1992 constitution’s indemnity clause was an act of political pragmatism – Prof. Ahwoi

National Democratic Congress (NDC) stalwart, Prof Kwamena Ahwoi says criticisms that the 1992 Constitution was written to protect the interests of former President Jerry John Rawlings are largely erroneous.

According to him, only an aspect of the constitution provides such protections, and that, not only do they provide immunity to the former President but also those that worked with him during the PNDC era.

In an interview on JoyNews’ PM Express, Prof Ahwoi who was a Minister of Local Government in the PNDC regime explained that the indemnity clause was necessary to ensure that power was transitioned peacefully from the military regime to the civilian regime.

“When people stage coup d’état they know that they have committed the crime of treason for which the punishment is death. Therefore, if you want those people to hand over smoothly, you’d have to give them guarantees that they’ll not be molested, that they’ll not be vilified, that they’ll not even be tried and maybe sentenced to death if they should hand over, because they will not accept to commit suicide, which is what they’d be doing if they simply say okay we’re handing over.

“So anytime a coup has taken place in any country, negotiations take place for guarantees of indemnity and immunity to be provided the coup makers. That is the only way they will feel comfortable enough to agree to hand over,” he explained.

He added that what most critics of the indemnity clause do not understand is that, not only does the indemnity clause serve as a surety to Jerry John Rawlings; it protects all those who worked him during those regimes, including President Kuffuor who was once a PNDC Secretary for Local Government.

Prof Ahwoi explained that per the constitution, all those who had held a public office during the military regime were guilty of treason, thus the need to insert the indemnity clause in the constitution.

“But when they criticise it [the indemnity clause], their target is Rawlings. But Rawlings is only one. The treason charge extends to those of us who also worked with him.

“So if the indemnity clauses are removed, not only Rawlings will be tried, I will be tried, President Kuffuor will be tried because in fact he was appointed PNDC secretary for local government before I was appointed PNDC secretary. So if we go in line to be tried, he will come before me,” the Professor stated.

Prof Ahwoi noted that should the indemnity clause ever be revoked, it would cause a lot of political instability in the country.

“Not only will that, the coup makers of ’72, be tried. The coup makers of ’66, those of them who are alive will also be tried, and then there will be a lot of confusion. There will be political instability etc.

“So whilst it may not be the best legal formula, it is the best political formula. It is a matter of political pragmatism because if you don’t do that then you’ll have to fight the coup makers in order to get them to hand over power,” he said.

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