The June 4, 1979 Revolution or the June 4 Uprising arguably remains one of the most controversial political revolutions in the political history of Ghana.
According to reports, June 4 Uprising was incited by the arrest and trial of Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings and other junior military officers by the leadership of the Supreme Military Council II (SMC II). Jerry John Rawlings and the junior officers were arrested and charged with mutiny for the failed coup attempt on the 15th of May, 1979.
Jerry John Rawlings cited a number of reasons for the failed coup attempt on 15th May 1979. He alluded to issues of widespread corruption among Supreme Military Council officials, poor governance, economic hardship and general frustration on the part of the populace as well as high levels of indiscipline within the Ghana Army were among the issues highlighted.
On June 4, 1979, while Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings was imprisoned for his failed coup on May 15, 1979, Major Boakye Gyan staged another coup with some junior officers of the army. This time, the coup was successful and Rawlings was released from custody and then sent to the GBC to announce the overthrow of the government.
These events led to the initiation of what was known to be a “House Cleaning Exercise” by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). The House cleaning exercise was mainly to purge the nation of corruption. Three former military leaders of Ghana, Lt. Gen. Afrifa, Gen. Acheampong and Lt. Gen. Akuffo were all executed together with five other senior officers deemed to have been corrupt by the Special Courts set up by the government.
That was when the infamous slogan “let the blood flow” originated. Supporters of the regime used this slogan to rally military support in killing sympathizers of the previous regime who were deemed corrupt.
According to critics of the revolution, the house cleaning exercise and subsequent brutalities meted out to sympathizers and people deemed corrupt has become a major blot on Ghana democracy.
As Former President Jerry John Rawlings marked the 41st Anniversary of the Revolution this month, ABC News identified some elderly people who lived at the time and witnessed the events as they unfolded to share with us their experience and also ascertain their perspectives as far as the relevance and significance of the uprising is concerned.
It is noteworthy that these people confessed that they were all in support of the revolution at the time due to the widespread hardships the nation was going through. According to some of these witnesses, the situation was very bad that they were compelled to travel as far as to Togo in order to buy basic food items.
To them, they believed the revolution was their saviour from the hardships at the time and also salvage the nation which they believed was sinking in the boat of corruption spearheaded by the Supreme Military Council II (SMC).
While some of these witnesses favoured the house cleaning exercise and were part of the youth at the time who cheered the military with the infamous slogan “let the blood flow”, others expressed their disapproval to the killings.
“When we heard of the coup, [based] on the reasons why they came, we all thought it’s a good idea so a lot of people supported it especially the youth. So when they were killing people, we were all jubilating,” an old aged man told ABC News.
Commenting on the relevance of the commemoration of the revolution, all the witnesses saw nothing wrong with the commemoration based on varied reasons.
“We have to remember it in the sense that it has got a purpose. The purpose was to clear “kalabule”. We did not use corruption then, those times it was kalabule. We must do it to remember that one day that if things are not done right, somebody will rise again,” one witness told ABC News.
Another witness also argued that “we have learnt something from it that coup de tat is very detrimental to the development of the nation. Celebrating the June 4 uprising avert our minds back to the history of the nation and also serve as a reminder to the youth on how far the nation has come. Although some people might be pained, culturally when somebody dies, he or she is remembered annually.”
Watch the full report below:
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