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Today in 1982, Three Ghanaian Judges Were Killed

On the 30th of June in 1982, three High Court judges— Justices Kwadwo Adjei Agyepong, Poku Sarkodie and Mrs. Cecelia Koranteng-Addow , a nursing mother— were killed.

The three justices were murdered together with a retired Major in the Ghana Armed Forces. Sam Acquah, the retired major, was the Director of Personnel at the Ghana Industrial Holding Corporation (GIHOC).

Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow

The four were branded as ‘enemies of the revolution’ by the then Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) which was led by Mr. Jerry John Rawlings. The judges, according to Roger Gocking’s History of Ghana, had overturned judgments handed by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)’s People’s Revolutionary Courts. It turned out that all the three judges were sitting reviewing cases brought to them by aggrieved citizens in connection with the treatment meted out to them by the AFRC junta led by Mr Rawlings after the June 4 1979 coup.

The three Justices: From left, Justice Sarkodie, Justice Koranteng-Addow and Justice Agyepong.

As for Major Sam Acquah,  his crime was that he had signed letters that led to the dismissal of some agitating workers, including a PNDC member Joachim Amartey Kwei.  These members were dismissed after invading and destroying property at Ghana’s Parliament house.

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Lance Corporal Amedeka, Tony Tekpor and Dzandu, all soldiers, had taken their captives to the Bondase military firing range and executed them. The murderers carried along a gallon of fuel (petrol) with which they set fire to the bodies to cover up their crime.

But historical accounts have noted that it rained that night, so the bodies did not burn as the murderers wanted.

Ever since the incident, the nation has not had closure on the turn of events of this particular day. Several people have accused the late former president Jerry John Rawlings as the mastermind behind these murders. Prior to these accusations, Jerry John Rawlings had come on national television to denounce what he described as “hideous crimes of terrorism”, after the bodies of the judges were discovered.

Following a public outcry, the PNDC set up the Special Investigation Board (SIB) headed by former Chief Justice Mr. Justice Azu Crabbe to unravel the mystery.

In their report, the SIB established that the abduction and murder were a plot hatched with the connivance of members of the PNDC. The SIB also found that the entire plot was master-minded by Capt. Kojo Tsikata, PNDC member in charge of National Security. However, the PNDC rejected that particular aspect of the report and let Capt. Tsikata and four others off the hook for lack of evidence.

The remaining four of the nine suspects were jailed. When on 19 June 1983, there was a jailbreak at the Nsawam Medium Prisons and the Ussher Fort Prisons, L/Cpl Amedeka escaped from captivity and has since not been seen. But his three accomplices, Tony Tekpor, Dzandu and Hekli, as well as ex-PNDC member Amartey Kwei, were executed by firing squad.

Before his death in 2020, Mr Rawlings always insisted that before Amartey Kwei was executed, he confessed, at the stakes, to falsely accusing Mr. Tsikata of involvement in the execution of the judges.

40 years later, Ghana has still not recovered from this mystery.

In 2019, Joy News made a documentary retelling the story of the whole incident. Several discussions were started on the issue but just like many other issues in Ghana, the discussions ended just where they started, in the media.

 

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