Chicken and Goat Justice 

When a common person on the street steals a bottle of palmwine or a few fingers of plantain he can receive up to two years prison sentence – even if he did it because he was hungry. Now if the law can be applied equally across board so that corrupt public servants are also prosecuted the same way and handed two years sentence, I honestly believe Ghana will change for the better. The new government is introducing the special prosecutor’s bill (Office of Special Prosecutor) and I honestly hope this office succeeds in prosecuting the bigger thieves and doesn’t become politicised. Presumably, this office is being introduced because the Attorney General’s department is highly politicised and is in murky waters.

At the moment the most corrupt people in Ghana are public servants. The politicians and their ministers are just a tip of the iceberg. They steal and steal and steal and whenever there is a change in government, they clandestinely set their offices ablaze in order to destroy documentary evidence of any financial crimes. Sometimes instead of facing the law when accused of corruption, bribery or theft and even if evidence is provided, public servants are simply transfered to another department or ministry so that they can continue to steal. The public accounts commitee hearings is a waste of time and effort. Because though the committee is ascribed the powers of a high court it has not succeeded in prosecuting anyone.

The entire system condones thievery and all the vices you can think of and ironically the most guilty walk about freely. You have to be a crafty criminal before you can succeed in this country. Recently many common people who have served various years were released from prison. Why? Because it was found out that their cases never went through trial. Why then were they in prison? Because they had no lawyer to defend them and the detective just dumped them in prison (on remand) and went back to business. The worst part is most people in the society don’t see anything wrong with this chicken and goat justice system, where the same offence, having same technicalities, can have two contrasting legal outcomes depending on one’s status in society.

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Blackness (Part 3): Black people need to read more

Three things make slavery in the Americas horrendous and different: (1) It was instutionalized (2) It was extremely inhumane, slaves were treated as animals (3) It was continentwide and organised. When the ship docked and the slaves were brought out in tattered clothes – men, women and children, the first thing a slave master normally does is to crash the slaves’ spirit by killing one right in front of them. That way he effectively puts a stop to their desire to reason. Reason is salvation because it tells the slave to attack his master in order earn his freedom. But as a result of crashing their spirit, for the next 400 years the slaves had to stop reasoning in order to preserve their own lives. They simply obeyed instructions. When the master needed more hands on the farm he simply put one man together with a dozen women in a shack and forced them to copulate.

Today, some try to justify slavery by arguing that it existed in Africa long before the slave trade. That may be correct but indigenous African slavery was completely different: (1) Slaves were not worked to death (2) Slaves were released upon expiration of their term of service (3) A brave slave who fought in defence of his master’s tribe could rise to become a king and (4) African slavery was not institutionalized or codified. It was  a tribal affair. No slave was wilfully released or granted any rights in the west until the late 19th century. They were kept to work on the farm and were forbidden to read. A slave risks being killed for reading a book. Many people also quite unnecessarily differentiate between slavery and colonialism. Both are fueled by same motives: hegemony and exploitation. The only difference is the venue. Slavery took place away from Africa. Colonialism took place in Africa.

After the slave trade and slavery the black race lost its dignity. Today, all over the world, Africans or people of African descent are not accorded any genuine respect. It’s partly due to slavery and also due to the behaviour of some black people. In the days of slavery, they did provide clothes, shoes, a farm house, a language, a name, a religion, a culture, a god, a civilization (actually humanization according to them) and even today they continue to provide all of these including skin lightening creams etc. so in case one wanted to actually look white, one could do that. Did Africans not have a history, a culture, a language, a religion and a beautiful black skin before they arived in the new world? The black race must understand who they are, where they are from and where they are going. To do this they need to read more and with all due respect, turn the ‘reason switch’ back on.

Further reading: The works of  Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Dubois etc.

A Better World Means a Fairer World Where Charity is Unnecessary

Everyone is asking for peace but only few people are asking for social justice which would have made peace easier. In rural parts of the world, thousands, perhaps millions die of easily curable diseases. Where there are no disease epidemics people simply die of war, natural disasters or hunger. 

Meanwhile it’s clear these issues which are on a global scale have more to do with global politics than the availability of food resources, security and medication for those who need it. There is enough for everyone if the world’s resources are to be distributed fairly. But the world has reached a stage where nothing on two legs can be trusted and justice seem to be an extinct animal.

