Ghana’s deputy information minister has sharply denied the arrest of an opposition lawmaker is politically motivated.
James Agyenim Boateng said the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the police arrested Kennedy Ohene Agyepong Monday after the legislator declared war during a radio show on Friday. He reportedly called for war against those who allegedly attacked party supporters registering to vote.
Others say he allegedly called on opposition supporters to attack two ethnic groups who seem to support the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Agyepong is the main opposition New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) Member of Parliament for the Assin North constituency in the Central region. Agyepong, a businessman who also owns a radio and a television station in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, is an avowed critic of the administration.
“The arrest of [the lawmaker] has nothing political about it… He had gone on his own radio station to, in his own words, declare a war from today… he has called for the lynching of all Gas [people from Accra] and Ewes [people from the Volta region] in the Ashanti region.”
“The laws of Ghana frown on that, and what we have done as a government is to activate the laws against any such pronouncements and declaration of war.”
Boateng said the legislator had recently made similar remarks. He said the police invited Mr. Agyepong to question him about his behavior. They are also trying to ascertain the exact words he used during his interview.
“It is a very fluid situation. The police are looking at it, and that is why he has been called in.”
Some supporters of the ruling party say the arrest of the outspoken lawmaker is a move by the government to silence critics. The deputy information minister disagrees.
“All of us as politicians ought to be accountable [within the parameters of the law] to our people and be responsible for our pronouncements,” said Boateng.
“He is only being investigated at this point. I do believe that at the appropriate time, charges may be leveled against him, and he will have his day in court.”
Those charges, says his attorney Atta Akyea, could include treason.
He said the arrest of his client is unwarranted, and that his remarks were misconstrued.
“He was trying to prompt the conscience of the nation that if we don’t rise up to the occasion and deal with such instances of lawlessness the nation will be on the verge of chaos. And that he is declaring war [and] that we should rise up to the occasion and stem the tide of lawlessness and thuggery,” said Akyea.
“I have a sense of fairness. If the police are fair, and there is nothing political about what they are doing my client should be administered bail because so far as I am concerned… he was talking metaphorically.”
Akyea said his client just engages in “hard talk”, which he said, is normal among Ghanaian politicians.
“For somebody’s freedom of expression and also the way he does it to be convert into criminality, I’m afraid democracy is being [turned] upside down…I think this is a political jamboree that is not necessary.”
He said the arrest of the lawmaker will incense supporters of the main opposition party and likely lead to demonstrations against Agyepong’s detention.