The ‘let the blood flow’ mantra in Ghana’s political history gave birth to the current culture of mob justice that prevails today, Captain Joel Sowu (rtd) has argued.

Chronicling the genesis of mob justice in Ghana on Accra-based Class FM, in the wake of the lynching of Captain Maxwell Mahama in Denkyira-Obuasi last week, Captain Sowu (rtd) said: “How did we get here? You really want my honest answer? I’ll tell you.”

“When we all shouted ‘let the blood flow’, have we forgotten? I’m telling you where we went off the road. When this whole nation [shouted] ‘let the blood flow’, ‘Ey3 kanea’, ‘Ey3 haiii’, ‘where did you get the money to buy two houses?’ ‘Where did you get the money to have four houses?’

‘When Managing Directors were being lynched, they were being forced out of their offices; the whole nation was agog when somebody said: ‘I am a product of the anger of the people of this nation.’

So, if somebody became the product of the anger of the people of this nation, he means the whole country has become angry, we became an angry group of people, we became wolves, we didn’t have respect for law and order, we didn’t have respect for human rights, our women were being flogged on the streets and the ‘mamanyigbas’ were all showing everything.

“… You asked me a question and I’m answering you. I’ve been in this country for almost 79 years, and, therefore, I know what I’m talking about. … That was how we went off the road, respect for law and order, respect for authority, respect for hierarchy, respect for procedure, when we decided to democratise violence, that’s when we started going off the road. We didn’t go off the road, in fact we fell off the road and we went into the abyss, now coming out of the abyss has become a problem: we are crawling back and in crawling back we also have become crabs – getting on one another to be able to come out of the ditch. That was how we went off – ‘Let the blood flow’,” Captain Sowu explained.

‘Let the blood flow’ was the mantra among the Ghanaian populace during the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) military junta, which started on 4 June 1979 and undertook a “house cleaning” exercise that resulted in the execution of perceived corrupt military officers.

The AFRC was the government of Ghana from June 4, 1979 to September 24, 1979.

The junta, led by then young Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings – who had just two weeks earlier been rescued from near execution after his detention following a botched May 15, 1979 coup plot – railroaded its way into power through a bloody takeover that toppled another junta, Supreme Military Council.

The regime’s ‘House cleaning’ exercise led to the execution of Lt. Gen. Afrifa, Gen. Acheampong, Lt. Gen. Akuffo, Major Gen. E. K. Utuka and four other senior officers.

Also, civilian entrepreneurs who were alleged to have hoarded goods and profited from such hoarding were manhandled in public by the military.

In January 2014, former President Rawlings justified the killing of the Generals saying it was necessary to save the country from implosion.

“We had no choice. We thought let two go. Acheampong and a certain Utuka, very corrupt Generals. They were sacrificed. It was not enough. Ladies and gentlemen, 10 days later, we had to sacrifice another 10 and some of the Commanders were innocent good people but it had to be done because the rage in the country was too high, too much”, the former military leader told students in the Volta Region where he spoke as the Guest of honour at the closing ceremony of the regional camp of the International Youth Fellowship at the Adidome Senior High School.

He said the purge was necessary to cleanse the country of corruption at the time. According to him, “The ‘kalabule’ had so badly gripped the society”.

“A soldier goes to the makola market and is requesting for the price of a piece of cloth for his wife that he wants to buy, and he’s pleading and begging, out of disgust, the woman throws her urine at the soldier. Not once, not twice, three times we know of….why did she do what she did? She did it because people had grown so angry and were finding those of us in uniform so repugnant. In a situation like that, the poor solider – he only obeys orders – and yet, he is the one who ends up with the urine being thrown at him.

“At that moment, he would take that woman and wanna kill her. At that moment, he would take his General and wanna kill him if he ever got his General. Ladies and gentlemen the rest is history in terms of what happened; the explosion that I tried to pre-empt 15 May ended up June 4. They thought I was going to be executed; the very thing I was trying to prevent is what happened”, he recalled.

He said the executions undertaken by the AFRC had the support and full blessing of the ordinary people.

“When the explosion happened in that ’79, ask anybody, your older folks, your parents, ‘let the blood flow was the signature tune of those day’. You know, when you humiliate people to the extent that I have seen over and over in this country – it happened in France, the Revolution in Russia etc etc, – in Ghana we even managed to contain it. When you humiliate people to that extent, you take away their dignity and respect, the day they explode, you can give them the diamond…they will kick it right back in your face and they’ll want your neck, your blood. That is what we witnessed in those days in ’79”, Mr Rawlings said.