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Ghana Ministers Draw Media Criticism Over Coup Comments


Two ministers in President John Kufuor’s government have come under intense media criticism after making a hero out of the leader of the coup d’etat that led to the overthrow of Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah. Many have condemned the coup as setting the precedent for the overthrow of subsequent governments. Supporters of the government however, say while the statements of the ministers were unfortunate, they were not official government statements.

Kweku Baako is publisher and editor of the Crusading Guide, an independent Ghanaian newspaper. From the capital Accra he tells the Voice of America that he is not happy with the ministers’ pronouncements.

“Our concern has been some statements that were attributed to the two ministers, particularly the deputy attorney general, to the effect that Kotoka (leader of the coup) was a hero, and that his actions of those days left a legacy,” Baako said.

He described the ministers’ pronouncements as historically inaccurate.

“It is a historical fallacy. It’s an intellectually dishonest appreciation of Ghanaian history. Indeed if anything, the legacy of that coup was the various coups that followed also led to economic retrogression. It led also to serious human rights abuses, more than they thought. They were trying to reverse what Nkrumah had instituted. If you want to celebrate Kotoka, it’s your right. But if you want to distort history, you are not entitled to that. We can challenge that, and that is what some of us have been doing here,” he said.

Baako dismissed speculation-giving credence to perpetrators of the coup against Nkrumah, who described him as a dictator.

“Well, that is the political school of thought of those who had wanted to take Nkrumah out, even in 1958, when we were a multiparty democracy, one year after independence. And then those soldiers, Afrifa (conspirator of a coup) and the rest who wrote books after the coup, in a very jubilant manner told all of us that by 1961-62, they were plotting how to get rid of Nkrumah and his government,” he pointed out.

He said there is the need for the country to find a rationale for coups that plagued the country.

“So the point is that even when we had multipartism, the motif of overthrowing the regime was there. So we should search for the ideological and political motif, and that is why I cannot understand that 41 years down the line, after experiencing various military regimes that brought this nation to its knees, we would have dinosaurs of the type of the two ministers to be rationalizing a coup d’etat, that we all even realized was sponsored by external forces,” he noted.

Baako said although people have called for the two ministers to be dismissed for their utterances, he thinks the president has the final word on whether or not to sack the ministers.

“It is the prerogative of the president to determine who he keeps in his government. And the point is that the mere expression of their views is not all that dangerous. I can live with it, and that is why we are contesting them. The contest of ideas is part and parcel of democratic culture we are all trying to build. It’s for the president to check the effect of what they have said and how they said it and calculate the effect and decide. The president is listening. He may decide to dispense with their services. I will be surprised if he does, anyway, but I’m not sure the prescription is to remove them. No,” he said.

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