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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Ghana gets reconciliation panel
Jerry John Rawlings on horseback
Flight Lt Jerry Rawlings was hailed as a saviour in 1979
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By the BBC's Kwaku Sakyi-Addo
President John Kufuor has inaugurated a National Reconciliation Commission in Ghana, fashioned after similar panels in South Africa and Nigeria, to look into past human rights violations.

The commission will be a forum for those who are aggrieved

President John Kuofor
The commission will grant immunity to those who testify before it.

It is mandated to investigate abuses committed during the five military regimes which ruled Ghana for a total of 22 years after the first coup in 1966.

But most hearings are expected to highlight alleged atrocities committed during the 1980s, when former President Jerry Rawlings was military head of state.


According to the Ghana Bar Association, more than 200 people went missing during those years; they are alleged to be victims of politically-motivated killings

President John Kufuor
Kuofor has promised a 'new era' for Ghana

A number of businessmen are also likely to come forward to reclaim properties confiscated by the then-ruling People's National Defence Council (PNDC).

But the most interesting hearings are expected to be those involving the murder in 1982 of four judges and a retired officer at an army shooting range.

A number of people connected to the PNDC were executed for the crime back then. But relatives of some of the victims say the masterminds of the killings are still alive and have prominent roles.

At the inauguration ceremony, President Kufuor gave the assurance that the hearings would be "a forum for those who are aggrieved to seek consolation, and for those whose losses cannot be replaced to receive compensation."


The nine-member commission is chaired by a retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice KE Amua-Sekyi.

Members also include three women, as well as Islamic and Christian clergymen, a traditional chief, and retired military General Emmanuel Erskine, who was once the commander of UN troops in Lebanon.

It will sit for one year, but a date is yet to be given for the first sitting.

In a statement issued on the occasion of the Ghanaian commission's inauguration, Archbishop Desmond Tutu - who chaired a similar commission in South Africa - said the hearings would "heal the wounds of victims and restore their dignity".

Opposition NDC politicians whose party derives its roots from the PNDC disagree.

They have criticised the setting up of the commission, saying that its purpose is to carry out witch-hunts.

Perhaps the commission's first task might be to reconcile itself with the opposition, and allay their fears.

See also:

30 Apr 01 | Africa
Resolving Ghana's violent past
21 Mar 01 | Africa
Ghana to look at its past
07 Jan 01 | Africa
Ghana marks start of 'new era'
01 Dec 00 | Africa
Rawlings: The legacy
03 May 02 | Africa
Timeline: Ghana
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ghana
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