By Kwaku Asante Krobea & Seth J. Bokpe
There was the usual cacophony at noon—a cocktail of voices hurling the names of their wares at passersby, pockets of people haggling over the prices of goods, and the occasional blaring of horns from vehicles to warn those who spilled carelessly into the narrow streets.
But these scenes were not new to Thomas, 23. His full name, Thomas Partey, immediately brings to mind the Arsenal and Black Stars midfielder. They are cousins.
Like his cousin the footballer, Thomas was used to noise and chants as he worked to earn his daily bread. While Thomas, the soccer star, delivers passes in boots to the satisfaction of football fans, Thomas Partey, a courier, delivered goods in a wheelbarrow from the market to the destinations of his customers.
At about an hour past noon at the Krobo Odumase market on May 22, 2019, he delivered some goods to a client near the district assembly building. While returning to the market, he was met with a deafening uproar of voices, clamouring, yelling and chanting at the same time. This was louder than what he was used to at the market. A teeming group of young people, clad in red, was heading towards the district assembly.
The crowd was protesting what residents considered high electricity charges in the Lower Manya Krobo municipality. The electricity distribution company, PDS, in the company of the police, had commenced a power disconnection exercise of some communities in the municipality because of unpaid bills.
The young people were marching to the office of the municipal chief executive to press home their grievance when they clashed with the police. They threw stones and sticks while the police returned with live bullets.
Thomas, who had dropped out of school to focus on his dream of becoming a businessman, pressed on to get to work in the market despite the mayhem. But he was already caught up in the police-protesters exchange. And he would never get to the market again.
A policeman shot him.
“He shot him in the back and the bullet appeared at the chest,” Wilfred Sam Partey, retired educationist and father of Thomas Partey, told The Fourth Estate how his son died.
“I don’t know much about guns, but the distance between where the boy was standing and where the police fired the gun was about 80 to 100 metres,” Sam Partey added.
In a provisional report on the shooting signed by Superintendant Michael H. Addae, the police explained the incident, without admitting they shot Thomas.
“The police tried several times preventing the youth from entering the assembly premises, but they resisted and rather attacked the police by throwing stones, bottles and other dangerous objects at the police, with others armed with machetes and knives advancing fiercely, threatening life and property, amidst the firing of guns,” the report said.
“In the process, the police also fired warning shots to disperse them, but they refused to retreat and were still firing. Later, it was detected that a man, aged about 23 years, who was among the protestors, sustained serious injuries in the chest. But the name of the victim was not immediately known,” the report concluded the report without naming Thomas Partey.
Thomas Partey was rushed to St Martin De-Porres Hospital at Agormenya for treatment but was pronounced dead on arrival. His body was deposited at the morgue of the same hospital for preservation and autopsy.
An autopsy report dated May 25, 2019, and signed by Chief Superintendent Dr O. Owusu Afriyie of the Police Hospital, confirmed that Thomas died from a gunshot fired at a close range. The report said he died from a “severe chest injury and haemorrhagic shock”.
Aside from Thomas Partey, seven others were severely wounded.
Ruth Mankattah, an 18-year-old student of the Odumase-Krobo Anglican Junior High School (JHS), who was preparing to write the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), was shot in the right knee. Her left leg suffered a minor injury from another bullet.
Her right leg was later amputated.
Sam Partey, Thomas’ father, said apart from some GH₵ 9,000 he received from the district assembly to cater for the funeral, he hasn’t received any form of compensation or communication from the government, despite having written to the Office of President, The Inspector General of Police, the Minister of Energy and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
According to Sam Partey, the then Energy Minister, Peter Amewu, ordered the PDS to act on his petition. But he heard nothing from the company.
“I wrote to the offices that they should seek justice for my son,” he said.
Sadly, not only has Sam Partey been denied justice, he doesn’t even know which officer pulled the trigger on his son.
The killing of Thomas Partey in this manner is not an isolated case. A committee of enquiry is currently sitting to establish the killing of two unarmed civilians and injuries to four others who were wounded by a joint police-military team at Ejura in the Ashanti Region.
They were shot when the youth of the area protested the murder of their colleague, Mohammed Ibrahim, aka Kaaka, by unknown assailants. Kaaka had been threatened for continuously broadcasting on social media broken systems and infrastructure and calling state institutions and the government to fix them.
