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Salifu Amankwah: The police officer who brutalized traders at Circle, killed accountant but was freed by Rawlings



According to previous publications by GhanaWeb and a book titled The ‘Yendi Chieftaincy Trials of 1978’ which was written by George Agyekum, the former chairman of the Board of Public Tribunals, Warrant Officer, Salifu Amankwah was a man many people feared.

Warrant Officer, Salifu Amankwah who was a military officer all his life was drafted into the police by the Provisional National Defence Council led by Jerry John Rawlings as the commander of the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Unit in the early 1980s.

His unit per the report was engaged in illegal arrests and brutalization of suspects. In short, Salifu Amankwah and his gang of police officers were law unto themselves.

The worst however happened in 1986 when he allegedly killed a man who was an accountant at Circle, Accra.

The Tribunal which was headed by George Agyekum found him guilty and sentenced him to death in 1986.

He appealed the sentencing but was granted pardon by JJ Rawlings in 1988 even before the appeal could be heard.

Upon release, he was reintegrated into the police force and continued his role as a member of the police task force in charge of traffic.

On December 12, 2006, Salifu Amankwa died in Tamale and was buried in accordance with Islam custom.

Below is an excerpt from George Agyekum’s book detailing how he was freed.

‘In fact, the exercise was laudable but it was incomplete. As stated, four case dockets were initially filed and one more added later to make five, but the exercise was abandoned mid-stream by us as sign of protest. A court protesting? Yes, but we had no choice. The politicians had undermined the trials so much that it was not worth sitting in Tamale and taking the risks we took daily in that very hostile environment. And it was all because of Salifu Amankwah. When we were in Tamale doing the chieftaincy trails, we were also trying Salifu Amankwah for the murder of a 70-year-old man Mr. Norbert Robert Quashie, a retired Accountant of the COCOBOD in Accra.

Everything had been done by the powers that be to avert the trial and the then Attorney General taking the case to the tribunal was a shock to them. They wanted a trial at the High Court. Mr. G.E.K. Aikins exercised his discretion differently. After an attempt to ward off the potential witness failed and the witness appeared and testified the die was cast. (It was an anonymous letter I received that showed me the police cells the principal witness, a teenager, had been thrown into, before I sent the investigator to check. This led to his subsequent release and the witness appearing to testify).

They decided to find a way of saving him. When we were in Tamale, some demonstrating students of the University of Ghana had also been arrested and put on trial. I was opposed to the trial of the students.

Even though legally it was true they demonstrated without authority, it was my humble view that a trial and conviction would ruin their careers, as they were young, but most importantly at school many of us were also ring leaders (we broke some hearts) who took part in all kinds of demonstrations if we had been tried and convicted, we wouldn’t have grown up to become lawyers and other professionals. I strongly felt there were other ways of punishing them, than the trial and conviction. I carried my protest and view to every level of government and I remember in Tamale, I was making calls upon calls to Accra on the on-going trial of the students. The students were tried but after the trial, the government had a change of heart. I was in Accra from Tamale when I had a phone call about a government announcement to be made on the student’s case. I was told I could see it before the announcement was made since I had been advocating their cause. Well, why not? So enter a bodyguard with the statement, good, but the last paragraph was bad: The PNDC has also changed the offence of Salifu AMANKWAH FROM MURDER TO MANSLAUGHTER. What has that got to do with the student’s case? I questioned. Apparently it was a trade-off.

Is the PNDC the prosecutor? Did they prefer the charges? I asked. If they make the announcement we shall not recognize it in court, I threatened. After several to and fro with the press release, it eventually came on the air at 6 o’clock without the Salifu Amankwa bit. Has sanity prevailed? Yes, but not for long.

George Agyekum was called some weeks afterwards by Madam. She wanted to know if something could be done to help Salifu Amankwah, the reason being that since he took over the watching of their assets in the Accra metropolis, theft of her movement’s properties have subsided. Prior to his taking over there was frequent stealing of their properties, especially at the Trade Fair Centre. His conviction and sentence will no doubt affect the movement’s operations, she lamented. George Agyekum wanted to know the basis for which Salifu Amankwah from the evidence killed the man and displayed the body at a parade of over twenty five men or so , boasting of the act and still fearing to face the consequences of his act. I met my panel members after this meeting and it was a consensus that we should strictly go by the evidence on record.

Salifu Amankwah was eventually found guilty of the murder charge and was sentenced to death. But not for long. He had also finished two of the five Tamale cases and we were in Accra doing our pending Accra cases and working out with the prosecutors when to go back and complete the remaining cases. Then the bombshell: Salifu Amankwah was released from prison but that was not all.


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