We normally respond to social injustice with charity but I don’t think charity is the solution. Injustice begins with unjust laws and until those laws are struct out injustice will remain. Charity makes people feel better but that’s temporary. The bigger problem of selective justice remains which must be dealt with. I think dreaming of a better world without a commitment to fairness is an illusion. To me a better world means a fairer world where charity or aid is unnecessary. 

Blackness

The capitalist will offer any gift to his labourers except the gift of freedom from the bridle. It was not the intention of the slave buying nation to grant citizenship to the slaves after bringing them to the new world. The intention was to put them to work until they died. 

Citizenship and equal rights was granted (in principle) as a last resort. The founders contradicted themselves through the preamble of the constitution by claiming that “All men are created equal” and this made them feel guilty. Abolition of slavery was a test of the human conscience. The truth is they don’t want you there. Any wonder that they shoot and kill black people for no real reason. 

When a white leader oppresses or imprisons a black man without moral justification or without due process of law, the black man is simply asked to forgive but if a black leader oppresses or imprisons a white man, they rally all the European people in the world and demand compensation for the oppressed whites. They consider their lives worth thrice a black person’s life.

Meanwhile the neo-colonialists continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that Ian Smith’s racist government stole lands, killed many native Africans and imprisoned Robert Mugabe for 11 years during which his son died. Maybe we are a foolish people, but the world must acknowledge the black race’s capacity to forgive – as Soyinka has said earlier.

What is the purpose of science if it doesn’t serve humanity?

With president Donald Trump reportedly cutting funds to the arts and humanities, I wonder what consequences it will have on the development of a national culture for a country as diverse and racially heterogenous as the United States. Without education in the arts and the humanities civil unrests will be more frequent because people wouldn’t know or understand how to live with one another and even with the state. All knowledge of the arts and the humanities helps us to know who we are, why we are the way we are and what we ought to do to improve ourselves, our communities and the larger society. Law, Politics and Business are all traditionally categorized as arts and humanities.

In the past half century or so there has been intense focus globally on science education, which is good but not good enough to create a more humane civilization and make humans a better and conscientious people. Science has given us many beautiful inventions but their purpose will depend on the purpose we as humans envision for those inventions. What good is a powerful weapon, machinery, tool, vaccine etc if one is not trained to use it humanely.

Science has told us in clear terms that it cannot help us as far as the purpose or meaning of life is concerned. We can only turn to the arts and the humanities for truly meaningful answers. There are tens of thousands of literary and cultural organisations across the U.S. often offering voices to the voiceless and the under-represented. This no doubt is important in uniting such a racially divided country. If funding to the arts and humanities is cut, the government is simply postponing a problem not solving it. Unless peace, coexistence, civil rights, and national unity is not a priority for the government at the moment. As someone who is passionate about literature and the arts, I can only ponder the consequences if literature and art is further underpromoted.

All moral laws are reducible to reciprocity

It is a fact that different societies have different morals and value systems. This argument is further advanced by most amoralists and serves as a basis for a rejection of universal moral values. But even when we look at the great diversity in human nature, societies and their values and norms, it is by all means that whatever one does, one will be repaid in full. This is what justifies vengeance even if it is done in the name of one god or another god. The desire for justice is innate in every human. Morality itself is not based on reason, it has its basis in instinct. So a rational discussion on morality is futile – one would just be moving in circles. However, one thing that runs through all moral laws irrespective of geographic location, social group, race or nation is that there is reciprocity. There is something akin to a reward or payback (though sometimes difficult to perceive) based on an act that was perpetuated or neglected thereof. This reciprocity is not peculiar to only relationships within social groups, it is the fabric of all individual human interactions. Others call it karma. The problem however is that sometimes this reciprocal relationships are also subject to subjective interpretations and people with similar perspectives randomly self organize and create a morality of their own. They may even seek to punish someone who may have done something right for the majority. In a society as dysfunctional as mine, based on random self organization, criminals or the most unscrupulous are sometimes selected as the decision makers and adjudicators. When it happens that way the righteous is punished and everyone turns evil. There is reciprocity in there. Society has to be better than individuals so it is very important that people aspiring to leadership positions have high ethical principles and are people of highest moral standards. This ensures that the right values are emulated and promoted in the system. Sadly, as the reader may be aware this is often not so. We elect leaders based on their wealth and connections, then we turn around and complain when they attack us.

