How Kojo Tsikata escaped death sentences twice in his life

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Kojo Tsikata, a retired army captain and a close ally of the late former President Jerry John Rawlings, was a controversial and influential figure in Ghana’s politics.

The retired army officer, who died in 2021, was a former head of national security and intelligence under the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime.

In his life as an army officer, he survived two death sentences, which came about after he was falsely accused of coup attempts and murder.

In an old footage sighted by GhanaWeb, Captain Kojo Tsikata recalled how he had been living in pain from the many allegations that were made against him.

According to him, in most of the allegations, he was not even allowed to defend himself.

“For the past twenty years I have been living under the pain of having this allegation made against me year in and out until today,” he stated.

As a pan-Africanist in the early days of Ghana, Kojo Tsikata was a firm believer in Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his ideologies of liberation and a unified Africa.

After completing Achimota College, Tsikata joined the army and as a young officer, he found himself at the frontlines of the United Nations Force in the Congo.

That was a mission charged with securing the independence of the nation.

After achieving this and more in the Congo now the DRC, and also in Angola, he continued to serve there until Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966 by a joint force operation between the police and the military.

Because he believed in Nkrumah’s ideologies, he fell out with the officers who overthrew the president and stayed in Angola until Ghana returned to civilian rule under K. A. Busia in 1969. Shortly after that, though, another coup took place, led by I. K. Acheampong in 1972.

In 1976, Tsikata, alongside others were arrested and tried for being the masterminds of a failed coup attempt against Acheampong’s government, known as the “One Man One Matchet” coup.

When he was put on trial, Tsikata chose to defend himself without counsel. In his defence, he pointed out the contradictions in the evidence provided against him.

In the end, he was acquitted but the many others who were with him in the trial were all sentenced to death.

Fast forward to 1982, high court judges, including a pregnant woman, were abducted and brutally murdered.

At the time Kojo Tsikata was serving as the Special Advisor of the PNDC under late JJ Rawlings.

Surprisingly, he found himself in a web of scrutiny for his alleged involvement in the death of the high court judges. Joachim Amartey Quaye, also a member of the PNDC was found to be the mastermind behind the murders.

In an alleged attempt to blackmail the PNDC into saving him from the firing squad, he tried to implicate Captain Tsikata, making it the second time the army man faced a death sentence.

In the trial, the Attorney General decided to exclude Captain Tsikata from the prosecution and eventually Amartey Quaye, together with his accomplices, were prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to death by the firing squad.

Although Tsikata denied his involvement in the death of the judges, some Ghanaians still pointed accusing fingers at him.

In a rare pre-execution interview, President Jerry John Rawlings recorded a confession statement by Joachim Amartey Quaye apologising to Tsikata for implicating him in the murder case and admitting that he had no involvement in it.

“I am also aware that before Amartey died, he confessed at the Chapel of Ussher Fort Prisons, to Rev Damoah and Asaase-Gyimah.

“He told them to come and apologise to me for what he had done against me. Both Fr. Damoah and Asaase-Gyimah told me of Amatey Quaye’s apologies shortly after he was executed.

“… I am also aware that where he was executed and died, he also made a confession and asked me to forgive him for what he had done to me.”


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