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June 4th deserves solemn commemoration not a noisy one – Boakye Djan

Major (rtd) Kwadwo Boakye Djan widely accepted as the main planner of the June 4, 1979, military coup with other junior officers that brought Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings to power in Ghana, has reiterated that the event was not worth celebrating because of the bloody excesses.

Rather, he thinks it should just be a solemn commemorative event.

In a radio interview on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of the uprising on Thursday, and when he was asked for a comment on how the June 4th uprising should be recognised in Ghana’s history and commemorated, Boakye Djan said some have said it is not worth celebrating but it should rather be commemorated because people died, “eight Generals were executed and many other soldiers died in the bloody confrontation,” he said.

He said acts of war are not celebrated and that even in Britain, the whole royal family goes to the cenotaph once a year to solemnly commemorate the death of all those who died in the first and second world wars.

He said the noise with the commemoration of June 4th should be looked at and that “there were dangerous gaps in the knowledge of some people…and we need to sit down and think properly and do it and stop making politics with it because June 4th is a guarantor of our democracy.

He said June 4th has guaranteed the long constitutional rule that Ghana has witnessed since 1992 and that June 4th should attract a national consensus concentrated on making Ghana a better place rather than disagreements.

Major (rtd) Boakye Djan said those who have been arguing that he was not the leader of the coup do not know what they have been talking about.

He said he was the National Security Coordinator in the Acheampong regime (UNIGOV) and decided to overthrow him because things were not going on well.

A deputy General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Obiri Boahen had earlier in the same radio interview on Accra based Okay FM argued that Boakye Djan was only a spokesperson for the 1979 coup makers.

But Boakye Djan refuting that assertion said “Churchill won the second world war from a bunker in central London without firing even a pistol.”

This, he said was because in the military, commanders do not necessarily lead wars with just weapons.

“A good commander does not go to war with a weapon, the closest weapon you have is a pistol on your thigh for close combats just in case anybody closes up on you. Your business is to go there with a clipboard with a plan.”

He likened the situation to a conductor of an orchestra who do not handle trumpets but leads the orchestra.

He said there were “dangerous gaps” in the knowledge of those making such assertions “and they are refusing to learn” and have allowed politics to cloud their thinking and do not “think straight.

Explaining what happened on June 4, 1979, Boakye Djan said the event did not start on June 4 and that Ghana had a troubled history after independence on March 6, 1957.

He said Kwame Nkrumah was the Prime Minister after Ghana’s independence and the Governor-General was Clarke, who was the Head of State for Queen Elizabeth and that during the Congo crisis, General Alexander who was in charge of the Armed Forces was arrested and Nkrumah asked Governor-General Clarke to go and release him.

He said Governor-General Clarke refused to go with the explanation that he takes his orders from the Head of State [Queen Elizabeth] and not the Prime Minister [Kwame Nkrumah].

This, he said led Kwame Nkrumah to organise a plebiscite from changing the constitution to a Republican one followed by a one-party state and insisted Ghana “was in troubled waters” and so soldiers stepped in whilst Nkrumah was on his way to Hanoi on 24th February and it became “a free for all.”

This he said led to an unnecessary increase in prices of goods in the market and the subsequent military coups in the 70s.

He said in 1979 they [soldiers] fought for 47 hours and for which details he was working to publish in a forthcoming book.

He said it was the only counter-coup that lasted that long.

“When we took over in 1979, the first informal meeting we [joint enterprise of the junior officers and other ranks] had” came up with a list of people who were to be executed summarily and he said the list included “96 prominent Ghanaians.”

He said the list included the names of Victor Owusu, Paa Willie and others who were all to be executed summarily because the coup makers felt they had destroyed Ghana.

He said many of all those who were in the political class had their names on the list and that he has got the list in his second book which was being worked on.

Boakye Djan said he resisted to carry out the executions with the explanation that he could not preside over a crime of that nature and demanded for a good reason why that was to be done.

He said one soldier, “a known drunkard, but politically connected” was the one who provided the list with the 96 names on it at the meeting and insisted, “they should all die.”

He said he asked that particular soldier, who was drunk then to sign the document which was to order the executions and asked him [the soldier] why they should be executed but all he said was “they should all die” and didn’t sign the document.

So, he [Boakye Djan] closed the meeting and asked them to go and think through it and that he felt some people were to be punished but that was to be done using the law.

He said they subsequently agreed to go reflect over it until the next day.


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