The killing of the protestors in Ejura adds up to numerous reported cases of police and military brutalities that have claimed the lives of unarmed and mostly innocent civilians.
The Fourth Estate has tracked such incidents of fatal police and military brutality as reported in the media in the last five years. We tracked relatives of some of the deceased for interviews.
The Fourth Estate counted at least 72 extrajudicial killings by either the police or the military since 2017. More than 120 persons recorded severe injuries from such brutalities within the same period, ranging from broken limbs to amputations.
Twenty-three (23) of these victims were killed when the police or/and the military-controlled protestors, or by stray bullets from the security. Some were also killed mistaken for criminals. In one instance, the killer was identified as a national security operative.
The rest were alleged to be armed robbers who were killed either during “gunfire exchanges” with the police or when they were conducting an arrest.
The number of citizens killed by the police and military may be more in a wider and more comprehensive search.
Below are details of the 23 who were killed by police and military brutalities in the last five years.
The Foase Four: Kwadwo Fori, 47; Douglas Addai, 35; Prince Boateng, 29; and Danso Seth 24, killed at Foase in the Ashanti Region, on February 7, 2017
The four died after a joint police-military force allegedly opened fire on a crowd protesting against the siting of Atwima Kwanwoma District capital at Twedie instead of Foase. Thirty-two other victims suffered injuries. The government paid GHc 1.4 million as compensation to the families.
The Asawase Zongo Seven: Musah Seidu, Mohammed Bashir Musah, Mohammed Kamal, Babonte Farar, Razak Sulley, Oliver Konlang and Abdul Hanan Bashir; killed at Manso Nkwanta, Ashanti Region, on July 7, 2018.
A police patrol team shot the seven young men in Manso Nkwanta. The Ashanti Regional Police command alleged that they were armed robbers killed during a gunfire exchange with the police. This was sharply contested by leaders of the Zongo communities where the seven resided.
The incident occurred days after a policeman, Lance Corporal Daniel Teiku, while on duty, was shot dead by suspected armed robbers at Ayirebikrom, near Manso Nkwanta. The killing of the seven was therefore believed to be a reprisal by the police. The situation sparked agitation in Zongo communities in the Kumasi metropolis.
A seven-member committee led by Justice Obeng Deawuo, which was set up to investigate the killings, reported that there was no evidence that the seven were armed robbers. The committee’s finding was reported to have led to the interdiction of the 21 police officers involved in the operation. But the 21 are yet to face the law.
The Government paid Ghs 1.750 million as compensation to the families of the seven. Each family received GHc 250,000, but they say that is not enough. They are still calling for justice, three years after the incident.
“The absence of our brother has affected the financial, economic and social wellbeing of our family,” a spokesperson for the family of Musah Seidu told The Fourth Estate.
“He left behind five children, a wife, and two aged parents. His mother died 62 days after he was killed because of the emotional and psychological torture following the gruesome murder of her child,” he said.
The wife of the late Musah Seidu, Humu Abubakar, says she’s still in grief and has had to deal with the torture of her growing children who occasionally ask about their father.
“Three years after his death, my kids continue to inquire about the whereabouts of their dad. I have had to lie to them that he’s travelled. I lock myself and cry anytime the children ask me about him. I have left everything to God because, in Ghana, there’s no justice,” she shared her pain with The Fourth Estate.
“When I saw the killings in Ejura, I remembered my dear husband and the way they put his remains in a pick-up truck, took pictures of him and shared them on Facebook. I know the families of the deceased in Ejura are going through what I have been experiencing,” Humu added.
Emmanuel Osae, 36, killed in Brenase (near Ofoase), Eastern Region, on April 30, 2021
Police shot into protestors who were demanding that a motor rider who rammed into the motorcycle of a teacher in the town should repair the damage. A 36-year-old man, Emmanuel Osae, died after he was hit by a bullet. Three others sustained gun-shot wounds. Residents of Brenase accused the police of firing, unprovoked and indiscriminately.
