Site is under maintenance mode. Please wait few min!
Archive

July 2009

Browsing

The police administration insists that there is no official directive for officers to shoot and kill suspected armed robbers. That’s hard to believe, especially after the IGP decorated and rewarded the officers who recently gunned down 12 suspected “armed robbers” in Kumasi.

Within a space of less than a month officers have shot and killed suspected robbers in four separate incidents in Accra and Kumasi. In all of these cases, officers claimed self-defence. It’s a completely legitimate excuse because if a gun-toting criminal, his brains probably saturated with crack, starts shooting at an officer, no one will expect the officer to keep his gun in its holster. The fire should be generously returned. If the robber dies, we can all say he had it coming.

However, I don’t trust the police. They’ve lied to us before with similar killings and it’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt in the recent episodes.

We were in this country when police officers shot and killed a group of young men in the Taifa suburb of Accra and tagged them as armed robbers. It was a lie. A few days after the shooting incident, it emerged that the slain men were community members who had come together to form a neighbourhood watch committee to help the police do its job.

It was also in this same country that officers fired indiscriminately into a taxi at Dansoman, killing all those in the vehicle. We were told they were armed robbers. It turned out that they were women whose first (and only) contact with arms was with the guns which pumped bullets into their heads and bellies. They were petty traders who had risen up early and were heading to the market to earn their keep.

What shows that those who have been killed recently are all armed robbers?

Obviously, crime has worsened so much in the country and everyone wants to see the police take drastic action to deal with the menace. Many think that killing robbers and parading their bodies will serve as deterrence and halt (or minimise) the spate of armed robberies.

It won’t.

The police are feeding us with a false hope and, for me, it’s terrifying that most Ghanaians seem to have bought into it. Some people don’t even like it when human rights activists question the methods police seem to have adopted recently, which is to shoot and kill. They claim such questions will demoralise officers and, in the process, embolden the armed robbers.

Things don’t work that way. If we question our president and political leaders, why can’t we question our corporals and sergeants? Our police officers have in the past killed innocents and tagged them as armed robbers and so what is the guarantee that some trigger-happy officers will not pelt me with bullets one of these days and call me an armed robber. And I’ve never even held a pistol before?

We all want this robbery menace to end. I can’t walk around my neighbourhood at night because I fear some idiots on a motorbike will attack and beat me up – just for my phone and wallet, which is often empty, by the way.

They did it to me once near the Aviation Social Centre in Accra. When they snatched my phone that evening I got so scared I felt some drips in my pants. Some machete-wielding bandits, most of them teenagers, tried to snatch my car in Osu. But for the auto-lock mechanism, they would have succeeded and who knows, they might have inflicted a few cutlass wounds on me in the process.

So like most other Ghanaians, I want police (and government) to deal with this menace decisively – but intelligently. Killing suspects and parading their bodies for all to see isn’t good enough. It doesn’t comfort me. Rather, the possibility that innocents could be killed fills me with the deepest dread.

Officers should be well-trained and provided with the necessary protective gear – like bulletproof vests and helmets. Instead of wasting our money on luxury cars for MPs, government should buy secure vehicles for the police. Their communication systems need to be modernised and expanded to make it easy for them to call for reinforcement if need be. With these, they are assured that the chances of a robber’s bullet killing them are quite slim. And so their objective in case they come under a hail of fire will be to shoot to maim – not to kill. That’s what modern policing. With this you get the bad guys. Innocents are not hurt and we can all sleep easy or step out to enjoy a good night out, knowing that our police officers will always deal with those dare to use the force of arms to gain property.


I read this story last night and I felt very sorry for this young man whose future has been destroyed (or almost) by an incompetence of law enforcement agents and judiciary offer in America – of all places. It’s a pretty long piece. But it’s worth the read. I am getting in touch with a few of the people mentioned in the story to see how best I can help get justice for Eric. I don’t know how – not yet. But I believe there should be a way. >>>

It’s March 3, 2008, a brilliant day in Santa Barbara. But for Eric Frimpong, it feels like hell. He’s in Superior Court, encircled by sheriff’s deputies, making one more trip to the Department 2 courtroom. This is his last stop on the outside for a while, a painful reminder of how far he has fallen. He left his native Ghana in 2005 to play soccer for UC Santa Barbara; a year later he became a campus hero while leading the Gauchos to their first-ever national championship. If the immigrant experience can have a sound, Frimpong’s sound was a raucous stadium. But in 2007, just weeks after being selected by the Kansas City Wizards in the MLS draft, he was accused of raping another student on the beach near his house.

Now he’s a convicted felon.

Frimpong enters the courtroom, which is packed with students and parents, former teammates and coaches – row upon row of supporters. They’ve come for the sentencing that concludes a trial that has rocked this community: People v. Eric Frimpong. Or more accurately, People v. Eric Frimpong and His People.

A victim’s advocate reads a statement on behalf of the accuser, referred to in this story and in news coverage throughout the trial as Jane Doe. “I don’t care that he’s a soccer star…and I’m a nobody,” the statement says. “Eric Frimpong ruined my life.”

There’s a rumble in the gallery. If his supporters could chime in now, they’d say that the kid in the prison garb has never spoken an unkind word or acted aggressively toward anyone. They would remind the court of the points made at trial: that his accuser was a woman with little memory of what happened that night because of a near-toxic blood alcohol level; that Frimpong’s DNA wasn’t found on the victim; that semen found on her underwear belonged to a jealous boyfriend, a white student who was never a suspect. They would argue that overzealous law enforcement was determined to nail a high-profile athlete, facts be damned, and that this was the Duke lacrosse case all over again – except that the defendants in the Duke case were white men from affluent families with the means to navigate America’s justice system, unlike Frimpong, who is poor and an immigrant.

Judge Brian Hill, citing Frimpong’s clean record and “a lot of community support,” delivers his sentence: six years in state prison. As Frimpong is led away, many people in the gallery are crying. Out in the hall, Paul and Loni Monahan stand solemnly while the courtroom empties. Their son, Pat, was Frimpong’s teammate, and the Monahans – a white, middle-class family – had ¬embraced “Frimmer” like a son and a brother. Loni distributes copies of a printed statement: "We will continue to fight for Eric. We will not rest until he is exonerated and the ugly truth of his wrongful prosecution and conviction comes out." When the leaflets are gone, she leans against a wall, tears flowing. "Eric believed in our system," she says. "He believed justice would prevail." Then she straightens. "Before I was sad," she says. "Now I’m mad."

Something good happened in Santa Barbara. Even now, as Frimpong sits behind a glass partition in the visitors’ room of a California jail, he smiles easily while talking about where he’s come from and what he has achieved. The way he sees it, he has always been fortunate.

Back in Ghana, in western Africa, he and his three younger siblings were raised by their mother, Mary, in the poor farming community of Abesin, but her job as a typist with the government forestry department allowed the family to have plumbing and electricity, unlike many of their neighbors. Eric was an engineering major and a midfielder for Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in Kumasi, when he caught the eye of UCSB assistant Leo Chappel, who attended a 2005 match to scout the son of a Ghanian pro but ended up offering a scholarship to Frimpong instead. The first words out of Frimpong’s mouth?

