Army Commander, Others In Window Dressing Military Brutalities & Murders

Chief of Army Staff, Major General Thomas Oppong-Peprah Chief of Army Staff, Major General Thomas Oppong-Peprah

The Army Commander, whose tenure has witnessed some of the heinous atrocities in the history of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) under the forth republic, has been cited in a window dressing exercise at Wa in the Upper West Region, where some of his men went beating up some residents, last Thursday, over a missing mobile phone.

Last Thursday, the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Thomas Oppong-Peprah, was in Wa, assuring victims of the military brutalities that the rogue soldiers who assaulted them will be duly punished. But Ghana's Army Commander is not known to be a disciplinarian.

He is rather known for courting affection from his errant soldiers, and they in return do anything for him after he had spared them. There are countless incidents that he was expected to set up a military board of inquiry into disciplinary issues involving soldiers, but he refused to, The Herald has learnt.

The military brutalities at Wa, came less than 24 hours after some soldiers deployed to Ejura-Sekyeredumase in the Ashanti Region, were seen aiming and shooting into a group of protesters who were demonstrating at killing of a social media activist Ibrahim Muhammed a known voice on both local and national issues using his Facebook page. The military incident at Ejura, claimed two lives and left many injured.

Major General Oppong-Peprah, had himself been mentioned in a couple of incidents, including using soldiers under his direct command in a land guard activities at Dome Faase in the Greater Accra in Obom Domeabra constituency in the Ga South Municipality.

About three residents lost their lives for resisting attempts to take over their lands with the soldiers who were under the command and control of a retired staff sergeant Bafour Sarpong Kumankuma, who claimed to be the Mponuahene of Akyem Apedwa; a title the Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, denied and called for his arrest and prosecution.

Many residents were beating and left with permanent injuries. Others had to flee from their homes after the soldiers took over the town in a reprisal attack because the residents succeeded in driving out soldiers involved in the illegal land guard activities, who had killed two of the three residents.

In May, this year, the same Major General Oppong-Peprah, again came under the spotlight for appointing the immediate past Director of Operations at the National Security Ministry, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Agyeman, as the Commanding Officer of the 64 Infantry Battalion.

This was in spite of the fact that Lt. Col. Agyeman, had had his appointment at the National Security Ministry terminated for inappropriate conduct, following the arrest and assault of Citi News' Caleb Kudah, and the harassment of Zoe Abu-Baidoo Addo, also a Citi FM journalist.

The assaults at Wa, were said to have been triggered by the theft of a mobile phone supposedly belonging to one of the military officers.

The victims, mostly commercial tricycle operators, motorists and pedestrians, were whipped and made to roll on the bare floor, with some forced into gutters nearby where they were being pulled out, slapped by the soldiers and pushed back into the gutters.

Several of them are said to have sustained various degrees of injury.

However, speaking during a meeting which included the Upper West Regional Minister, Dr. Hafiz Bin Salih, on Thursday, the Chief of Army Staff, rendered an apology and stated that they were shocked when they saw the videos of the assault on social media.

"It took all of us by surprise last night when we saw the video of people in military uniforms on the streets of Wa challenging civilians. And after thorough investigations, we got to know that they were part of soldiers from the very unit that we have set up over here to protect civilians. So, without wasting time at all, the military High Command met, and the decision was taken immediately for me to come here to apologise for what happened, and to tell you that all those involved in this act will be brought to book. They are subject to the Military Code of Discipline, and we will apply the appropriate sanctions. Again, I want to reassure you that we wouldn't let this single occurrence mar our relationship at all," Major General Oppong- Peprah said.

But the Wa Central MP, Abdul-Rashid Pelpuo, thinks the apology from the soldiers over the brutality meted to some of his constituents is not enough.

He demanded that the military also take up their medical bills and compensate the victims for the "dehumanising" activity they were subjected to.

He stressed that the bizarre incident should be the last of any military brutality to be recorded in the area and other parts of the country.

For him, the military has caused fear and panic amongst his constituents and must take measures to make amends.

"When I heard it, I didn't believe it. The lawlessness, the impunity, the disrespect for human rights must be stopped, and the government must ensure that.

"I expect an apology. I expect that they admit that they are in the wrong, and punish the perpetrators. They should also take the responsibility of paying the medical bills of those who have sustained injuries and compensate them accordingly," he told JoyNews' Rafiq Salam.

The high-powered military delegation is in Wa to engage the traditional and community leaders.

The Overlord of the Wa Traditional Area, Wa Naa Fuseini Seidu Pelpuo IV, says the government must provide some form of compensation to inhabitants of the area who were assaulted by some soldiers on Thursday.

He said the unprovoked attack on residents of Wa by the soldiers was a breach of trust and respect between the Ghana Armed Forces and the community.

He said they also want the soldiers who partook in the assault on residents to be punished without delay.

"The events of yesterday [Thursday] constitutes a breach of mutual trust and respect we had for each other and the only damage reparation we can accept is if the men dragging the reputation of the noble profession of the military into disrepute are fished out and appropriately punished without delay, nothing less."

"We also expect a form of compensation packages for those who suffered serious atrocities in their hands," a speech read on his behalf by his Spokesperson, Naa Kadiri Abubakari noted.

According to the traditional leader, the chaos caused by the soldiers in the town caused some residents to lose their property, including a young man who could not find his tricycle after he was beaten.

"I take the opportunity to inform the Military High Command that as a result of the act, there is a young man in the palace right now who is still unable to find his tricycle."

He further called on residents of Wa to remain calm and not retaliate as efforts are being made to resolve the issue.

"I wish to call on the peace-loving and good people of the Wala Traditional Area and the Upper West Region not to allow the extreme provocative action of a misguided few of our men in uniform to push them to take the law into their own hands. We are above this," he indicated.