Ghana drops treason charges against separatists
An octogenarian separatist leader in Ghana was airlifted to the capital Accra on Monday to stand trial for treason, only for the state to drop the charges.
Charles Kormi Kudzordzi, 85, the leader of the Homeland Study Group Foundation (HGSF) had been arrested in May together with eight other members of the group.
They were accused of treason for plotting to create a new independent state named “Western Togoland” for the people of the eastern Volta region.
“The state is no longer interested in the case,” government prosecutor Winifred Sarpong told the trial hearing in Accra, prompting the court to drop the charges.
Treason is punishable by death in Ghana but the sentence is considered abolished de facto as the last execution was in 1993 by firing squad though hanging is also prescribed.
As at the end of 2017, Ghana had 160 individuals on death row compared to 148 in 2016 and 129 in 2015.
The HGSF group, which says it works to advance the rights of the people in eastern Ghana, was unapologetic after the ruling.
“This is victory for democracy,” HSGF secretary George Nyakpo, who went into hiding from the authorities said.
“We won’t relent but we’ll get to know the next line of action when we congregate again.”
Some 80 other alleged separatists were detained in May in a police operation focused on the town of Ho, some 150 kilometres (95 miles) northeast of the capital Accra.
They have since all been released on bail or let off with a caution.
In 2017, the group’s leaders were arrested and warned not to engage in activities against the state.
Multiple ethnicities live in the region which was ruled by three colonial European powers.
Britain seized much of what is now Ghana, and Germany grabbed neighbouring Togo.
After Germany’s defeat in World War I, the land was split between British Togoland and French Togoland.
When Britain left its empire in Africa, British Togoland became part of eastern Ghana in 1956.
But separatists say the area has its own unique history and culture, and want a country of their own.
The separatists began campaigning in 1972 as the “National Liberation Movement of Togoland”, dominated by the Ewe tribal group.
Their calls to renegotiate borders sparked tensions between Ghana and Togo, and in 1976, Accra banned the group.