Thank God. The next: What’s UCSB?

By that August, the Gauchos had a crafty midfielder with intangibles to burn. Frimpong’s intelligence, instinct and vision, along with his speed and touch, made him an on-the-ball force. He also had a winning personality. "Frimmer was very humble and considerate, on and off the field," says head coach Tim Vom Steeg.

As a senior the next year, the 5’6" Frimpong developed a reputation as a lockdown defender in leading the unseeded Big West champs to a string of improbable NCAA tournament wins. When the final whistle blew on the 2006 national championship game, the Cinderella Gauchos had defeated four-time king UCLA. Frimpong earned All-Big West honors, a spot in the MLS supplemental draft and the gratitude of his peers. "He was the heart and soul of the team," says Pat Monahan. "Eric won us that championship."

Everyone around Frimpong was buoyed by his success: his mother, friends and classmates, prominent locals who had helped him out along the way with invites to dinner, rides to the store and, when he struggled with homesickness during his junior year, a fund-raiser that yielded $3,000 for a ticket to Ghana. "We all tried to pitch in, because Eric’s so darn likable," says Tim Foley, a booster who made Frimpong a regular guest at his family’s home. "He was an American success story."

The Monahans were especially proud. Frimpong had met his "American parents" on move-in day in 2005, and they promptly invited him to spend Thanksgiving in San Diego. They gave him his first cell phone and laptop and took him on family vacations. They sat in their kitchen for hours listening to his stories about Ghana. They were also impressed by his knowledge of the Bible, and his quiet spirituality helped bolster their own faith. "He was going to graduate, play professionally, make more money here than he ever could in Ghana and bring it back to support his family," Loni says. "Eric really had it all."

Something bad happened in Santa Barbara. On Feb. 17, 2007, sometime after midnight on a fast-eroding bluff of beach right below 6547 Del Playa Drive, Jane Doe was raped. She said Eric Frimpong did it, and an all-white jury agreed. But the nature of the case, and some of the more slippery details surrounding it, has divided the community, raising questions about the reliability of the victim’s memory, the true character of the accused, the motives and tactics of law enforcement, even the fairness of the justice system. Amid all the controversy, though, two simple truths remain: A young woman was victimized, and a young man’s dream was shattered.

UCSB is among the nation’s top party schools, and oceanfront Del Playa is the belly of the beast. Even a model student-athlete like Frimpong, who maintained a 3.0 GPA while working on a double major in applied mathematics and business economics, found it hard to skip the party entirely. After the Gauchos won it all, they were the toast of the town, especially Frimmer. As Pat Monahan puts it, "You’d walk into apartments and see Ghanian flags hanging over people’s beds."

Frimpong’s journey from soccer hero to convicted felon began a little more than halfway through his senior year. (The account that follows is based on police reports, interview transcripts, court proceedings and comments from trial observers.) The night of Feb. 16 began for Frimpong in the same place where he started most Friday nights, on the couch in his house at 6547 Del Playa Drive, watching a movie with housemates. His girlfriend, Yesenia Prieto, was working late, but Eric had reason to celebrate, fresh off an impressive 10-day tryout for the Wizards, so he showered and went to meet friends at a party at 6681 Del Playa Drive. It was outside that home, at about 11:30 p.m., that Frimpong met Jane Doe, a UCSB freshman. They struck up a conversation, then walked back to his house to play beer pong. They arrived just before midnight, and Eric introduced Jane to his roommates before taking her to the patio, where the two of them played beer pong for a few minutes until, according to Frimpong, Doe said she wanted to smoke, so they headed for the park next door. At the park, he says, Doe approached another male, who appeared to have followed them. When she walked back to Frimpong, she started kissing him, but he wasn’t interested because she smelled of cigarettes. Doe became aggressive, he says, and stuck her hand down his pants. He pushed her away, then headed to the home of his friend, Krystal Giang, who’d been expecting him. By 4 a.m., he was in bed at Prieto’s apartment.

About an hour and a half earlier, Jane Doe, accompanied by her sister and two friends, checked into Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital emergency clinic, claiming she had been raped. She was transferred to the Sexual Assault Response center downtown, where a nurse discovered a laceration to Doe’s external genitalia and bruises on her body, findings consistent with sexual assault.

"Yesterday was a really good day," Doe told sheriff’s detectives Daniel Kies and Michael Scherbarth when they arrived at her dorm room the next morning, according to a police transcript. The reason for cheer: The 18-year-old Doe had just regained her driver’s license following a juvenile DUI conviction. At around 9 p.m. on Feb. 16, she went to a party with her sister, Elizabeth, and friends Mia Wolfson and Lakshmi Krishna. After stopping at a second party, Doe left the group and headed for a fraternity bash on Del Playa. "That’s where I saw the guy," she told police.

From there, Doe’s story is mostly consistent with Frimpong’s, up to and including their game of beer pong. "He was really nice," she said. But their accounts differ sharply after that. According to Doe, the next thing she remembers is being on the beach, where the nice guy turned violent, knocking her to the ground, striking her in the face, holding her throat and raping her before fleeing. Having lost her purse, Doe walked to Del Playa, where she stopped a passerby, student Justin Hannah. Using his cell, she phoned a friend, her father and then Wolfson and Krishna, who picked her up around 1:30 a.m. Doe, who admitted to drinking heavily throughout the evening, couldn’t remember anything between stepping into their car and going to the hospital — a period of one hour — but her friends would fill in the blanks: At first Doe didn’t want to go to the hospital because she was worried about getting in trouble for drinking. But back at the dorm, her friends kept urging, and she relented. Sitting with the detectives that morning, she described her attacker as a black male who spoke with an "island accent" and had "big lips" and short hair. His name? "Eric, I think."

Sometime around noon on Feb. 17, Kies and Scherbarth spotted Frimpong hanging out with friends at the park on Del Playa. When Kies asked if he would accompany them to the station to talk about "what happened last night," Frimpong agreed to go, despite being unsure what the detective meant. Once at the station, Kies reminded Frimpong that he had come voluntarily and asked him to describe what he’d been doing the previous night. According to the police transcript, Frimpong told Kies about watching a movie at home, then going to a party and eventually meeting Doe, whom he described as one of the "random soccer fans," and playing beer pong with her before heading to Giang’s house and later to Prieto’s. Kies then asked for Frimpong’s consent to collect the clothes he’d worn the night before. "Yeah," Frimpong responded, "but I still don’t know what’s going on." Kies explained that the girl said that they’d "had sex" on the beach.

"Wow," Frimpong responded.

