Journalist’s death could tarnish Ghana’s image
During the evening of Friday February 9, 2007, Samuel Ennin was shot to death inside a crowded bar in Kumasi, the second-largest city in Ghana.
Ennin was a reporter and the regional representative of the Ghana Journalists’ Association. He was 39 years old.
The next morning, journalists were crying “assassination!” all over the airwaves.
Ennin was a provocative political journalist, known for a hard-hitting Saturday morning talk show.
He was keen on seeking office himself.
He had been known to be critical of members of Parliament, past and present — most recently of Jerry Rawlings, Ghana’s former president, who staged two military coups — one bloodless, one bloody — in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Rawlings seized power and ruled for 12 years before holding elections in 1992.
He was elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1996, but his National Democratic Congress lost the 2000 election to the currently-reigning National Patriotic Party, now in its second term.
Until 2001 — post-Rawlings — published criticism of any individual MP was a criminal offence in Ghana — a criminal offence, not a civil matter for libel court. Cut down an elected official and you went to jail.
There’s no way of knowing if Ennin’s comments about Rawlings, or any other politician, prompted his assassination.
Kumasi police have arrested someone, but they’re not giving any details, not even gender.
It’s also possible Ennin was onto something else, and his murder was a way to shut him up.
But the police don’t think so.
According to witness reports, two men dressed in ordinary clothes circled the building before they entered the bar, confronted Ennin and shot him where he sat. They then fled the scene in a white car.
Two people were wounded in the attack and several reported having their mobile phones stolen by the two men, prompting Kumasi police to suspect armed robbery was the primary motive.
But when he was shot, Enin had money in his pockets and in a satchel that was not stolen, according to media reports.
“It could be armed robbery because, when there was a stampede, the robbers felt threatened,” Dr. K.K. Manfo, deputy inspector general of police, told a local radio station in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, on Monday.
“Their safety was unsure, they could take to their heels and leave whatever booty — even if they have collected at the scene.”
The region where Ennin was shot is a high-crime area, Manfo added.
Criminals often use a nearby cemetery for “regular swoops” on victims.
He cautioned journalists not to rush to conclusions about a motive for Ennin’s death.
One media report described the killers fleeing the scene once they had “accomplished their mission” of murder.
Others claimed, without attribution, that the stolen cellphones had nothing to do with the shooting.
Others claimed outright that Ennin was assassinated.
These are cloudy times for Ghana, which is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence from the British Empire in a few weeks.
It was the second nation in sub-Saharan Africa to throw off colonial rule.
Ghana has run the typical gamut of political African post-colonial strife — military coups, economic depression, government graft and mismanagement.
Yet it is touted as the triumph of the region, the model of political stability and economic progress.
After all, Ghanaians have held four successful elections since their constitution was founded in 1992, and GDP is growing eight per cent each year. They’re doing better than any of their West African neighbours.
Which is why it’s important for the police to get to the bottom of Ennin’s death, fast, which they have vowed to do.
They need to dispel these rumours of assassination as quickly as possible, if indeed that’s what they are.
If not, this story is just beginning.
Ennin’s colleagues at the Ghana Journalists’ Association have offered a reward of 10 million cedis — roughly US$1,000 — for information leading to an arrest.
Hopefully it won’t be needed.
Former Yukon News reporter Graeme McElheran is currently living and writing in Ghana.