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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 12:33 GMT
Ghanaians tell of torture
Samuel Twumhene
Samuel Twumhene was jailed for nine years without trial

On Tuesday, a retired soldier became the twentieth eyewitness to give his testimony to Ghana's National Reconciliation Commission, which has been running for three weeks now.

The main task of the nine-member commission is to document accounts of human rights abuses since independence in 1957, but mostly under military regimes when there was no ombudsman.

Private Samuel Twumhene was 22 years old when he was detained for almost nine years without trial in 1983, by the PNDC, the military regime led by Jerry Rawlings before he became a civilian president.

Mr Twumhene said he was accused of plotting to overthrow the PNDC, with the help of the United States Government.


He told the commission that he was arrested with six others and interrogated by three air force officers in a guardroom.

Ghana's commission
Ghana's commission is modelled on South Africa's TRC
He said the interrogators used concrete blocks to pound their bodies, and beat them with truncheons until blood oozed from their ears.

Mr Twumhene said on one occasion, three of his co-detainees were taken away from the guardroom. Shortly afterwards, he heard screams - and then gunshots.

One of the three was thought to be dead initially, but was discovered alive with bullet wounds in the stomach. The other two were never seen or heard of again.

Subsequently, Mr Twumhene said he spent four months in solitary confinement before his transfer to the Nsawam Prisons near Accra, where he remained until his release shortly before multi-party elections in 1992.

Other accounts

He went into exile in the Ivory Coast, and returned home just two years ago.

Mr Twumhene, who now works as a security officer, said his ear-drums were damaged and continued to hurt.

JJ Rawlings
Flt Lt Rawlings staged two military coups
Last week the commission heard the story of a pastor, Twumasi Ankrah, who had electric shocks applied to his penis whilst in detention in 1988, for telling his congregation that Mr Rawlings would go to hell if he had killed anyone.

Another witness, Emmanuel Sawundi, an ex-army corporal, told of how he was whipped with barbed wire, his toe-nails were pulled out with a pair of pliers, and hot metal applied to his flesh, for allegedly plotting to assassinate Mr Rawlings in 1985.

In the case of Alex Hammah, a retired trade unionist, the authorities confiscated 56,000 cedis from him in 1972, when one cedi was equal to one dollar.

He wants his money back. The dollar is now 8,600 cedis. You do the calculation.

A 40-year-old woman, Elizabeth Adongo, has lost her voice for 18 years. It followed her torture by soldiers who wanted her to disclose the whereabouts of her brother.

She whispered through an interpreter. She would like her voice back. But how do you calculate that?

See also:

04 Sep 02 | Africa
07 May 02 | Africa
30 Apr 01 | Africa
01 Dec 00 | Africa
03 May 02 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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