Kies then informed Frimpong that he was being detained and read him his rights. Minutes later, he explained the rape accusation. "I didn’t have sex with her," Frimpong insisted. Charged with felony rape, he phoned Paul Monahan, who spread the word. Vom Steeg couldn’t believe it: "I’m thinking, Frimpong? Rape? No way." (The coach later asked Frimpong directly. "I said, ‘Eric, is there any chance you had sex but you thought maybe it was consensual?’ He said, ‘Tim, I never pulled my pants down.’ I said, ‘If you did this, DNA will prove it.’ He said, ‘Coach, I’m not stupid.’ ")

By the next day, Frimpong supporters had mobilized. Vom Steeg arranged for Paul Monahan to meet with Foley, and it was agreed that Monahan would fund a defense while the $100,000 bail would be paid by Foley and Cam Camarena, a former UCSB soccer player who helps finance Right to Dream, a program that brings Ghanian players to America. Based on a referral, they hired attor¬ney Robert Sanger, and funds were bolstered by the campus-based Eric Frimpong Freedom Fund, which raised $25,000 within months. When Frimpong was released on bond, teammates were waiting outside the police station. "Nobody knows Eric like we do," says former teammate Alfonso Motagalvan. "And he’s just not capable of doing something like this."

When the test results came back in March, Frimpong’s DNA hadn’t been found on Jane Doe’s clothing or body, but Doe’s DNA had been found on Frimpong: in two nucleated epithelial cells, found on his scrotum and penis, and in an unspecified trace under his fingernail. (Epithelial cells are found inside the body and in body fluids like mucus, saliva and sweat. These tested negative as vaginal cells, but such tests can be inconclusive. When the case went to trial that November, the defense argued that the findings were consistent with Frimpong’s claim that Doe had grabbed his genitals.) Also, semen found on Doe’s underwear didn’t match Frimpong’s — but it was a match for that of Benjamin Randall, Doe’s sexual partner throughout her freshman year. Randall told authorities that he and Doe had engaged in intercourse seven days before the rape; Doe said they’d had sex four days prior but that she thought she was wearing different underwear, and she told a nurse that they’d used a condom. (During the trial, Doe and Randall confirmed they’d been together at parties the night she met Frimpong. Randall testified that, while en route to a friend’s house, he spotted Doe and Frimpong walking on Del Playa at about 11:40 p.m. Randall then called Doe, and she told him she was headed to "Eric’s house to play beer pong." Under cross-examination by Sanger, Randall admitted, "I might’ve been a little upset. I guess you can call that jealousy." He also testified that after the call, he returned to his dorm at Santa Barbara City College, where he spent the night alone.)

Despite having DNA evidence matched to him, Randall was never a suspect. Neither was the man who retrieved Doe’s purse, which she said she’d lost either on the beach or at Frimpong’s home. It was delivered to the sheriff’s department the next day, minus $30, by someone described in the police report as a "can recycler." But because of a "language barrier," he wasn’t questioned.

Frimpong was the only suspect, even though there was no apparent sign of sexual activity — no blood, semen, vaginal secretions — or any scratches or other telltale marks of rape on his body or clothes. The absence of abrasions was odd. Doe told authorities she was wearing a "thicker ring" on her right ring finger and that she hit her attacker so hard, "all my knuckles were screwed up." There was also very little sand found on his clothes. (At the trial, Dianne Burns, a criminologist who examined the physical evidence, testified to the presence of two small vials’ worth of sand in the cuffs of Frimpong’s jeans and in one pocket.)

Still, the district attorney’s office pressed on, in a case reminiscent of one that was unraveling on the East Coast. "There was always a strong parallel to the Duke case," Vom Steeg says. "From the start, the sheriff’s department felt like they had their guy. But when the evidence didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to, their position became, ‘If she’s willing to testify, we’ll go forward."

Using phone records, authorities estimate that the attack took place between 12:15 and 1:15 a.m., a time period for which Frimpong did not have a solid alibi. James Jennings, a bicycle taxi driver, said he gave Frimpong a lift between 12:30 and 2 a.m. and that the player acted like "the happiest guy in the world." Giang told authorities that Frimpong arrived at her home sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight. But a 1:34 a.m. phone call from Frimpong to Giang seemed to place his arrival later than she had estimated. Also thorny was the testimony of Hannah, the student who had lent Doe his phone. He said that while Doe "looked like she had just come out of a traumatic experience," her clothing didn’t appear to be dirty or sandy. He also said that she told him that she "didn’t know what had happened."

Throughout the investigation and during the trial, Doe admitted to gaps in her memory. In her interview with detectives, she claimed she had consumed "a couple shots of vodka" before leaving her dorm. In an interview that April with assistant district attorney Mary Barron, the lead prosecutor, Doe said she’d consumed more throughout the evening. "I know I had beer," she said. "And I know I had rum." She also acknowledged that her memory after beer pong was hazy. "That’s when it starts to, like, cut out," she told Barron. According to the transcript, Doe had little memory of going to the beach, and her recollection of the rape itself was scattered. Asked whether she recalled going outside to smoke, Doe said she "probably" smoked but didn’t remember when. "I don’t even know, since there’s that chunk missing."

So what happened on the beach? Doe said Frimpong may have tried to kiss her, but when pressed by Barron she admitted, "I have no clue. I’m just assuming…" She also said, "I remember him biting me on my face," even though she had told the emergency room doctor she thought she’d been hit, and when questioned by detectives, she said she didn’t know about being bitten — despite Kies’ saying, "That’s definitely, most definitely, teeth marks, dude," about the bruise on her cheek. When Barron questioned her about it, Doe said, "But later, when they’re, like, ‘It looks like teeth marks’ …I remember that happening."
Doe continued, "I saw him, like, feel around — take off his belt — or something on his pants — I don’t know." She said she remembered being penetrated, and "it felt like a penis." Barron asked if the attacker was the same person she’d played beer pong with. Doe said that while she couldn’t recall going to the beach, she remembered the attacker’s accent, his eyes ("They were white") and his lips ("They’re big"). She was also fairly confident that the rape lasted "15 minutes at the most… but then, since there’s that huge chunk of time that I don’t remember, it could be anything." 

Many of Frimpong’s supporters believe that race is at the heart of the case. Santa Barbara County has nearly 425,000 residents, but only 2% are black. "I love this town," says Foley, a resident for 30 years, "but there’s no question there’s racism here."

Thanks to Frimpong’s celebrity status, he wasn’t flying under the radar. "I’m 100% convinced that they were going to nail this guy before he walked into the station," Foley says. (At the trial, Burns testified that in a Feb. 22 phone call from Kies, the detective asked her to expedite her usual process, reminding her that this was a "high-profile case.")

Back on campus, media coverage led to an unwelcome surprise for the defense: After reading about Frimpong’s arrest, another student came forward claiming that she too had been assaulted by him. This new Jane Doe told police that a few weeks before the rape, he had acted aggressively toward her, grabbing her buttocks and tackling her on the beach. The DA used the accusation to charge Frimpong with misdemeanor sexual assault, which made for a second count at trial. (He was found not guilty.) "The DA’s office filed a weak claim of sex¬ual assault to portray Eric as a serial sexual predator and bolster the flawed rape claim," wrote Kim Seefeld, a local defense attorney and former prosecutor, in a blog post on Jan. 15, 2008. "The allegations severely prejudiced him before the jury."

