It is common knowledge that “the wheel of justice” grinds annoyingly slow in Ghana, situation even the president of the republic would agree to. The process is expensive; it cost money, time and mental energy. Only the determined and resourced can trudge through it to get justice.
It is an unfortunate state of the criminal justice system and the State ought to align its priorities to protect its citizens who are criminally violated. I had not had a real personal experience with the criminal justice system until the Friday, January 4 2019 exactly at 12:59pm. What follows is my first-hand appreciation of the challenges in procuring justice in sexual violence cases in Ghana.
On the 4th of January 2019, from my bed, I placed a call to a cousin living in Abura Edumfa in the Abura Asebu Kwamankese District in the Central Region concerning some goats I had made him buy for me. He was to bring them but I just felt like going to get them myself. It had been long time I visited the village so I thought it was an opportunity to visit the village where I spent my formative years as a boy.
Exactly when I alighted from the trotro, on the right side of the road, at the entrance of a pink house with brown windows, there was a handful of women and children in a noisy exchanges.
On the floor was a crying little girl, her pant down to her knees. From the compound of the enclosed house stood a man, holding his unzipped trousers, to whom everyone was pointing fingers at. Sensing what could be the case, I quickly turned on my phone’s camera and started recording. I moved closer to ask questions.
The 27-year old uncle had defiled the 6-year old niece. One Aunt, called Mavis, had discovered the incidence. I was told it was not the first time. While some women present said it was not the first time and it would not get anywhere. One lady, Efua, kept urging me on to get myself involved in the matter of would be ignored.
Instinctively, I took money (Ghc50) out my bag and gave it to the visibly incensed Aunt to take victim to the police station for forms to the hospital for medical report. I added that her refusal to do so could get her arrested. She went. I continued to visit the cousin.
THE BEGINNING of the roadblocks to justice:
1. Lack of Money means justice is unattainable.
I was having a good time with my host and his family, food already set for the table, when another aunt of the victim came looking for me. Her message was that the hospital was charging Ghc300, after picking hospital records card for Ghc10, before issuing them with the medical report. It is a matter of cash-and-carry.
That money was for the Doctor, they were told. That was a clear sign inability to produce Ghc300 at this point could be the end of the matter. If they had the money to spare for justice why would they have traveled back from the district capital to tell me about it? I left with her to the Abura Dunkwa District hospital.
It was true they were charging Ghc300 and they had been told the available Medical Doctor was engage at the ward but they could call another Doctor in provided they had the money ready. Another person had told them he could help them get it done at reduced cost of Ghc150.
We waited and at about 5:30pm the doctor returned from the ward to attend to us. He indeed demanded Ghc300 and was beaten down to Ghc200. I was ready to pay provided I was going to be issued receipt. He agreed to get me receipt so directed us to the revenue pigeon hole where the cashier had no idea what receipt to issue so had to call in the Doctor himself. We made payment and receipt was issued. We also had to pay for Ghc5 for the laboratory test on sample collected from the victims vagina.
It got late and the tired doctor had to retire so we had no option than leave the preparation of the medical report for the next day. The doctor and I agreed on 9:00am on Saturday and we were there on time. The completed and endorsed medical report was handed to the Aunt of the victim and it established that “the vagina was unusually gaped and easily admits one finger” and the hymen was absent. I found that substantial enough as an evidence of some sought of sexual violation of the 6-year old girl so we proceeded to the district police station.
2. Lack of Sense of Urgency on the part a Police officer often obstructs Justice for the vulnerable Ghanaian.
We arrived at the police station exactly 9:45am on Saturday, January 5 to deliver the medical report from the medical doctor. We met only one police [woman] on duty to whom we gave the forms. She told us to wait since the CID to whom the case was reported to on Friday was not available. I later gathered, from phone conversation with the CID, she was engaged with investigation in similar elsewhere in the district. Understandable. So, I asked if in her absence another officer could effect arrest for her to commence investigation on her return? I was told it could not be done.
However, an officer in plain cloth, white round neck T-shirt/polo shirt walked in and got interested in the matter and was ready to go with us to arrest the suspect if we could provide transportation.
I readily said that will be taken care of so we were readying ourselves to go when another officer in black, red and white striped polo shirt walked in when I was outside making a call for a taxi to be brought. Then the Aunt of the victim came to whisper to me that the one who just walked him was telling the others they could not go an arrest. I dashed back to ask what the mater was and I as told what the victim’s aunt told me.
The argument of the latest officer was that without an order from a superior no such arrest could be effected. So I asked to be taken to the available senior officer and I was not taken to any. That sudden development in the posture of the police, coupled with previous day’s which I haven’t mentioned here, gave me a vivid picture and profound appreciation of the near insurmountable impediments to the procurement of justice for and by victims of sexual violence in many parts of the country.
At around 12:00pm we had waited long enough and lost patience so I told the officers present that the Section 12 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1960, gives every citizen limited powers to effect arrest so I was going to do the arrest for them.
I read the aforementioned Section of the Act to them, particularly to the one in round-neck white polo shirt after which I placed a call to the man, Emmanuel, I had already sent back to the community to monitor the movements of the suspect. Emmanuel told me about not getting anyone to help him because, in his words “rastaman no fi catch rastaman” to mean the youngmen are unwilling to help because they all roll together the suspect. I told him to tell them I would give them Ghc200 if they catch him.
About 40 minutes after, Emmanuel called to inform me they had caught him so I asked them to hire taxi and bring him. I met them half way and got the suspect to the station and was put in holding cell.
The following day, Sunday 6 January, at 9:25am I had a call from Mavis, the Aunt of the victim, they had been called by the CID and the girl’s statement was taken down on paper.
3. Community apathy to the menace enables sexual predators.
It is in the nature of wrongdoers that the absence of imminent punishment constitutes great incentive for their trade of violating the dignity and rights of others. Collective apathy of communities to sexual violence is great incentive for the perpetration of the despicable act. Abura Edumfa has become an epitome of collective apathy; and, it makes it a horrendous image of it glorious past as a community.
You may better appreciate these challenges that make the procurement of justice for victims of sexual violence near impossibility, in most cases, if you have an idea of how life in the rural areas of Ghana is lived. It does not make economic sense for one to forgo days’ work on the farm or market pursuing justice she is expected to pay exorbitant fees for. Even though the State has monopoly on criminal cases, victims are often times burdened with some unreasonable financial responsibilities like paying for transportation, call credit etc of policemen (CID/Prosecutors) from the commencement of the case to the very end.
The TEAMWORK which came to bare on this matter was from three Aunts and an Uncle of the victim, and my Facebook friends who out of their own volition, and without my solicitation, started sending Mobile Money to my Mobile Money Wallet to keep me pushing for justice for the girl.
Phil Adu Koramoah, Nanseezy Osei Bonsu, Anita Appiah Fordjour, Akentuna Mosesand Michael Orleans started sending money to support when they learnt of the monies being paid. Ben Dotsei Malor, Nayaa Lacy, Trenia Today-Rawlins, Gloria Dede Abiwu, and Kathleen Addy joined and by closed of Sunday
I had received Ghc1,595. Ghc850 had been spent by close of Sunday. This is how expensive the procurement of justice is in Ghana.
Is JUSTICE not a right of the citizen in this Country?
The case will go to Court in Cape Coast on Tuesday 8 January, thanks to the Police High command, national and regional, who stepped in when their attention was drawn to the development.
By: Ekumfi Kane (ABEKU Adams)