Rawling’s June 4 Uprising – Origins and the aftermath
Today, June 4, 2021 marks the 42nd anniversary of the June 4 Uprising, an event that took place in 1979 at the Burma Camp.
History has it that a few days before the dawn of June 4, 1979, one Sergeant Tasiri, believed to be the sole organiser of the military revolt and a few colleagues had recruited one Captain (Rtd.) Kwabena Baah-Achamfour to organise a counter coup to overthrow the Akuffo led SMC-II regime which had also taken over power from the Acheampong led regime 1978.
According to an account by Kwesi Pratt Jnr, one of Ghana’s renowned journalists who explained some of the happenings on the Pan African TV programme “Alhaji and Alhaji” on January 30, 2021. He said:
“The first shot was fired by Lieutenant J. Agyeman-Bio, who was killed instantly. Baah-Achamfour was arrested on June 3; he was in cells; he broke out of jail; Tasiri and others released Flt. Lt. JJ Rawlings from custody. Indeed Rawlings had no idea where June 4 came from, but he was (rather) a beneficiary of June 4 revolt and yet today everything is credited to him.”
“Today, nobody mentions Captain Baah-Achamfour, nobody mentions Peter Tasiri, nobody mentions Lieutenant Agyeman-Bio. That is life, some people are lucky.” he added.
But it is widely accepted that Major Kwadjo Osahene Boakye-Djan (Rtd) is the architect of the June 4 Uprising. Sources say he was the one who actually hatched the name AFRC which came to power in a coup that removed the Supreme Military Council, another military regime, from power.
Another officer, Captain Henry Smith who later became CDS and a politician in the 1990s is also claimed as being one of the architects of the uprising and described by officers and soldiers in June 1979 as the officer who was responsible for the success of the uprising even though he declined membership of the AFRC. He was, nevertheless, given the portfolio of “special duties” and was also put in charge of the Foreign Affairs ministry.
The June 4 Coup D’état
The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) came to power in a coup which overthrew the Supreme Military Council (SMC II) headed by Lt. Gen. F.W.K. Akuffo, another military regime, on the dawn of June 4, 1979.
That successful coup was preceded by an abortive attempt on May 15, 1979, during which Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings and some other rank soldiers were arrested.
Ironically, their trial only served to make them popular till they were eventually released on the morning of June 4 by young officers and noncommissioned officers in a separate coup that was completely unrelated to the May 15 event.
Incidentally those who had put Flt. Lt. JJ Rawlings and his colleagues on trial, that is Lt. Gen. Akuffo’s regime, had themselves been overthrown by Acheampong’s Supreme Military Council in 1978. They had also established themselves as a continuation of that regime.
Hence, since Lt. Gen. Akuffo and his colleagues were all senior military officers, some of whom had worked with Acheampong, they were popularly referred to as SMC II.
During the fighting that ensued throughout that rainy day of June 4, 1979, several military personnel lost their lives during the skirmishes.
Those who died on that fateful day included Major General Odartey-Wellington, the Army Commander, who led the government’s resistance to the June 4 coup d’état. He was given a military burial with full honours at the Osu Military Cemetery.
Colonel Joseph Enningful, a former Commander of the Support Services Brigade of the Ghana Armed Forces also died that day. He was the President of the Court Martial trying those involved in the 15th May mutiny. According to sources, he was killed with his wife in his home by trigger happy gun totting soldiers who went to arrest him.
Other soldiers who died on that fateful day included the following:
1. Second-Lieutenant J. Agyemang Bio
2. Corporal William Tingan
3. Lance Corporal Sorkpor, Trooper Samuel Larsey
4. Trooper Emmanuel Koranteng-Apau
5. Lance Corporal Gabriel Follivi
6. Lance Corporal Mamudu Kalifa.
The young officer and men were buried with full military honours at the Osu Military Cemetery in Accra soon after the coup d’état because they were among those who fought against the SMC II regime.
Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings was freed from jail at Burma Camp and made to lead the new regime of soldiers who were very thirsty for the blood of their superiors. Their superior officers were deemed to be very corrupt and that they had brought the name of the Ghana Armed Forces into disrepute.
The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) regime set up by Flt. Lt. Rawlings and his men, started a “Housecleaning” exercise against corruption and other social vices across the country.
During the three-month (June-September) period in which they ruled the country, three former military heads of state were summarily executed.
The executed heads of state were, Lt. Gen. Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa who led a coup in 1969, Gen. Isaac Kutu Acheampong who led a coup in 1972 and Lt. Gen. Frederick William Akuffo who led his coup in 1978.
The senior military officers were all executed by firing squad at the Teshie military shooting range, together with five other senior officers deemed to have been corrupt. They were accused of economic sabotage, abuse of power to amass wealth and misuse of state funds by the special courts set up by the AFRC regime.
Gen. Ignatius K. Acheampong, and Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Utuka, a former Border Guard commander, were executed on June 16, 1979.
Four other senior officers were shot together with General Akuffo and General Afrifa on June 22, 1979.
They were Col. Roger Felli, a former Foreign Affairs Commissioner; Cmdr. Joy K. Amedume, a former Labour Minister; Maj. Gen. Robert Kotei, a former Chief of Defense Staff, and Air Vice Marshal George Boakye.
None of them was given full military honours; they were put in body bags and buried in unmarked graves somewhere in the Nsawam environs.
The ‘house cleaning’ exercise which was conducted across the length and breadth of the country affected many of the elite people in society and business entrepreneurs who were particularly targeted and unlawfully had their assets confiscated by the AFRC regime.
Of particular interest was one industrialist by the name J.K. Siaw of Tata Breweries fame who produced beer. He was the first private individual to set up an indigenous brewery in Ghana.
Another popular business entrepreneur who also had his assets confiscated was B.A. Mensah, the owner of Pioneer Tobacco LTD.
The AFRC came to power at a time when Ghana was at the cross roads to returning democratic power back to the people. The military junta therefore allowed the already scheduled elections to go ahead.
General elections were held in September 1979 and democratic power was handed over to the duly elected candidate in the person of Dr. Hilla Limann of the People’s National Party (PNP).
Barely two years into the civilian rule of the PNP government, another military coup was staged to topple Limann from power; this time it was orchestrated by Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings himself on December 31, 1981.
History was made again because Limann had became the only president of the Third Republic of Ghana to be overthrown by a man who had handed over power to him just two years ago… Flt. Lt. Rawlings!
This time around, JJ Rawlings said it wasn’t a coup but rather a ‘Revolution’ and thus he and his henchmen established the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC).
The PNDC regime ruled Ghana for eleven (11) years spanning the period 1981 to 1992 with little opposition before eventually returning the country back to democratic rule in 1993.
Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings again made history by becoming the first President of the Forth Republic after winning the 1992 general elections by a landslide victory.