The second charge also sent Frimpong back to jail, where friends say he was taunted by deputies. When Paul Monahan picked him up later that day, after Foley and Camarena paid the additional $250,000 bail, Frimpong broke down in tears.

There was no trip to the White House with the rest of his teammates. After the second arrest, Frimpong went into seclusion, moving to an apartment with Pat Monahan and relying on friends to run errands and deliver food. He still ventured out for dates with Prieto, and he remained active on the field, playing in an intramural league and with the semipro Ventura Fusion. He also took a part-time job with Foley. "I tried to give him pocket money, but he wouldn’t take it," Foley says. "He was a different kid, just as sad as can be."

Meanwhile, a battle raged among the student body. On one side were Frimpong’s loyal backers, who attested to his character in TV interviews and who carpooled in large numbers to his hearings. On the other side were victims’ rights advocates, who responded with rape awareness presentations on campus and a confrontation with Frimpong supporters at an MLK Day rally. "It was ugly, with a lot of people saying a lot of dumb things," Giang says. "People just forgot that at the heart of this are the facts, not just vague concepts."

None of it kept Frimpong from graduating in June 2007. "Nine out of 10 kids would have dropped out," Vom Steeg says. "It says a lot about his character." Adds Camarena, now the head coach for the University of Hawaii at Hilo: "Eric never blamed corruption, never called anyone a racist, never called the girl a liar. He continued to uphold American values. And he maintained faith that our justice system would see him through."

Frimpong put that faith in an all-white jury of nine women and three men. His trial began on Nov. 26, and for three weeks Department 2 was home base for Team Frimpong. Many supporters came with notebooks, and during recess they would go to the café across the street to discuss the latest unfavorable ruling. They point to the time, for example, when Barron may have implied to the jury that Frimpong had chosen not to testify, even though the prosecution is not allowed to refer to the defendant’s right to remain silent. While Judge Hill said that there were "possible inferences," he denied Sanger’s motion for a mistrial. Also, during jury deliberations, Hill refused to dismiss juror No. 5 after her arrest for drunken driving. (The defense argued that the juror, whose case was in the hands of the DA, couldn’t remain impartial.)

Perhaps the most troubling ruling, as far as the defense was concerned, involved bite mark analysis. The prosecution’s forensic expert, Norman Sperber, testified that he couldn’t rule out Frimpong for causing the bite on Jane Doe’s face. But detectives failed to disclose that they had first approached another expert: Raymond Johansen would later testify, outside the jury’s presence, that after preliminary analysis, he told Kies that the bite mark was "vague." Law enforcement is required to turn over evidence that doesn’t point to the defendant as the suspect; suppressing such evidence is grounds for a mistrial. But Kies failed to file a report of his conversation with Johansen. When questioned by Sanger, the detective stated that while he had indeed approached Johansen first, the dentist had failed to provide any opinion. Kies and senior DA Ronald Zonen both told the court that they had passed over Johansen because he wanted to charge for his services, and Sperber wasn’t charging. But Sperber testified that he always charges for his services, and he did so for this case, too. Judge Hill, who had served 19 years as a Santa Barbara DA prior to sitting on the bench, ruled that Johansen’s testimony was not exculpatory and denied that motion as well.

Nonetheless, Frimpong’s supporters save much of their scorn for Sanger. The prosecution rested its case on Dec. 12, having called 32 witnesses; Sanger questioned them all on the stand but called only one additional witness, a blood expert who testified that Doe’s blood alcohol level at the time the sample was taken, 5:37 a.m., was .20, and that it could have been as high as .29 at the time of the incident — an almost lethal level. Sanger rested his case the next day. "The final score was 32-1," Vom Steeg says. "I feel guilty, like we didn’t do enough." Loni Monahan spoke to Sanger throughout the trial about his strategy. "He told me, ‘The best defense was no defense, because it would demonstrate there’s nothing to defend,’" she says. "We made a mistake."

The jury began deliberating on Friday, Dec. 14; the next Monday, just after 3:30 p.m., came the guilty verdict.

On Jan. 31, 2008, with Frimpong in jail awaiting sentencing, the defense filed a motion for a new trial, citing several factors, including a development with the jury: In a written declaration to the court, juror Ann Diebold stated, "I regret the decision I made in finding Mr. Frimpong guilty." Among her many points was the court’s refusal to provide the jury with evidence they had requested for review, including Doe’s testimony and Frimpong’s interview with Kies — the latter because some jurors stated that they wanted "the opportunity to hear Mr. Frimpong’s side of the story." (They were read only Doe’s direct testimony, without cross-examination, because Judge Hill said "it would take some time to gather the additional information," Diebold wrote.) Diebold also claimed that the jurors rushed through deliberations so they could conclude the case by the Christmas holiday. "I felt pressure from the judge and other jurors to reach a verdict by Dec. 18," she wrote.

Sanger’s motion was a last-second heave, but it allowed him to put his own forensic dentist on the stand. Defense expert Charles Bowers fell ill during the trial and was unable to testify, but at the hearing on Feb. 28, he delivered his opinion: Frimpong’s teeth could not have made the bite, but Randall’s teeth could have. As Bowers spoke, there was a buzz in the gallery. But Judge Hill was unmoved. He began the hearing by saying that in his 27-year career, "I’ve not seen a rape case with so much incriminating, credible and powerful evidence," and ended it by dismissing the motion. Three days later, he sentenced Frimpong to six years.

Today Eric Frimpong is prisoner F95488, a ward of the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, about 75 miles northeast of Santa Barbara. Friends and supporters continue to fight for him, but none worries more than his mother. "She’s sick to death," says Loni Monahan, who provides Mary with weekly updates. "We understand one of every 10 words, but we’re moms, so it’s enough." Loni’s own son marvels at Eric’s almost preternatural calm in the face of adversity. "The kid’s in jail, and with all his issues, he’s the one keeping us sane," Pat says.

Frimpong is small in size, but he seems to have avoided many of the pitfalls of life behind bars. He even calls many of

The (soon to be ex-?)MP for Bawku Central, Mr. Adamu Dramanu, seems to be going through a number of legal tussles as he seeks to cling on to his seat. On 16 July 2009, the High Court ruled that he could no longer hold on to the seat because he held dual nationality at the time he filed his nomination papers to stand as an MP. But the MP decided that the seat would have to be prised out of his fingers and headed for the courts for a stay of execution, which has been also been hurled out of the window, with the respective lawyers’ gowns flapping in the legal whirlwind and their horsehair wigs flying asunder.

Unperturbed by the high court’s latest decision, Mr. Dramani is said to be heading for the appeal courts for some more fireworks, inevitably meaning fatter fees for his lawyers. From media reports, Mr. Dramani is said to argue that he filed his renunciation with the British authorities as far back as December 2007 when he decided he wanted to be a parliamentarian. The question to ask is whether in doggedly pursuing this issue, Mr. Dramani is putting forward an arguable case or is simply being an irritating distraction on the Ghanaian political and legal landscape.

