Monday had been a particularly great day for me until news reached me that, Kwame Gyan, a colleague, brother and friend, has been suspended from work because he expressed his frustrations about the governance of our country on a social media platform.
This development – akin to Idi Amin’s “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech” – is particularly devastating because this 57-year-old country is revered on the African continent as having gained independence from colonialism because people decided to speak-up! Many died trying; others were maimed; many more lost their right to Ghanaian citizenship etc.
The rule of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had, at the birth of this country, promised freedom for all citizens but became institutionalized and ruled with tyranny over time.
In a typical ‘from frying pan to fire’ fashion, Ghanaians moved from the cruelty of the white colonizer into a new age of brutal repression; led by a government they had elected to serve them. Many lost their lives; many fled the independent Ghana they had fought to build; and again others died in prisons across Ghana under the repressive Preventive Detention Act.
Not long, however, history will remind the Nkrumah government that governments will succeed in suppressing some of their people’s will some of the time but not all their people’s wills all the time.
A 1966 coup toppled the all-powerful CPP regime, and forced the man who led the repressive regime to flee to Guinea, where he lived in exile until his death. From then on, governments rose and fell; thanks to the barefaced courage of citizens who had refused to be silenced by those who ruled.
But, it appears the reign of Jerry Rawlings somewhat killed something in the Ghanaian – the adrenalin which, hitherto, inspired their guts to speak up! We have all read about the hundreds of courageous people who have gone missing after challenging the authority of the PNDC junta.We also know about the thousands who are still in exile after fleeing Ghana during the days the Military ruled with iron fist.
Eventually, however, some Ghanaians did find the requisite size of balls and protested when the government’s VAT agenda threatened their very livelihood in the 1990s. The government responded in a brutal fashion in a desperate attempt to put down the public anger provoked by its poorly marketed VAT agenda. People died; and many suffered devastating injuries. But, the victims did not perish in vein. Pressed by public pressure, the government withdrew the VAT agenda and brought it back in a ‘better’ form – a victory for democracy.
Again, in the aftermath of the 2008 elections, Ghanaians took to the streets to protest, when it became apparent that some unseen hands [real or perceived] were at work, desperately trying to deny the late John Mills victory at the polls. Eventually, the former Vice President became President after the message went home that Ghanaians were not prepared to have their will suppressed by a power-hungry few.
I have given these examples to make the point that the blood of those who over the decades stood up against the callous will and rule of oppressors still runs through our collective veins. That is why it is tragic that in Ghana today, citizens sit down on the fence, whilst those who govern plunder our scarce national resources in the name of dubious judgment debts. We have seen our governments sell off our national assets [GT, Ashanti Gold, Merchant Bank, Nsawam Cannery etc.] to cronies in the name of economic restructuring without registering our anger in a very forceful manner.
But, not all citizens have been silent or indifferent. The likes of KG have consistently complained. He and his likes have reminded us of the blood that runs through us. And, in a senseless attempt to silence him, apologists of the government sponsored front-page articles, accusing him of inciting treason. His only crime was that he wished Ghanaians had the courage to show the ‘balls’ as displayed by the people of Ukraine. Under intense pressure, the company he works for reacted by suspending him possibly based on the directives from powerful men and women on the corridors of power. This is most unfortunate, pitiful, backward and undemocratic.
It is my view, and the view of the silent majority of us, that the brazen attempt by the powers that BE to victimize and silence KG must not go unchallenged. We must resist it with all our might.
Indeed, the fall of Ukraine’s government was NOT because people set out to topple it. Things went out of hand there because the government brutally tried to put down peaceful protests staged against it over its pro-Russia stance! Those Ghanaians who are negatively spinning Kwame’s “I wish we had guts like the people of Ukraine” post are simply pathetic. I urge them to kindly read the following excerpts from an AP article published under the headline “What started the Ukraine protests?”
It reads: “Kiev exploded in deadly violence about three months after anti-government protests began peacefully. Here are key events that have shaped the unrest.
“November 21: President Viktor Yanukovych’s government announces that it is abandoning an agreement that would strengthen ties with the European Union and instead seeks closer cooperation with Moscow. Protesters take to the streets.
“November 30: Police brutally attack a group of protesters, detaining 35. Images of protesters bloodied by police truncheons spread quickly and galvanise public support for the demonstrations. A protest on December 1 attracts around 300,000 people, the largest in Kiev since the Orange Revolution in 2004. Activists seize Kiev City Hall.
“December 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that Moscow will buy US$15 billion worth of Ukrainian government bonds and allow for a sharp cut in the price Ukrainians pay for Russian natural gas. Putin and Yanukovych claim there are no conditions attached.
“January 22: Two protesters die after being hit with live ammunition and the third after a fall during a confrontation between police and demonstrators manning barricades, the first protest deaths.
“January 28: The prime minister resigns and parliament repeals the new harsh anti-protest laws that set off the violence of a week earlier. Both are concessions to the opposition aimed at defusing the crisis.
“January 31: Opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov, missing since January 22, resurfaces badly bruised and with part of his right ear cut off. He believes a pro-Russia group was behind his kidnapping and torture, raising fears among the opposition that extrajudicial squads are being deployed to intimidate protesters.
“February 16: Opposition activists end their occupation of Kiev City Hall in exchange for the release of all 234 jailed protesters, in what is seen as a sign of progress toward resolving the crisis peacefully.
“February 18: Deadly street clashes leave at least 25 protesters and police dead and hundreds injured. The violence begins when protesters attack police lines and set fires outside parliament after it stalls on taking up a constitutional reform to limit presidential powers. Russia’s offer the day before to resume payments under the bailout deal also feeds opposition suspicions that Yanukovych has made a deal with Moscow to stand firm against the protesters. Riot police respond to the violence by trying to push protesters off Independence Square”.
From the above, it baffles me that spin-doctor’s will shamelessly twist Kwame’s post to mean a call on citizens to overthrow their government.
The problems in Ghana are currently too serious that we cannot afford to have a political superstructure whose agents are only busy spying on citizens who exercise their right to speech on social media. Put differently, in the midst of our sufferings, the last thing we MUST tolerate is a regime that turns its ‘guns’ on us for complaining.
As I have already argued elsewhere, Governments will always do EVIL; openly or behind curtains. What they must never ever do is to scheme to take away their citizens’ right to complain. I strongly believe that a citizen’s right to complain is God-given. No government, absolutely no government has any right whatsoever to take that away; be it openly or behind the curtains!
I speak out today because it is my greatest conviction that the dark days of the ‘CULTURE OF SILENCE’ MUST NEVER RETURN. A threat to one citizen’s right to free-speech is a threat to every citizen’s right to free speech! That is why, I believe, our national anthem imposes on us an obligation to “resist the oppressor’s rule”. The time to live up to that patriotic obligation is NOW!
As I have already said elsewhere, “In a working constitutional democracy, Governments will always resent the criticisms of their people; but they must always be the first to defend the people’s right to criticize their Governments”.
Martin Niemoller could not have put it much better when he said, “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me.”
KG must be reinstated!
By: Richard Dela Sky/citifmonline.com/Ghana