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Thursday, June 20, 2024

‘YOU BETTER SHUT UP’: A GHANA FAMILY’S RELENTLESS CALLS FOR JUSTICE

Date:

By Jonathan Rozen and Evelyn Okakwu

Kamilu Ibrahim Tahidu and his brothers gather every evening outside their family home in Ghana’s capital of Accra. They sit in a circle of plastic chairs and enjoy each others’ company. They pray together. And they never forget that one of them is missing.

It’s been over four years since assassins came to their neighborhood, waited for their sibling, investigative journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela, and then shot him in his car. “We heard the gunshot,” Tahidu recalled in a recent interview with CPJ. “Someone ran and said that they were killing our brother.”

Sitting steps from the crime scene, Tahidu expressed frustration with the failure by Ghanaian authorities to apprehend those responsible. Certain political elites have not been sufficiently scrutinized, he said, and his speaking out about the murder had brought new threats.

The lack of accountability in Divela’s case is indicative of a broader pattern of impunity for crimes against journalists in the West African country, often seen as one of the region’s most stable democracies with a high degree of media freedom. As with cases of other journalists attacked in recent years, Tahidu expressed dismay that officials had not been more supportive and communicative about their investigations.

Ghana’s presidential election is scheduled for December 2024 and opposition candidate John Mahama recently committed to “speed up” the investigation into Divela’s January 2019 killing. But words from authorities have offered the family little clarity or comfort. “They promised to get results very soon,” Tahidu said, recalling a conversation with Ghanaian Inspector General of Police George Akuffo Dampare following his appointment back in 2021. “Soon is yet to come.”

Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela was shot to death in Accra, Ghana, on January 16, 2019. (Tiger Eye Private Investigations)
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Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela was shot to death in Accra, Ghana, on January 16, 2019. (Tiger Eye Private Investigations)

Divela decided to become a journalist out of dissatisfaction with inflation and the economic situation for average people in Ghana, his family told CPJ. He worked as a reporter with Tiger Eye Private Investigations, an investigative journalism group headed by Anas Aremeyaw Anas. The identities of Tiger Eye PI members are not publicly known, as they operate largely undercover to document alleged wrongdoing by those in positions of power.

The year before the murder, Anas and Divela received public threats from Kennedy Agyapong, a prominent member of Ghana’s ruling party now seeking to be Ghana’s president. The threats came ahead of the release of a Tiger Eye PI film exposing alleged corruption among African football officials, including then president of the Ghana Football Association Kwesi Nyantakyi. The documentary, “Number 12,” caused an uproar in Ghana’s soccer world when it aired in 2018, prompting Nyantakyi’s resignation and world governing body FIFA to ban him for life from football-related activities.

In March, a Ghanaian judge dismissed Anas’ defamation suit brought in response to Agyapong’s comments. A similar defamation suit filed in the U.S. is ongoing.

According to a Forbidden Stories investigation into Divela’s killing, Agyapong said he had “nothing to do with this murder.” Police said they questioned Agyapong – described as being close to Nyantakyi – as part of their preliminary investigation, but Tahidu believes the politician has not been adequately investigated. “He thinks he [is] above the law,” Tahidu said. CPJ’s calls to Agyapong did not connect, nor did calls to his brother, Ralph Agyapong, who serves as his lawyer.

Tahidu told CPJ he reacted with furious disbelief when police showed him a cheap cell phone without internet capabilities as the device Nyantakyi handed over for the murder investigation. Tahidu did not believe something so low-tech could be the primary device of a once-powerful sports boss and said it suggested the authorities had not taken their job seriously. Local media reported that police seized phones and computers from Nyantakyi months before Divela’s murder as part of their fraud investigations related to the allegations from Tiger Eye PI’s film, but Tahidu said police did not mention these to Divela’s family.

CPJ reached Nyantakyi by phone, but when asked about the police investigation into him after the killing, he said, “OK, thank you” and then the line disconnected. Follow-up calls rang unanswered.

Anas, who only allows himself to be photographed with his face covered, told CPJ that police had summoned him twice to give statements. The first was immediately after the killing and the second was more recently after a new homicide unit opened to investigate cold cases. Anas said he explained his working relationship with Divela and told police he did not have any information about the murder.

Unus Alhassan, another of Divela’s brothers who previously spoke for the family, told CPJ in a phone interview that he left Ghana in 2020 over safety concerns related to his speaking about the killing. Two unidentified men had followed him on a motorbike in Accra and his friends speculated that he may be targeted further, Alhassan said. He too filed a police report, but has not received any follow-up.

CPJ visited the Ghana police headquarters in Accra in March to request an interview about Divela’s case and other investigations into attacks on journalists in the country, but was told no one was available to speak. Officers there provided a Google email address for media requests. CPJ emailed that address and another listed on the police website requesting an interview, but received no response. Police similarly did not respond to questions about Divela and 30 other journalists arrested, threatened, or physically attacked since January 2019.

“We only feel totally neglect[ed], as if we are not Ghanaians in our own country,” Tahidu said, emphasizing that he and his family will continue pressing for answers. “If it is left with this Ghanaian law enforcers, I’m afraid it will always be a talk show.” Tahidu also refuses to let anyone else in his family become a journalist. He knows why his brother Ahmed entered the profession, but vows to prevent anyone else he loves from doing something so dangerous.

Jonathan Rozen is CPJ’s senior Africa researcher. Previously, he worked in South Africa, Mozambique, and Canada with the Institute for Security Studies, assessing Mozambican peace-building processes. He also wrote analyses for the think tank adelphi on links between climate action and conflict prevention. Rozen was a U.N. correspondent for IPS News and has written for Al-Jazeera English and the International Peace Institute. He speaks English and French. Follow him on Twitter @Rozen_J.

Evelyn Okakwu joined the Committee to Protect Journalists as a Nigeria consultant in August 2019. She was appointed CPJ’s West Africa correspondent in January 2021. Okakwu previously worked for four years as a judiciary correspondent for the Premium Times online newspaper and for two years as a general assignment reporter with the Peoples Daily newspaper in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Okakwu has a Higher National Diploma from the Federal Polytechnic Mubi, Adama State, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @EveOkakwu.

Source: CPJ

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Smart News Liberia is an online news outlet and a product of Smart Media Group Inc. Our website, smartnewsliberia.com, covers a broad spectrum of news content. For inquiries or information, you can reach us at 0777425285 or 0886946925, or email us at smartnewsliberia@gmail.com or info@smartnewsliberia.com.

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