There are those who argue that Ghanaian citizens who have subsequently acquired foreign nationality in addition to their original nationality should not be forced to renounce the foreign nationality in order to seek or hold certain public offices. That is the subject of another debate for Ghanaian constitutional lawyers another day. This article solely seeks to address the legal issue of whether Mr. Dramani had effectively renounced his British nationality at the time he filed his nomination. The test, it is submitted, is not a difficult one.

The process of renunciation of British nationality under United Kingdom law is governed by the provisions of sections 12 and 34 of the British Nationality Act 1981, and it is important to visit the framework of this legislation in order to arrive at a dispassionate view of the arguments raging on this issue.

Under the 1981 Act, a person who is of full age and of full capacity may validly renounce his British nationality. The person must complete form RN1, sign it, date it and submit it to the Home Office if he is in the UK or to the nearest British diplomatic mission if he is outside the UK, together with the appropriate fee (currently £120.00).

Under s.12 (3) of the 1981 Act, a person must satisfy the Home Office that in renouncing his British nationality, he either has another nationality or will be acquiring another nationality within six months of the date the form RN1 is completed and submitted. If he has no other nationality at the time of application and fails to obtain another nationality within six months of the RN1 being completed and submitted, then his renunciation fails to continue to have effect.

For his renunciation to be effective, the Home Office has to stamp and sign the application form to show that the declaration has been registered, and then communicate this formally to the applicant. This will be the formal evidence of the applicant’s renunciation. This means that the mere completion and submission of the form RN1 to the Home Office or the high commission/embassy as appropriate is not evidence of renunciation, until such time that the applicant receives his formal notice. Further, whilst the application may take some time for the Home Office to record and formally endorse a renunciation, it is no defence to argue that the RN1 was submitted early and has been delayed-that is completely immaterial.

It therefore follows that unless Mr. Dramani is able to show that on the day he filed his nomination papers, he had received an official confirmation from the UK Home Office that he was no longer a British national, then on that date, he was a British national in addition to being Ghanaian, regardless of whatever he says. If, according to the courts, the laws of Ghana infer that he must not be a national of any other country apart from Ghana on the day he files his nomination to be an MP, then it is impossible to understand how his appeal can succeed in law. His only defence to the lawsuit brought against him is to whip out the document confirming his renunciation and dated prior to the date on which he filed his nomination. By law, nothing else will do. It is that simple, really.

If, as Mr. Dramani says, he submitted his application to the Home Office, either directly or through the British High Commission in Accra in December 2007 but he is yet to receive a reply confirming registration of his renunciation, then his British citizenship remains intact. In that case he is best advised to let the law take its course as it stands and the seat be declared vacant, triggering a bye-election. He can then vigorously pursue the UK Home Office for a formal confirmation that he is no longer a British national. In my view, if he then obtains the renunciation confirmation before the deadline for the filing of nomination for the bye-election, then he can lawfully file his nomination papers and if he wins, return to Parliament having complied with the law.

If Mr. Dramani is unfortunate enough to receive his confirmation after the nomination deadline date, his world need not come to an end. He would simply have to wait until either nominations open for the 2012 elections or hope another bye-election is triggered by something else before then so that he can pursue his dream of being the MP for Bawku Central.

The combination of both Ghanaian and UK laws, as they stand, do not assist him in any way in his present circumstances.

By Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng ( rodboat@yahoo.com)… The writer is a UK based legal practitioner and heads the immigration department at IH Solicitors LLP in East London. He is the author of ‘Abrokyir Nkomo: Reflections of A Ghanaian Immigrant’, which was published in May 2009.

Until last Friday the saying that “the law is an ass” was exactly that to me – a saying. But thanks to a preposterous ruling by the three appeals court judges in the case of Kwabena Amaning and Alhaji Abass, I now know that the law, indeed, is an ass upon which criminals ride into undeserved freedom.

Lawyers for Tagor and Abass had argued in court that the judge who convicted them about two years ago did so without much evidence. That evidence was a tape recording of a conversation between Tagor, Abass, the former police director of operations, Kofi Boakye and some other suspected drug barons.

It’s one of the most titillating conversations ever recorded on tape in this country. It was quite a convivial gathering, where the police chief is heard on tape describing one of the suspected drug dealers as his “brother”.

In their deliberations the men are heard discussing the disappearance of some 77 parcels of cocaine from a vessel which had been impounded and placed under tight security at the Tema Harbour. No one at the gathering claims responsibility for the theft of the parcels. But anyone who listens to that tape with his head properly screwed on will come to one conclusion: that these are men deeply involved and well-connected in the criminal underworld of drug traffickers.

“I told them that the people who seized the drugs, if it were the Ghana Police, I could talk to them but those Narcotics people at Ministries, it is difficult to talk to them,” Abass is heard saying on the tape.

And he continues: “I told them to ask them to show us where the goods were but Adda said he was sure some of the goods were on the boat. Adda promised to call and show me where the goods were but he did not call back. From there, I called Tagor and told him that there was some business in town and we didn’t know. Tagor promised to find out who was involved. Tagor called later and asked, did I know that Joe Bosby was spreading rumors that Tagor, Issa and Kofi Boakye were the ones behind the business? I told them that it was Narcotic, National security, Navy and Air force who seized the vessel. Rumors started spreading that the goods were with me.”

On the same tape Kofi Boakye exclaims: “we have to protect ourselves” and he goes on to say, “I am a Public Officer… if someone says I, Director of Operation is involved that’s bad.”

And then Tagor says something to the effect that he sold some “goods” on credit to some people in Holland after keeping them with him for so long.

Upon all of this, the appeals court claims that “No evidence on the said cassette could support the charge against [Tagor and Abass].”

At the meeting (over bottles of whiskey) in Kofi Boakye’s house there are repeated references to “goods” and every sensible man should know that when suspected drug dealers speak about “goods” they are not referring to tins of mackerel or bars of key soap.

In fact, somewhere in the conversation one of the participants, Kwabena Acheampong says “the goods [weigh] 1800kgs”.

This, for me, is an indication that the guys were talking about “goods” which are sold by the weight. And since it wasn’t a gathering of cattle dealers, we can be sure that they were not talking about meat. Neither were they talking about rice, tomatoes, personal computers or home theatre systems.

In their conversation, they mention Benjamin (which is the name of the vessel) as well as the navy, police, national security and the Narcotics Control Board. They speak about the former deputy executive director of the Narcotics Control Board and some Columbians. One of them specifically mentions “drugs”. If you listen to the conversation very well, you don’t need the intellect of Gary Kasparov to be able to piece the jigsaw together.

If this is not evidence enough that the guys were talking about cocaine, I don’t know what else the appeals court judges want.

The judge who sentenced Tagor and Abass to 15 years imprisonment had his head properly screwed on. He knew what the “goods” they mentioned referred to. And that’s why he rightfully jailed Tagor and Abass. Those three appeals court judges who decided to set them free must have misplaced a few of the screws that should have kept their heads in firmly place. Their reasoning leaves too much to be desired.

