An underprivileged boy is reported to have been brutalised by military officers in Talensi, a district in Ghana’s Upper East Region.The picture the 15-year-old orphan, Clement Zing, painted about the alleged brutalisation he suffered on Monday, 20 November 2023, at the hands of the soldiers is reminiscent of a scene from Mel Gibson’s 2004 epic, The Passion of the Christ.
But unlike the scourge the Roman soldiers used in whipping the Christ at Pontius Pilate’s command in the holy city of Jerusalem, the Ghanaian soldiers reportedly lashed the orphan haphazardly with multiple steel cables twisted together in the gold district of Talenteng.
The boy said four soldiers did the flogging, with his hands tied together, while one of their colleagues only stood and watched because the soldier understood his language.
Eyewitnesses say the military men involved in the alleged brutality are members of a military taskforce stationed inside the yard of Earl International Group (Ghana) Gold Limited, a Chinese mining firm, known previously as Shaanxi Mining Company Limited and operating in the district as a large-scale gold miner.
The boy, who lost his father in 2017 and his mother the following year, told Media Without Borders he was taking a video selfie with his uncle’s phone around the Kejetia Bus Station at Gban, a suburb of the district, on Monday when two soldiers came from behind him and seized the phone.
He said the soldiers claimed he was filming them and took him into the Chinese company’s yard where, according to him, he was tortured.
“When we arrived in the Shaanxi yard, three other soldiers joined them, making five. They asked me to take off the shirt I was wearing and tied me up.
“Then, they began to beat me with cables. One of them did not take part in the beating. He said he understood my language,” the boy said in Talen, the language spoken in Talensi.
He alleged that while three of the soldiers lashed him simultaneously with the cables and he screamed for mercy, another soldier held a knife to his neck and threatened to “put me to death if I didn’t stop screaming and if I didn’t explain why I filmed them.”
He added that when they were done with the beating, they led him into a room in one of the buildings in the yard and locked him up there.
“After beating me, they destroyed the phone. The phone belongs to my uncle who looks after me because my parents are no more.
“They kept me in the room for some hours and released me later to go home,” he said and showed the phone to the author of this report when he visited him at the Talensi District Hospital on Tuesday.
Company denies allegation
Marks of a severe beating can be seen all over the boy’s body. There is a big swelling on the right side of his groin.
Some parts of his head are now hollow and they feel sunken like the fontanelle (the soft spot) of a baby’s head.
His family had his head shaved after the purported brutality because of the severe wounds on the scalp and reported the matter at the District Police Command in Tongo, the Talensi capital on Tuesday.
His uncle, Thomas Mogya, said Zing did not sleep overnight and was taken to a health facility because of the wounds.
“Yesterday night, he couldn’t sleep. We had to rush him to a hospital before we came to the district hospital in Tongo,” Mogya told Media Without Borders.
Mogya and some other members of the family took Zing to the Talensi District Hospital on Tuesday with a medical form obtained from the police in Tongo.
But the Chinese company’s public relations unit has denied the basic-six pupil of the Sheaga Primary School was beaten and wounded in the company’s yard.
“We have a military response team that is stationed at the company’s yard. They are accommodated within the premises of the company. Their responsibility is to respond to emergency security situations.
“My checks revealed that the incident occurred outside the premises of the company, not within the premises of the company. So, it did not happen in our yard. It happened outside. And again, as management, we sought to enquire and the military personnel that are there have denied being those who assaulted the boy,” an assistant public relations officer of the company, Albert Azongo, said Tuesday.
He stated further: “The matter, we are told, has already been reported to the top hierarchy of the military so they can conduct their investigations and take it up from there.”
‘We’ll get to the bottom of this matter’— Ghana Armed Forces assures
On Wednesday, Media Without Borders entered the Abilba Barracks in the region’s capital, Bolgatanga, and engaged the authorities of the 11 Mechanised Infantry Battalion on the allegation.
Media Without Borders contacted the battalion because the military team stationed inside the Chinese company’s yard operates under its command.
During the engagement, the authorities said they had heard about the allegation and showed a picture of the boy in a bruised body to the author of this report on their mobile phones.
That picture reportedly was sent with insufficient details by a concerned native of the area to a top military chief based outside the region who, in his turn, forwarded the message as received to the administration of the Abilba Barracks for verification purposes.
They told the writer of this report they had not established the accuracy of the allegation as of Wednesday but indicated they had initiated efforts to unearth the truth of the matter and, if their findings confirmed the claim, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) would sanction the culprits accordingly to reaffirm its position against excesses.
“We can assure you that we will get to the bottom of this matter. We are very concerned about the image of the Ghana Armed Forces. The Ghana Armed Forces does not condone excesses,” stated one of the military officers at the barracks.
Residents say there are witnesses who saw the boy being taken into the company’s yard by the soldiers and saw him when he returned, visibly traumatised with signs of beating and wounds he never had on his body prior to the time he reportedly was taken away from the bus station.
Meanwhile, a health professional, who observed the boy after he reportedly collapsed at home as a result of the alleged brutality, says the boy might be silently going through internal bleeding and may suffer a worse consequence if he does not get proper healthcare in time.
Late in October, 2023, some military personnel were captured on video brutalising several residents of Garu and Tempane, two districts bordering each other in the region.
A wave of public anger trailed the October excesses as a clamour for the perpetrators to be brought to book ripped through the air nationwide.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org