDEG Presentation, 2018).
“A national conversation on the issue to be led by the National Peace Council and moderated by a renowned Ghanaian such with the three former Presidents in attendance. This forum must provide for honest retrospection and introspection on the effect of political vigilantes on the fortunes of Ghana with
the view to committing Ghanaians to say “Never Again”.
“Such a forum must be devoid of blame game or sanctimonious postures and provide a realistic roadmap toward ending political vigilantism (slide 32 of my IDEG Presentation, 2018). (emphasis supplied)
He said, “The above quotations reinforce my opinionated nature; and further give credence to the fact that my opinions on the possibility of a spontaneous uprising in the form of Arab spring on TAG Spring Board and the possibility of civil uprising on Alert with Adam Bonaa are consistent with my opinionated nature.”
“But before I end the issue on my Arab Spring comment, I wish to reinforce the fact that I have always been opinionated, by sharing an opinion piece I wrote about the controversial issue of members of the public videoing police operations which I shared with friends on WhatsApp including Mac Palm as follows:”
Wondering…. Just wondering whether we could have mobilized such massive support for our colleague police officer if somebody had not covered that scene which went viral?
I understand the driver and his mate reported a case against the police officer at another police. That may have informed the olaudacuty of the WO in going for his vehicle.
I dare say that if that video had not gone viral, the Police officer may NOT have received justice. Indeed until the video went viral, not much attention was paid to the case.
But for the video that went viral, some “high-shoulders” and “big-men” may have intervened in this matter in one way or the other to “coerce” some form of settlement may be against the wish of the police officer.
We have to be thankful to that benevolent spirit who took that video and sent it viral. He/she is a hero/heroine par excellence.
“But still wondering…. What if another police officer saw this benevolent spirit taking this video and endedvip destroying the evidence or got the benevolent spirit arrested? Could we have had this piece of evidence.
“The lesson here (and I know not all Police officers may agree and I respect their contrary views) is that videos (no matter who takes them) are so key in evidence gathering because of its graphic nature. The cover details that may otherwise not be perceived.
“As part of their work, journalist take videos for evidencial purposes. If I’m doing the right things, I should not fear anybody with a camera around me. As I said the other time, GPS personnel will eventually wearing body cameras in all their interaction with the public. Taking videos of Police actions have come to stay with us. It doesn’t matter who takes the videos.
“The earlier we got used to it and modified our attitudes, the better. We can never justify the assault on the police officer by the driver and his mate irrespective of the conduct of the police officer; neither can we ever justify the assault on the 3 journalists irrespective of whether they were taking pictures of us or not. We need to leave such negative tendencies and mind sets behind us.