First, they say “goods” could refer to several other things – and not just cocaine. That’s true. The appeals court asserts that prosecution should have put someone from the criminal underworld in the witness stand to show that “goods” referred to cocaine. That could have helped. But it was unnecessary. In their conversation, the gentlemen spoke about the Narcotics Control Board. They all wanted to know where the drugs which had disappeared from the MV Benjamin were being kept. They speak about Columbians – the most prolific producers of cocaine on this planet. Where on this earth will a bunch of meat packers or gold miners concern themselves about cocaine like Tagor, Kofi Boakye and the others did?

The judges also claim, rather foolishly, that the recorded deliberations in Kofi Boakye’s house were private and that “the said conversation could not be termed as a confession statement.” And this is where the judgment gets too ridiculous for anyone to stomach.

Are the appeals court judges saying that if they heard me on tape discussing a subversive plot with a friend, outlining my plans to overthrow the government they would ignore the conversation and let me go scot-free? Are they saying that if they heard some PNDC cadres on tape discussing how they conspired and succeeded in killing the Justices Sarkodie, Koranteng-Addo and Agyapong in 1982, they would refuse to admit that tape in evidence and let the culprits brought before them off the hook?

Tagor and Abass should not be breathing the same air of freedom law abiding citizens enjoy – even if there’s some sort of quid pro quo arrangement under which they are going to be used to jail some bigger fish. They should be back in jail as soon as possible.

The Attorney General should be knocking on the doors of the Supreme Court this week to argue that Tagor and Abass deserve to be behind bars and that the judges who ordered their release should have their heads re-examined and their skulls scrubbed with ‘Vim’ for their outrageous and shameful ruling. That ruling must be overturned because it sets a bad precedent and grants drug barons the licence to carry on their illicit dealings with impunity.

Read the transcript of that conversation in Kofi Boakye’s house: atokd.com/blogContent.aspx

From the circus we were treated to on the first day of the public hearings of the commission probing the utter waste we called Ghana@50, it appears that it might take another 50 years for the panel to finish its work. I would be long dead and gone by then.

Watching the proceedings at the commission on TV was as embarrassing as the Ghana@50 celebrations were outrageous. Half of the day’s work – beamed live on TV – involved the taking of notes in long hand. The chairman of the panel, an appeals court judge, doesn’t seem to have any problem with that.
“Hold on, hold on,” he would say, interrupting the testimony of a witness so he could take down his notes – verbatim.

After writing for about a minute or two, he would beckon the witness to continue with his testimony by saying, “yes”.

This went on and on and on and on… for much of the day. Watching it was tedious. It was boring. And it was ample testimony to the backwardness we are mired in.

This is the 21st century for Christ’s sake. The Ghana@50 probe is an important national assignment being transmitted live on TV for the whole world to see and we choose to embarrass ourselves this way with the silly spectacle of commission members taking notes in long-hand?

Watching the proceedings, I really felt sorry for the managing director of Prudential Bank, Steven Sekyere Abankwa, who spent his whole day before commission, mostly waiting for the commission chairman to finish writing. He’s a businessman. Time for him is a lot of money. I can only imagine the number of appointments he had to cancel after realising that his whole day would be taken up by what could have been an hour’s ‘date’ with the commissioners. I would have been very much annoyed if I were in that man’s shoes.

How much does it cost to buy a recorder (or recorders) replace the tedium of taking notes in longhand? It’s nothing this nation cannot afford. If we spent upwards of 70 million dollars on a useless and pointless party as Ghana@50 we should be able to spend 600 dollars to buy recorders for the commission probing the wastefulness of that endeavour.

I think the commission should suspend its sitting immediately until it has acquired the equipment for recording. It doesn’t cost much. Two desktop computers and a basic software can do the trick. Even I, an amateur as I am, can set up a facility within minutes to enable the commission record it proceedings and help speed up the process. It will save the panel the tiresome task of taking notes in longhand and save us the embarrassment of watching him do so.

Writing in longhand is so 18th century. And I am told it happens in most courts around the country? We could have spent a tenth of the money we wasted on Ghana@50 to equip our courts with simple recording gadgets to speed up the administration of justice. As Kwadwo Mpiani and Charles Wereko-Brobbey complain about the commission working at a snail’s pace, I hope they realise their folly. We needn’t have spent 70 million dollars on Ghana@50. The money could have been used on a legacy project – like building modern courtrooks, equipped with recorders and all to help speed up the delivery of justice. And justice they should get! Hopefully, that will happen before I die.

Most Ghanaians didn’t need a committee to help them come to the conclusion that there was something fundamentally wrong (and almost criminal) about the package ex-President Kufuor was going to retire on. We all knew that he didn’t deserve two houses, six cars and an ex-gratia of more than 400,000 dollars – all on top of a monthly salary of about 5,000 dollars.

Long before President Mills decided to set up the Ishmael Yamson Committee to review Kufuor’s retirement package, most of us had made up our minds that the former president and his special advisor, Mary Chinery-Hesse, had been up to no good. The president must have felt the same way and that, presumably, is why he set up the committee – just to make assurance doubly sure.

Thankfully, Ishmael Yamson and his panel members have proved to be not only wiser but more thoughtful, patriotic, pragmatic and more thorough – even with limited time and resources. With all the time and resources they had Mary Chinery-Hesse and her gang did a pretty lousy job.

I find most of the recommendations of the Yamson panel quite sound and commendable. For example, the suggestion for a review of the policy which allows office holders to buy their duty vehicles makes very good sense.

All in all, the Yamson panel did a very decent job. But they also leave a quite a lot to be desired and some of their recommendations don’t go half as far enough as most Ghanaians expected.

First of all, despite all their pragmatism, the Yamson panel fails to state emphatically that the payment of ex-gratia (or end-of-service gifts) should be discontinued. That’s what most Ghanaians wanted.

We the longsuffering people of this country do not understand (and we cannot accept) that after coming to lord it over us for years and getting paid handsomely for taking us for a ride, we should bunch together certain sums of money to say "thank you" to our retiring leaders. We don’t have the resources to be dishing out gifts to people just like that, do we? It doesn’t matter the name given to these gifts. Whether it is "ex-gratia" or "gratuity" we can’t afford to pay them – not to retiring presidents, not to end-of-term MPs. We can’t afford it and we should not pay. It’s as simple as that.

No one forced the politicians to run for office and they should not force us to show appreciation with "ex-gratia" or "gratuities". If John Kufuor, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu and Alban Bagbin think they deserve ex-gratia, then that nurse who has worked for 30-years at the Effia Nkwanta Hospital and is retiring on a paltry salary of 600 Ghana cedis deserves even more.

If the nurse doesn’t get an ex-gratia, Bagbin and co should go and chew rocks. We need our money to build schools and hospitals and provide water for people to drink – not to help Kufuor and his ilk live in luxury for the rest of their lives.

Secondly, Mr. Yamson’s recommendation that a retired president should be given accommodation – by the state – leaves a big lump of annoyance in my throat. Chinery-Hesse recommended that a former president should get two houses but Ishmael Yamson says one is ok.

