TUESDAY, JUNE 26 1979. At approximately 9.15am the piercing wail of sirens could be heard from the directions of the Trade Fair ground. A few minutes later a convoy of military vehicles was seen heading towards the Teshie military range at break-neck speed. It was as if the convoy was being pursued or had to reach its destination before it received a counter command to turn round and return to base.
Leading the convoy was an anti-aircraft gun vehicle with four soldiers on board, followed by two ambulances and, at the rear, a Pinzgauer with presumably the firing squad. As the vehicles screeched to a halt inside the range, a member of the AFRC, Cpl Tasiri, jumped out of the lead vehicle, followed by four fierce looking soldiers, assault rifles cocked and ready.
Cpl Tasiri immediately barked out an order that there were to be no pictures taken and commanded the numerous cameramen, foreign press included, to leave the range proper and join the crowd. Anybody who dare [sic] take a picture, he said, would be severely dealt with. Reporters, however, could remain and take notes.
There were six stakes, each with a rope dangling about it. Sandbags were piled behind each stake up to the shoulder level. Some twenty-five or so feet in front of the stakes were open ended tents for the firing squad.
The door of an ambulance was flung open and out stepped F.W.K. Akuffo, the immediate past Head of State. He was followed by Gen Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa a former military ruler, Gen Robert Kotei, Col Roger Felli, Air Vice-Marshal Yaw Boakye and RearAdmiral Joy Amedume. All of them were blindfolded and led by the soldiers towards the stake.
A sudden hush fell on the teeming spectators.
The six condemned senior military officers were led to the stakes and the ropes tied across their chest and around their legs. First was Gen Akuffo, then Gen Bob Kotei, Gen Afrifa, Air Vice-Marshal Yaw Boakye, Col Roger Felli and last, towards the sea, Rear-Admiral Joy Amedume.
Hardly anyone saw the firing squad enter the tents, all attention was on the condemned officers. And there was no audible order to fire. Just a sudden: “ko. ko….ko.ko.ko”
From my vantage point just besides the tents, I could see the blood soaking through their dresses where the bullets hit. The ropes holding Col Felli were torn by the bullets and he came crashing down. Then as suddenly as it had started, the firing stopped.
A minute passed. Then Gen. Afrifa started rising up; blood was streaming from his shoulders down his arm. He screamed “I am not dead … I am not dead …”
A bearded officer, presumably a commander of the firing squad, took out his pistol and walked towards Gen. Afrifa to deliver the ‘coup de grace’. He had pain and agony written all over his face. The first shot missed and hit the sandbags, the second shot never came as the pistol jammed. The officer stood there, fumbling with his gun, confused.
Another officer snatched an SMG from a nearby soldier and gave it to the first one. “Ko….ko…ko” The shots were aimed at Afrifa’s head. Six shots later, he finally slumped down, dead. A soldier standing beside me was beside himself with anger. “Why dey for punish the man so, eh? Say wetin at all ‘e do?”
Gen Afrifa had foreseen his death!In a secret letter written to Gen Kutu Acheampong about a year before his overthrow in a palace coup, he had expressed his fears succinctly:
I feel greatly disturbed about the future after the government…
In order to discourage the military from staging coups in the future, how about if they line all of us up and shot us one by one? I do not certainly want to be arrested, given some sort of trial and shot. But I would be a stupid General if I sit in the comfort of my farm and await the VENGEANCE that is about to be unleashed on us…. I will pray to take away the fear and confusion weighing on my mind now.
About five minutes after the execution, an Airforce fighter jet swooped low over the military range and wiggled it wings. The dispersing crowd yelled: J.J….JJ….JJ…”
So now I had my story. The next thing was to find a telephone so I could dictate it to the office. My best bet was the sentry post at MATS. I fought my way through the milling crowd till I got there. The soldier on duty was on the line: “Yes Sir….Yes …” he was saying, “Yes, they have just finished slaughtering the cows.”