TALKING DRUM: Of the protesting law students & Nana Addo’s attack dogs!

Before the protesting law students embarked on their demonstration, speeches upon speeches were read by some executives of their front. Prominent among these speeches— in my view— was that by the President of the National Association of Law Students, Nii Adokwei Cudjoe. Mr. Adokwei had not only charged his students to remain steadfast to their cause of protesting for reforms in the country’s legal education but that they should vehemently resist the oppressor’s rule. “History will remember you. Do not think what you are doing [the demonstration] is in vain? We have come to the crossroads and your boldness is a statement. We are not here hiding our faces. If we keep singing the National Anthem but do not live it then whom are we praying to? Resist oppressor’s rule,” he said. As if by dint of fate, the protesters later on in their demonstration encountered a situation that demanded they vehemently resist the oppressor’s rule as earlier admonished. Nonetheless, the protesting law students were as helpless as a tethered he-goat. They could not resist the oppressor— at that moment— being the Ghana Police Service and not the Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo. Just about a stone throw from the Liberation Road, the direction from the Ako Adjei Overpass towards the Jubilee House in Accra, heavily armed police men and women numbering close to 20 or more confronted the protesting students. This was on Monday, October 7, 2019 when the students had walked peacefully from the very entrance of the Ghana School of Law, using the Atta Mills Highstreet to negotiate the curve to walk in front of the High Court Complex through to the ministries to the Office of the Attorney General, to the office of the Ghana Bar Association [close to the Ghana Institute of Journalism] and finally headed to the Jubilee House where they were stopped on the Liberation Road. I must state that I followed the protesters from the beginning of the journey till they met the police who used force on them. In all honesty, doing my job as a journalist on that day, reporting for Media General’s radio stations [3FM and Onua FM], I never saw the protesters showing any sign of aggression at any point. They didn’t pose danger to pedestrians/motorists or whoever came their way. It was at the Office of the Attorney General that the students ambushed the vehicle of the Deputy AG, Godfred Dame. Here, I never saw any student raising a hand to hit his vehicle or whatsoever. The ambushing of Mr. Dame’s vehicle was just understandable in the given situation of a protest where the students needed nothing but the man taking their petition so they could leave. This, when I later read a concocted account by the Ghana Police Service on the students’ demonstration, I pitied this country called Ghana. A law enforcement entity having a penchant for telling lies to save itself from atrocities committed is more dangerous than a mentally derailed man wielding a gun! Portions of the said statement read: “They then headed towards Jubilee House and on reaching King Tackie Tawiah/[Ako Adjei] Overpass, they sat in the middle of the road and pelted the Police with stones and offensive weapons. In the process, police sprayed cold water and fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.” To put it succinctly, it was not until the police prevented the students from marching to the Jubilee House that their leaders told them to sit down on the road. They did not just sit upon reaching there! Even this, Mr. Adokwei had pleaded with his members to occupy one lane of the road so approaching vehicles could have their way. The students eventually obliged. Again, no protesting student threw even a grain of gari at any police officer as the police claimed receiving pelted stones. If the police have evidence to this effect— being pelted with stones and others— then I dare them to bring forth such to counter some of us who followed the protest with rapt attention. Rather annoyingly, it was the police who fired over 10 warning shots [into the air], fired rubber bullets [leading to a cameraman with sustaining injuries] and aggressively using its water cannons on the students. For those students who showed sign of resistance, they were hauled and manhandled like expired goods and shoved into police trucks. Observing the gloomy mood of the armed police, one would have thought that perhaps Boko Haram had invaded our country. So, it was sickening seeing the level of force used against a group of harmless protesters. If the police had employed these heavily armed officers in the case of the Takoradi missing girls, I am certain we would have had a better story to tell of the girls. But, they remained adamant because they feared for their lives to confront the kidnappers [one of them is their own who aided the prime suspect to ‘break jail’] and now would annoyingly show their muscles on the protesting law students. On the day of the protest, I spoke off camera to an officer of the Accra Regional Police Command who was at the scene of the police’s use of force. His account to me and what I subsequently heard the Director of Public Affairs at the Ghana Police Service, ASP David Eklu, narrate to 3FM News tell that the police merely acted as puppets of some persons within the Jubilee House on that fateful Monday. Of a truth, the police’s account on why they stopped the protesters does not make sense. That, they did not approve the said demonstration. Meanwhile, the leadership of the students and the police had met about five days before the demonstration as they [leaders] submitted a letter of the protest detailing their route and what have you. This, ASP David Eklu admits in the 3FM interview with morning show host, Winston Amoah, that they [police] had sent a separate letter of cancelation to the students but it could not reach them until the very morning of the day earmarked for the demonstration. So, the police in its wisdom expected the students to call off their demonstration when they had made arrangements including buses, with other students from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in the Ashanti Region and those from the University of Cape Coast all on their way to Accra to protest? Again, if the police say the protest was illegal, why did they not stop the students from embarking it in the first place when they [police] were at the Ghana School of Law in the morning? Clearly, it suggests that all is not well with the Ghana Police Service. Their inability to take sound decisions on their own often stupefies their front and this is true in their use of unnecessary force on the law students. If you have a president who ‘cleared’ police officers mentioned for wrongdoings by the Emile Short Commission that probed the Ayawaso by election fracas, then you expect nothing but emboldening some of our police wo/men to wallow in their stupidity. Are these officers not ‘attack dogs’!? Away from the police and their day of shame, I only think that the demands of the law students are genuine and all and sundry must join them in their ‘fight’ for reforms in the country’s legal education. Does it make sense that a student having ‘Cs’ in three [3] subjects is said to have failed all other subjects even if they had say ‘As’ in the rest? Does it make sense that a student seeking to resit a failed paper is obliged to pay ₵3000? So, if you failed three papers you pay ₵9000 for resit! Are the resit papers questions set by God? Why are students writing the contested entrance examination into the Ghana School of Law obliged to sign a bond/undertaking? Speaking to some of the protesters, I chastised them for signing such a document. No matter the explanation the students give, I think people being trained to be lawyers must not sign such an undertaking that forbids them from protesting if they failed the entrance examination. If one of America’s celebrated journalists, Amy Goodman, was right when she said, “Go to where the silence is and say something”, then this is the time for you [reading this piece] to say something in the face of powers-that-be going cold on the students’ demand. The study of law — a prestigious profession— must not be made to seem in Ghana as though one is studying the nature and origin of the mysterious beings in heaven. The charcoal seller’s child must equally have access to the Ghana School of Law as has the crooked politician’s child. By Solomon Mensah The writer is a broadcast journalist with Media General [TV3/3FM]. Views expressed herein are solely his, and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organisation whatsoever. Email: [email protected]

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