I think it should not be the taxpayers’ burden to provide housing for our former presidents. Let’s take Kufuor for example. He has his own house. He refused to live in a state property whilst in power and renovated that house of his at our expense. Why can’t he continue staying in that house of his in retirement? Why should the state give him one more house? Give him an office – maybe! But a house on top of that is asking the taxpayer for too much.

The man has worked all his life. As president he was paid a very good salary. If he needs one more house, he should go and take a mortgage – like we are all supposed to do. After all, he is retiring on his hefty salary and he will earn as much as the sitting president until he dies. We don’t need to build houses for any president – not Rawlings, not Kufuor and not Mills!

It also doesn’t make sense that we are also supposed to give Kufuor four cars. I think he should be able to buy his own car(s) as well – as many as he needs. If for whatever reason we feel compelled to give him vehicles, I think one or two should be ok. Where at all will a retiree be travelling to that he needs four cars?

Thirdly, the Yamson report makes reference to the fact that the prevailing economic circumstances should be taken into account before we set retirement packages for public office holders.

It says: "All future recommendations relating to the determination of the emoluments, facilities and privileges of Article 71 officer holders should consider the country’s ability not only to fund such emoluments in the short term but also its sustainability in the long term as well as the cascading effect."

That’s all well and good. It makes perfect sense. But it’s quite disappointing that Mr. Yamson and his panel failed to look at how these things are done elsewhere. The Americans don’t build retirement homes for their ex-presidents. Neither do they provide them with luxury cars. And they are among the richest nations on earth, right? If they won’t splurge on their former leaders, why should we? If they do not offer their ex-president any ex-gratia (or gratuity) why should we?

In America, they build presidential libraries – where citizens can go to acquire knowledge. We are sitting down here thinking of houses for our former presidents. No wonder we keep going to the Americans to beg for crumbs.

Finally, I have an issue with Mr. Yamson’s suggestions that government should set up a special committee (again?) to resolve this retirement package issue once and for all.

Aren’t we tired of committees already? Within six months, President Mills has formed more committees (and commissions) than any president before him did within the same period. Mr. Yamson should simply have asked for more time to finish the job. Having failed to do that, we are going to wait for the president to constitute another committee. Gosh! A lot of money (and tea) is going to be wasted again on what we already know.

Please check out John Kufuor: The plundering retiree – atokd.com/blogContent.aspx

 

Mr. President,

I just wanted you to know that you are turning out to be the most humane and sensitive president we’ve ever had in Ghana. You may not necessarily be the most competent (you will need to do a lot more to prove your competence). And you are definitely not the most upbeat. You seldom inspire confidence and your gaffes are getting to many of us. But I’ve realised that you are very humane and I am falling in love with that side of you.

Mr. President, I came to this conclusion when I heard that you had personally called my friend and colleague, Cyrus de-Graft Johnson to apologise after he was beaten up and burgled by those AMA goons.
The night before your call, I was working with Cyrus. In fact, if you care to know, I detailed him to go and report on the destruction of that unauthorised market that had sprung up near the Accra Mall. I was disgusted (and partially amused, I must say) when mid-way through his live report on radio, he started screaming in fear: “hey, what are you doing with my recorder?”

Obviously there was something wrong and when his phone suddenly went off, I realised he was in some serious trouble.

When he returned to the studio about an hour later, his shirt buttons were torn. He looked dirty and pretty well beaten. His phone, recorder and wallet had been taken away from him by those goons operating in the name of the AMA. You could tell he was traumatised. After we’d discussed (and laughed a bit about) what happened, I left the studio – thinking about how I could make a case for the company to get him a replacement phone.

Imagine my surprise and delight when the next day I heard that you had called him to say “sorry”. You also promised to instruct the mayor of Accra make sure that Cyrus got his belongings back. Thanks to you, Cyrus’ phone and recorder have been returned. But his wallet, stashed with a lot of money, is still with the AMA agents.

I am pretty sure that if you had not intervened, the AMA and its mayor would have treated Cyrus as a nuisance who deserved what he got. I don’t remember any of our past leaders calling an ordinary citizen (brutalised by agents of the state) to say “sorry”.

With that singular gesture, Mr. President, you’ve shown beyond any doubt that you are sincere and you just don’t want to lord it over us and govern like an African chieftain. You’ve demonstrated that in you, we have a down-to-earth, humane and sensitive leader.

I appreciate that and I am certain most Ghanaians feel the same way too. As I doff my hat to you, I urge you to be as humane to all Ghanaians as you’ve shown to Cyrus. I hope it wasn’t just a one-off incident and that as you occupy the highest office in the land you will personally intervene when you hear an injustice has been committed against any ordinary citizen.

Step in when you see your compatriots in distress. Be sympathetic and sensitive. Don’t tell us we are broke because we are lazy. Don’t allow your ministers (and other top agents of the state) to use their powers to intimidate hapless souls – as they did to a man like Hodari Okai.

Once again, Mr. President – on behalf of Cyrus – I say thank you for demonstrating such sensitivity and fellow-feeling.

Sincerely yours,
atokwamena

PS: I should have written this much earlier. But I decided to hold on to it until you returned from that useless NAM summit. But, Mr. President, it might interest you to know that a few days after you called Cyrus to apologise, he was attacked by a gang of robbers on a motorbike. The incident occurred one early evening last week – right in front of JOY FM. They took his phone away and inflicted a couple of cutlass wounds on him. I don’t expect you to call Cyrus to apologise again. But please take action to fulfil your promise to reduce armed robberies to the barest minimum. We are living in fear. I can’t take my wife for walks in the evening anymore.

So the president travels abroad for a few days. He has been away for just about four days. Upon his return, there is a whole retinue of ministers, special assistants, presidential aides and protocol officers waiting at the airport to welcome him.

Why should government officials – including the vice president – drop everything else they are doing to go to the airport to welcome the president who has been away for just a few days? Or don’t they have anything better doing? Even if they didn’t have much to do, wouldn’t they be better off spending their time relaxing at home rather than going to the airport to welcome the returning president?

For years, we’ve seen our government officials wasting hours at the airport just to receive our returning president. But as I read the story in the newspapers about President Mills’ return from the useless NAM Summit in Egypt, I asked myself: what’s the point in having the national security co-ordinator, the interior minister, the vice president, the national security co-ordinator and several other government officials and hangers-on at the airport to welcome the returning president?

A few days earlier, I had seen pictures of President Obama returning from his tour of three countries (including Ghana). There wasn’t a retinue of government officials at the airport to welcome him – only a helicopter to fly him from Maryland to the White House. The director of the CIA wasn’t there. The secretary for homeland secretary wasn’t there. And his vice president was at home.

We waste a lot of time doing a lot of unnecessary things in this country. Since President Mills promised in his sessional address that he’s going to pursue new ways of doing things, I think he should tell his ministers to stop wasting time coming to meet him at the airport after he has been away for only a few days.

In the same vein, they should not follow him to the entrance of the plane just to wave at him when he is going away.