The Techiman South Killings: Abdallah Ayarick, 18, and Mohammed Kajuden, 41, at Techiman, Bono Region on December 7, 2020
The two were killed when the military shot at unarmed citizens who had suspected some malpractices in the collation of electoral results in their area and gone to the collation centre to protest. Nine others were recorded to have sustained various degrees of injuries following the shootout.
Abudulai Mustapha, 32, at Daboya, Savanna Region, killed on November 14, 2019
Mustapha was reported to have been shot and killed by the police after he allegedly stabbed another police officer. He was alleged to be of unsound mind.
Mary Aboagye, 38, at Ankaful Junction, Central Region, killed on January 10, 2019
Mary was killed by a stray bullet during a crossfire between the police and alleged armed robbers. Her husband, Aboagye Okyere, 47, and one other person were also hit but survived.
Nyable Mordzifa, 25, at Senchi, Eastern Region, killed on September 29, 2019
Nyable Mordzifa was accidentally shot by a police officer at the Senchi Police Station in the Asuogyaman District. She was in the company of a group of angry youth who had stormed the Senchi Police Station to demand the release of two members of their community. The two were reported to have attempted to disarm some policemen.
Eric Ofotsu, 28, at Ashaiman, Greater Accra Region, killed on April 5, 2020
Eric Ofotsu, aka ‘No Yawa’, who, according to reports, was homeless and mentally challenged was shot dead at the Ashaiman market by a soldier during the enforcement of the Covid-19 lockdown protocols.
Eyewitnesses alleged that the soldier had earlier attempted to hit Ofotsu with a stick, but he grabbed it and threw it away and both went their separate ways after onlookers’ intervention. The soldier allegedly rallied his friends later and shot Ofotsu in the head. The Ghana Armed Forces, however, claimed he was shot for trying to disarm the soldier.
Unnamed killed at Odumase Krobo, Eastern Region on July 21, 2018
An unnamed bullion van driver met his untimely death when a police officer who was guarding the money-hauling van shot and killed him accidentally at Manya Kpongnor.
Eyewitnesses said the bullion van driver met rowdy mourners in a funeral procession on the main Odumase Krobo road. In an attempt to clear the road, the police officer, Constable Amidu Osman, fired warning shots. A bullet from his rifle hit the driver and killed him instantly.
Ibrahim Abass, 30, at Odorkor, Greater Accra, killed on December 7, 2020
Ibrahim Abass, a national democratic congress (NDC) activist, was shot and killed at the Odorkor Police Church, which served as the Ablekuma Central election collation centre. His assailant, Collins Quarcoo, alias Kola, was later identified as a national security operative.
Abass died a day later at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, where he was receiving treatment for gunshot wounds.
Richard Aheheto, 36, Akweley Kasoa, Central Region, killed on April 1, 2019
Richard Aheto was reportedly killed by an Ak-47-wielding police officer who was attempting to arrest him. News reports that quoted an eye-witness said the officer chased Richard to his house and engaged in a heated argument with him, which ended in his (Richard’s) killing.
However, a statement released by the police indicated that a patrol team came to restore order in the area but were attacked by a mob including others who tried to disarm an officer.
Muntala Mohammed, 26, Abdul Nasir Yussif (aka Di Maria), at Ejura (Ashanti Region), killed on June 28, 2021
The two were killed when a joint police-military force opened fire on the youth who were protesting the murder of their colleague, Ibrahim Mohammed Iddrisu (Kaaka), a social media activist. Four other people sustained serious injuries. A 16-year old boy had his leg amputated as a result.
On July 3, 2021, a delegation led by Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia visited Ejura to commiserate with the families of the deceased. The delegation included National Security Minister, Albert Kan-Dapaah, and the Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei-Mensah.
On behalf of the government, the vice president presented a cash amount of GH¢20,000 to each of the three bereaved families (including Kaaka’s) to help them in the performance of funerals of the deceased.
The government has instituted a 3-member committee that is probing the situation that led to the killings in Ejura.
A cross-section of Ghanaians and civil society organisations have expressed concerns about what they call the worrying line of questioning by the committee. The committee’s concentration on the media reports as the possible cause of the protests instead of the killing of the protesters has led many Ghanaians to conclude that nothing much would come out of it.
And it doesn’t appear such killings would stop, especially because the perpetrators are often left unpunished.