13 December 2012

Ghana: Ramifications of the Police Cum Military Raid On La Monte Guest House


I tried several times yesterday to reach the Acting Director of the Public Affairs Department of the Ghana Police. I called D.S.P. Cephas Arthur's Tigo cellular phone for umpteen times, while composing this piece. The answer was the same. "The number you are calling has not responded..." Apparently, the Acting Director was engaged in other matters.

Like the obedient servant of the Police Service, DSP Cephas Arthur called back. When I got him finally, I tried to understand the import of a press release issued by the Police Service on the raid of an office being used by research officers of the New Patriotic Party to unravel what they claim was systematic fraud in the collation of constituency results, and which, in the opinion of the party, gave President John Dramani a first round victory he did not deserve.

The statement, signed by Commissioner of Police John Kudalor, Director of Operations of the Police Service, tried, rather be-labouredly, to justify the raid on an Accra office being used by the opposition NPP.

"The Ghana Police Service wishes to debunk allegations carried by a section of the electronic media to the effect that a team of police and military personnel raided the Headquarters of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) on Tuesday, 11th December 2012.

"It was further alleged that on raiding the said premises, the team carried away a lot of materials and items, including computers and evidence being put together to fight their cause in the court.

"The Police Service wishes to state emphatically that the said allegations are false and unfounded. The Police neither raided the NPP headquarters nor carry away any such items and document."

The statement went on to state that a combined team of police and military personnel, indeed, raided an address at Asylum Down, a suburb of Accra, because, according to information available to the service, "some macho men, numbering twenty (20), had arrived at a location near the Burkina Faso Embassy at Asylum Down, and were offloading arms.

"The team of security officers, taking cognisance of the times, quickly mobilised men to visit the place to establish the veracity of the allegation. The team got there at about 5:15 p.m. and located the house, and identified it to be La Monte Guest House."

The long and short of the statement is that the men on the operation did not find any arms and returned to the barracks.

What is interesting about the statement is that at the time the statement was written, the Police appeared unaware that the address in question was being used as the research office of the NPP, and that it was the specific address where the party had engaged volunteers to sift through the maze of election results, as part of the NPP's evidence gathering process to go to court.

Be it as it may, I am interested in knowing whether or not the police and military raiders enquired from the 30 or so people they claimed to have identified at the said premises, what they were doing at the identified address. Were they paid guests of the Guest House? If they were not paid residents and were engaged to do a job there, were the police raiders told who engaged the volunteers?"

It would be highly improbable that a group of military and police on an operation looking for arms would raid a place without knowing what a group of people they encountered at the address were doing.

Whether the raiders took away exhibits or not is not the issue here. I am tempted to hold the view that the police statement did not do a professional job in explaining what happened. I have the hunch that there is more to what happened at the La Monte Guest House than the police have explained.

In the official statement, the police said they found 30 people in the address they raided. It would not be professional on the part of the police to simply identify the people in the house without knowing what they were doing in that particular address at the point in time.

Read the Police statement: "The team (combined team of police and military) got there at about 5:15 p.m., and identified it to be La Monte Guest House. The team entered the house and found about 30 people inside the house.

"The people were called together and the leader identified. A team of security officers identified themselves to the inmates, and informed them about their mission. The team of officers was then led to search the rooms. No arms were found. The team of officers then took leave of the people."

One interesting addition to the police statement is the following: "It must be noted that Section 94 of Act 30/60 allows the Police, on reasonable suspicion, to enter any premises to conduct a search. "

I do not believe anybody has claimed that the police have no power to conduct a search on any premises if officers deem it necessary. What is curious about this raid is the attempt to deny that the police ever did know, even after the raid, that the premises they visited is the research centre where volunteers are collating evidence from the result of the December 7 poll to enable the NPP present the evidence in court.

As a social commentator, I am beginning to feel uneasy about the drama. My problem is not the raid per se. The problem I have is the rather determined effort by the police to claim that even after the raid the police did not know that the NPP had anything to do with the premises.

Read this bit of the police statement: "There is, therefore, no substance in the allegation that the team of security officers invaded the NPP headquarters and carried computers away. The public are, therefore, entreated to dismiss the allegation as a piece of information intended to throw dust into the eyes of the public."

I do not, in all honesty, believe that anybody has identified the raided premises as the headquarters of the NPP. What some electronic media houses in Accra alluded to yesterday, was that the premises were being used by the NPP to sift through the results of the elections to gather evidence to back their decision to go to court.

The raid, in all honesty, appears to be a carefully orchestrated attempt to scare the volunteers gathering evidence for the NPP. I am afraid that is the deduction I make of the whole drama.

If the police now realise that their officers made a mistake, the right thing to do is to apologise to the NPP and let us get on with our lives. We do not want to live in a democracy where the force of the state could be unleashed on any group of people who have reasons to question the authorities on what do not appear to be clear.

Lest I forget, there is more to the controversy about these election results than the officials are prepared to admit. It emerged yesterday that both the Convention People's Party and the Progressive People's Party have several issues with the results declared.

Getting to the bottom of these disputed results is fundamental to the survival of our democracy.

Thirty-one years after one man, and those who claim to believe in him, shot their way to power and used the intimidating powers of the state to legitimise their illegitimacy, the time is long due for citizens of Ghana to go about our normal duties of challenging authority on what is not right without the force of state breathing down our necks. I shall return!

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