To tag it a Pandora box is to pass a premature judgment. Pandora boxes connote the removal of the lid on sleaze and skeletons in the cupboard. It is when the issues are interrogated that we find results, be they the excesses or otherwise, then we can make a safe landing. Conclusions may either tag a whole period or finger individuals at fault or the bad name might locate none, setting the stage for a fluid situation.
Several years down the line, President John Agtekun Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party, NPP, established the National Reconciliation Commission, NRC, to provide a forum for the unleashing of pent-up feelings and for restitution of victims of the revolutions Rawlings championed in 1979 and 1981. The critical days that came under the special review were May 15 and June 4, 1979, and December 31, 1981.
With political power gone, and the statecraft effectively in new hands that were diametrically opposed to those revolutions, all the actors of that period and their “supposed victims” were dragged into the open to account for their roles in the state of emergency periods.
Among others, Rawlings made his ‘seismic’ appearance before the Commission chaired by Justice Amua-Sakyi in a chamber of the Old Parliament House in Accra.
This was not without drama as a large band of loyalists followed Rawlings on the streets to his hearing. Rawlings chose to walk and that built the fanfares, the tensions and all the drama.
Some who were glued to their television sets might have missed heartbeats when the protagonist, Rawlings, finally settled in the witness seat to face the Commissioners. A rare moment it was as many never expected a day like this when the longtime Commander-in-chief of the Ghana Armed Forces who was not tampered with in his heydey, could finally be brought to a forum to talk about issues that were sensitive and perhaps classified.
Rawlings was unfazed by the circumstances for his body language, especially his facial mien displayed a certain degree of anxiety to also set the records straight on what he had always described as distortion of the facts of history in some quarters, if not the entire court of public opinion. To his surprise, after just two questions, the commission pronounced that he was discharged from the sitting,. This decision unsettled Rawlings who looked very determined to share his perspectives.
Aside from his independent account, Rawlings had probably wanted to address some issues raised by other witnesses in previous sittings.
The name Rawlings evoked passion and panic. One witness had died from a cardiac arrest when his submission got to the crunch moment of mentioning Rawlings name. The witness fell off his chair to the ground, was whizzed away in an ambulance but pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
The National Reconciliation Commission held between 2001 and 2002 bisected and dissected periods in national history that were placed under lock and key.
It afforded Ghanaians the opportunity of knowing the deeper issues that sat beneath. The star issue was perhaps the 1982 murder of the three judges and an army officer in the second revolution.
Both Rawlings and Captain Kojo Tsikata gave their side of the story concerning that horrendous incident that pricked national and world conscience. They both maintained it was one Amartey Quaye who carried out the executions without a recourse to anybody. He was a member of the then fledgling PNDC government which Rawlings was the leader and Captain Tsikata, also a member.
President Kufour, is the only person who had the courage to declassify anything about the revolutions Ghana experienced in those heady days.