The ministers can spend their time usefully doing better stuff – like, in the case of Avoka, exercising in the gym to shrink his fast-growing pot-belly. Even if they do not have any serious official duty to perform, they should just stay home and sleep. Or spend time with their families – or girlfriends and concubines.

Trooping to the airport to see off the president or welcome him back doesn’t show loyalty. It doesn’t show respect. And it simply doesn’t make sense. I pray this practise ends with President Mills. When he travels and returns, only his limousine and a few of his aides and protocol officers should be at the airport to welcome him. The ministers (and the vice president) can see him later and brief him about what has happened in his absence.

Rawlings and Kufuor hate each other’s guts. That’s a fact. Rawlings acknowledges it and even though he says he “cannot tolerate” his successor, he insists that he is “working on that”. Whatever that means. Kufuor, on the other hand, appears to be in denial. He says there is no bad blood between him and Rawlings. But every Ghanaian knows that two men dislike each other.

Rawlings thinks Kufuor is a “thief” and Kufuor believes strongly that Rawlings is the “devil” (“sasabonsam”). Their mutual hatred has often been played out in such a public manner that it is hard to believe that these are supposed to be our most respected elder statesmen.

Last week, a few hours before they were due to have breakfast with Barack Obama, Rawlings was on TV tearing into Kufuor and saying that he was only going to attend for the sake of the people of Ghana. And though Kufuor will very rarely speak like Rawlings did about him, there is no denying the fact that the feeling is mutual. The fact is Kufuor will not call Rawlings over to his (son’s) hotel for a cup of cappuccino or some caviar. The enmity between them is palpable.

Yet, when Obama came they put on a good show for him. They were so convivial with each other that Obama might have been fooled into thinking that they were the best of friends. But we know they are not. And very few of us – only those with hope of Obamaic proportions – expect them to be friends before either kicks the bucket.

Sometime last year the Asantehene, Otumfuor Osei-Tutu, offered to initiate some sort of mediation to get Rawlings and Kufuor to start treating each other like the elder statesmen they are supposed to be. But he wanted to wait for Kufuor to leave office first.

It’s been more than six months since Kufuor’s two-term tenure ended and the Otumfuor is yet to start his mediation efforts. I think the Ashanti chief should not bother because neither Rawlings nor Kufuor seem prepared to listen to him. And who amongst us will go out dancing with joy if Kufuor and Rawlings decide to stop treating each like hot-headed, infantile bigots? Reconciling them will not reverse the ever-shrinking size of our balls of ‘kenkey’, will it?

I don’t think so.

But for those of you who think – for whatever reason – that Rawlings and Kufuor need to be reconciled, here is a thought.

I think the two of them behave remarkably well towards each other in the presence of an American president. When George Bush came around last year, they were hugging and smiling with each other. I am sure that if George Bush had asked them to lock their tongues in a kiss, they wouldn’t have hesitated.
Last week, in the presence of Barack Obama they were so friendly with each other that you would have been forgiven for thinking that Kufuor was the one who sprung Rawlings out of jail on June 4. According to Kufuor, they even shared a few jokes when Obama asked them to take a picture together.

It is quite clear to me that the two of them like to put on a show for American presidents by masquerading as good pals. So, I think, the best way to help them treat each other like elder statesmen should is to get them in the presence of an American president as often as possible. Obama has come and gone and only God knows when he’d pass by again. So why not ship Kufuor and Rawling off to America?

They can both be Obama’s “special assistants”: Kufuor will be responsible for cleaning the underside of Obama’s shoes and Rawlings’ sole duty will be to ensure that the bum of Obama’s dog is tidy at all times. These job specifications might be a little beneath our former presidents but if they help to make them treat each other with civility and respect – by placing them constantly in the presence of an American president – we should encourage them to start writing their application letters.

The action in the courtrooms has been quite exciting today. In fact, it seemed like a football match. And so far, the NPP and the NDC have scored one apiece.

First to concede a ‘goal’ was the NPP. An Accra High Court ruled that the party’s MP for Bawku Central, Adamu Dramani, is not qualified to occupy the seat. The case was brought against the MP by a cattle herdsman – who speaks very good English and seems to know his rights quite well.

The herdsman argued in court that at the time he filed his nomination papers to contest the Bawku Central seat, Mr. Dramani was holding dual British and Ghanaian citizenship and therefore he should not have been allowed to run. The court agreed with him and ruled that Mr. Dramani is disqualified to be MP.

The news must gladden the heart of presidential spokesperson, Mahama Ayariga, from who Mr. Dramani wrestled the Bawku Central seat.

Ayariga seems to know quite a lot more about this case than he cares to admit publicly. When the herdsman initiated this case, it was Ayariga who distributed copies of the writ among some journalists. If he wasn’t away on official assignment in Egypt – attending the useless NAM summit with his boss – he might have issued a statement gleefully announcing the court’s verdict. Mr. Ayariga and the NDC must see this as a chance to recapture that seat and boost their parliamentary majority – even though Mr. Dramani has made it clear that he will appeal against the court’s ruling.

Moments after the high court’s decision on Bawku Central, the Supreme Court handed down what essentially is a legal victory, which might result in an electoral triumph for the NPP in Akwatia.

That constituency doesn’t have a representative in parliament because of the electoral dispute between Baba Jamal, deputy Eastern Regional Minister and Dr. Kofi Asare of the NPP. The dispute stems from the violent seizure of some parliamentary ballot boxes from six polling centres during the polls in December. The Electoral Commission has counted all the remaining boxes and the NPP seemed quite content and willing to go with the EC’s plans to re-run the polls in the six centres where there was trouble.

But Baba Jamal, quite unreasonably, disagreed, demanding the poll should be re-run in the entire constituency. A court in Koforidua ruled for in his favour but Dr. Asare filed for a challenge at the Supreme Court.

Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Dr. Asare (and the EC’s as well). So the Akwatia parliamentary polls will be re-run in six polling stations. Thereafter the ballots will be added to what has already been counted and a winner will be declared.

It’s very likely Baba Jamal will lose. The results from the six polling stations will make very little difference to the figures the EC already has. A constituency-wide re-run might have favoured Baba Jamal because his party is in power – and it’s easy for a ruling party to win such an election. Baba Jamal is not happy and he will be best advised to be content with his position as deputy regional minister. He can ‘chop’ there as well. The downside, though, is that he cannot get a 50,000-dollar loan.

The situation in Bawku Central is not as clear-cut. The sitting MP is determined to challenge the ruling that he’s not qualified to be an MP. It’s going to be a long legal battle – which might eventually end up at the Supreme Court – unless the herdsman gives up. But as long as Ayariga remains interested in that seat, he (the herdsman) will keep on keeping on. If the matter is resolved in good time and the MP loses his appeal, there will be a by-election in Bawku Central. Ayariga – who is already campaigning with the tractors he recently acquired – will most likely recapture the seat. By that time, Akwatia would have been decided. And the scores will most probably be as they are today: NPP-1, NDC-1.

That’s politics. That’s life. Win some, lose some! Cry a little, laugh a little.