Accra, Ghana (PANA) – The media in Ghana this week spent nearly all their air and inch space on an extremely volatile statement by an outspoken opposition MP, who claimed he had declared war in Ghana following alleged violence against some of his party members in the ongoing voter registration exercise.
If the ethnocentric statement made by Kennedy Agyapong of the largest opposition party, New Patriotic Party (NPP), generated anger, government’s decision to charge him with treason, attempted genocide and engaging in terrorist acts rallied opposition supporters together in his defence.
Agyapong, who owns a television station and two radio stations in Accra and Kumasi, was arrested on Monday after he was invited by the Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) over his incendiary statement last Friday. He said he declared war and vowed to lynch any fake security operatives and members of two minority ethnic groups, the Ewes and Gas.
The MP also said he would organise supporters of the party to defend themselves because the police had failed to protect them.
The state-owned Ghanaian Times had the headline “Agyapong arrested” with the story saying the police on Monday placed Agyapong, Member of Parliament for Assin North in the Central Region, under investigations for the comments he made on his Accra-based radio station, Oman FM, which the police describe as treasonable.
The pro-opposition Daily Guide had the headline “Kennedy arrested; Police fire live bullets”.
It said the CID Headquarters and adjoining Police Service Headquarters blocks were virtually turned into a war zone on Monday evening after the security agents fired live bullets, teargas canisters and sprayed pepper into the eyes of NPP supporters who had thronged the place following the arrest of Agyapong.
“Many of the supporters were temporarily blinded by the effect of the pepper spray, a situation that compelled those denied access to the precincts of the headquarters to resort to hurling stones at the place.
“It was like a war zone as the police fired bullets to disperse the madding crowd amidst the hurling of stones.”
But acting Police Public Affairs Director, Cephas Arthur, vehemently dismissed reports of police firing live bullets and deaths as false.
The state-owned Graphic, under the headline “Ken Agyapong in hot waters; Likely to face treason charges”, said the MP would likely face charges of treason for allegedly inciting supporters of the NPP to foment trouble and declaring war.
Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of CID Operations, Mr. Frank Cofie, said the police felt that if the information was true, then it was in bad taste and constituted a very serious offence.
The Graphic of Thursday had the headline “Ken Agyapong faces three counts” with the story saying a District Magistrate’s Court in Accra on Wednesday said it had no jurisdiction over the the treason case against Agyapong who was alleged to have declared war as well as incited Ashantis to attack the Ga and Ewe ethnic groups.
The presiding judge at the Adjabeng District Magistrate’s Court, Ms Patricia Kwansah, excused herself from hearing the matter after defence lawyers had applied for bail for the MP.
She explained that the Chief Justice had, in a circular dated 17 June, 2008, directed all magistrate's courts to refer matters relating to robbery, murder, treason, hijacking, rape and other first-degree felony cases to the Chief Justice’s Secretariat for a Higher Court to be assigned.
The Daily Guide’s headline read “Genocide and treason charges; Judge rejects Kennedy Agyepong”, with the story saying the trial of the MP suffered a setback on Wednesday when the Magistrate’s Court declined to sit on the case for lack of jurisdiction.
Friday’s newspapers carried dramatic developments on Thursday when Agyapong’s lawyers won him bail at the Human Rights court and the Fast Track High court though the charges against him were non-bailable.
The Graphic’s headline read “Ken Agyapong granted bail” with the story saying there was spontaneous jubilation within and outside the Accra Fast Track High Court when the MP was granted bail.
The MP, who looked visibly excited, was also bonded to be of good behaviour until the final determination of the criminal action brought against him by the state.
Held on three counts of treason felony, attempted genocide and engaging in terrorism act for allegedly inciting Ashantis against Ewes and Gas, as well as declaring war, Agyapong had been in custody since Monday, 16 April, 2012.
Agyapong was granted bail by the Human Rights Court in the sum of 200,000 Ghana cedis with two sureties, one to be justified, around 9.00 a.m., but was hurled back to the Fast Track High Court around 12:23 pm. by the prosecution to face another court.
The Daily Guide said “Kennedy freed; 'I don't hate any tribe'”. It said Agyapong walked to freedom on Thursday after spending four days in the custody of the BNI following his arrest on the charges of treason, genocide and terrorism.
“When Mr. Agyapong was released, elated members of the NPP virtually rolled out the red carpet for him after struggling for days to get freedom for him.
“Hundreds of NPP supporters clad in party colours and red attire, who once again thronged the premises of the Supreme Court Buildings in Accra, burst into wild jubilation when news about bail to the MP was broken to them.”
Meanwhile, the Graphic under the headline “Civil Society groups condemn Kennedy Agyapong”, said Civil Society Organisations had condemned the utterances of the MP.
They, however, called on the leadership of political parties, particularly NPP and ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), to publicly reprimand and sanction their supporters who insult, incite and malign their political opponents.
A member of the group, Mrs. Dwamena Aboagye, told a press conference in Accra that such utterances, if not brought under control, could undermine the peace, stability, security and unity of the country and damage Ghana’s hard-earned international image as one of Africa’s thriving democracies.
“All must condemn Ken Agyapong's comments - Kojo Asante” was the headline of the website of an Accra-based radio station, Joy FM.
It said a Senior Research Officer at the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Kojo Asante, condemned the alleged treasonable comments made by the Assin North MP.
“Yesterday was quite sad for me listening to Mr. Kennedy Agyepong and that tape, and I think it has to be condemned with really no reservation,” he said.
He said that he was expecting leaders of the various political parties to call their members to order and stop them from engaging in acts that could plunge the nation into chaos.
The National Media Commission, Trades Union Congress and the Ga ethnic group also condemned hate speech that has crept into the media.
Meanwhile, the Graphic reported under the headline “Five rioters granted bail” that five activists of the NPP who allegedly threw stones and vandalized vehicles following the arrest and detention of the MP have appeared before the Accra Circuit Court.
-0- PANA MA/VAO 21April2012