The sad story of how Rawlings' June 4 took the life of Gen. Odartey Wellington

The sad story of how Rawlings' June 4 took the life of Gen. Odartey Wellington

On June 4, 1979, the government of the Supreme Military Council was overthrown by another group of military men who felt they could do a better job, and among the casualties was General Neville Alexander Odartey Wellington.

It has been 40 years since the so-called June 4 Revolution happened in 1979, and now the story of an army general who was killed without trial is being retold for the sake of political history and perhaps, consolation, if his family may find some.

General Neville Alexander Odartey Wellington was a high-ranking member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) that was headed by Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.

Gen. Wellington, a trusted member of the ruling organisation, was Commissioner of Health, and later, of Agriculture where he oversaw the famous "Operation Feed Yourself" programme.

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When the coup occurred, Gen. Wellington was the Chief of Army Staff, a position that meant every soldier was under his watchful eye.

On May 15, 1979, a mutiny by junior soldiers in Ghana Army was foiled by Gen. Wellington. The disgruntled junior officers, among which included a certain Jerry John Rawlings, claimed there was rot in the system that they needed to cleanse.

When the foiled men were arranged before court, the government's chief prosecutor of the time, George Aikins, surprisingly defended them.

The law breakers now had a rather popular ally in the government's chief law officer.

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Taking a cue from Aikins, some junior officers released those standing trial from custody and this time, they finished off their mission with, pun intended, military precision on June 4.

After capturing the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), the band of junior soldiers, who now called themselves the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), announced a dissolution of the SMC, the band of senior officers that run the country.

Chief of Army Staff Gen. Wellington's ranks had been broken. The people under his command had successfully staged a mutiny.

As then Squadron Commander at the Recce Regiment, Major Ibrahim Rida, remembers it, the rest of the army who loved Gen. Wellington wanted to keep him safe, and possibly, fight back the mutiny.

But against the wishes of Maj. Rida and co, Gen. Wellington left what was though to be a safe hiding place for the Nima Police Station in Accra. That was the last time he breathed.

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Maj. Rida described what happened: “They just opened fire. They just opened fire,” the bespectacled former soldier still appeared shaken by the 40-year-old story.

“He was hit….and as he was lying down dying, the normal way was [for him] to have been given medical aid immediately.

“Instead they opened fire on his body with a machine gun. They fired so much into his body that his flesh started shredding out. They literally shredded his body."

The coup was led by Rawlings, a man who would go on to make another coup and then become a two-time democratically elected president.

On June 4, 2019, while commemorating the coup, Rawlings called for the scrapping of the indemnity clause in the 1992 Constitution that literally safeguards him from prosecution on charges of treason.

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