“Beasts of No Nation”

“Beasts of No Nation” is a 2015 feature film co-produced by and starring Idris Elba. It was shot mainly in Ghana. It seems to me in this modern times, that for a movie to be critically acclaimed it must have at least one of these three ingredients – sex, drugs or violence. Apart from the violence it portrays, the film together with many other similar ones like “Blood Diamonds” further damages Africa’s image by reinforcing the negative perception that people have about Africa.

The supposed beasts which the movie talks about turned out to be black Africans – child soldiers chanting, shooting civilians, throwing bombs and making a mockery of their own culture and traditions. This is what the average outsider already believes about Africa – a continent filled with bullets and bombs flying about in all directions – a dark continent where travelers and investors enter at their own risk. But is this really the whole story? Do people who have actually been to Africa give such accounts?

Many countries in Africa have never experienced civil war and are very peaceful yet rarely will a foreign film portray anything akin to that. Although living conditions in Africa, like anywhere else are not perfect, most African communities are very united and peaceful and typical African youths rarely do drugs. Suppose it was a movie portraying any city life in Africa, then of course we know every city in this world has its fair share of thuggery and violence – which is even something localized not continent wide.

Most people speak well of the artistic direction of “Beasts of No Nation” and I also think it’s really good, even better than “Blood Diamonds” but those who researched and wrote the story did not dig deep. There was violence and hooliganism in almost every scene. I guess it was all about commercial appeal and the box office, but not to correct any misconceptions about Africa although Idris Elba is a Sierra Leonean – Ghanaian by ancestry. I do perfectly understand the commercial appeal part of the whole project because the biggest challenge to filmmaking now is funding.

 

 

Revealing Truth Causes Chaos

Anas, an incredibly talented investigative Ghanaian journalist, has been able to secretly film at least 34 judges, including high court judges allegedly accepting bribes in return for passing lower sentences or acquitting criminals altogether. The news which broke last month shocked everyone. Many people are calling for the implicated judges to be suspended or dismissed. But I don’t think that will be enough to deter others. Simple dismissal is not the equivalent of miscarriage or abatement of justice. In fact dismissal could mean unlimited freedom for these allegedly corrupt judges. But of course not all judges are corrupt. I know that there are many who are fair in the true sense of the word.

If the evidence Anas has provided is sufficient proof, then I believe the law is supreme and must be applied. The most valuable thing a person has is his freedom and when that is rightfully taken just as it’s done to others, then we can be said to be serious about justice and equitable law enforcement. Keep in mind, that, justice is the prelude to peace. Considering the widespread allegations of corruption and bribery that hits the country every now and then, and now creeping it’s way like a virus into the judiciary, Ghana’s democracy is likely sitting atop a volcano.

In every organized system, revealing or speaking truth creates chaos. But that chaos is needed to completely turn the situation around sooner. To avoid the chaos is to postpone the change.

Very recently, Anas was expected before the judicial investigative committee which resumes work this week but it was reported that three hooded men, dressed almost the same way arrived at the premises of the court leaving onlookers with no clue about which one of them is the real Anas.

Since truth has no place is this fallen world, the best way to present undiluted truth, if one must, is to constantly mutate one’s identity. I believe it’s an excellent thing he did.

The photographs remind me of the Ku Klux Klan but in contrast these guys are clearly aiding Anas and therefore the state in its fight against corruption.

A Country Where Lunatics Are Prosecuted

A man was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison custody for attempted assassination of the president. According to the story, the man (who was showing signs of mental illness) was found in a church where the president regularly congregates. The president was not in church that particular day but the man was alleged to have entered the church with a weapon concealed in his pants (underwear) and comfortably sat as a congregant.

During the sermon he was reportedly acting suspicious so the presidential guards arrested him and he was subsequently arraigned and sentenced within 48 hours. Now the question is what kind of assassin will attend church, with the intention of killing the president, have his (undisclosed) weapon concealed in his pants and continue behaving suspiciously. The inability of the police to disclose the weapon he was carrying made many people conclude that they are making a big case out of slight evidence or none.

As a result of pressure from civil society and the general public, a recent medical test was conducted and it confirmed that the man indeed was clinically insane and so many people hope that he will be released and placed on medication. But we are told there will be a retrial. We don’t want Ghana to be the first to prosecute lunatics. The law on the legal process is very clear – that for an accused to be arraigned before court, proven guilty and sentenced, he must be of a sound mind. Here is a man who is not of a sound mind yet is being prosecuted. Ghana is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 in Paris, which includes the rights of the mentally-handicapped.