A jury in Ghana handed a guilty verdict to 12 suspects accused of being involved in the lynching of a military officer who was mistaken for an armed robber. According to CitiNewsroom.com, the 12 suspects were among 14 individuals facing trial for the 2017 murder of Major Maxwell Mahama.
The 12 suspects were sentenced to life in prison while the 2 other individuals were acquitted and discharged. The verdict by the jury was reached after the suspects were found guilty of counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and abetment of murder.
One of the suspects convicted was an Assembly Member in the community where the lynching occurred. That individual is said to have encouraged the community to fatally attack the military officer. Major Mahama’s lynching made national headlines and drew the ire of the public.
The West African nation’s Attorney General, Godfred Dame, told the news outlet that he hoped the decision by the court would deter people from resorting to mob justice.
“It’s been a long battle, started way back in December 2017. Persons accused were committed to some trial at the High Court, that was in April 2018. It’s been about 5 years or more, the whole justice we all know grinds slowly. But today we have seen justice,” Dame said.
“Two have been acquitted and 12 sentenced. I don’t think the public will contest the acquittal of those two persons. We are satisfied with the conviction. And we can only express our sympathies with the family of the late Major Mahama. They have suffered a lot, they have gone through a lot, but at least they have seen justice and I’m sure they should be happy about it.”
Major Mahama was with the 5th battalion infantry when he was lynched in the Denkyira-Obuasi area of Ghana’s Central Region by residents who mistook him for an armed robber. Police said they had received a call about a man carrying a pistol. But the said individual was lynched by an irate mob before authorities responded to the scene.
Reports at the time stated that Mahama, who was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major, had recently been posted to the region to relieve the substantive commander of military personnel stationed there. He was said to be out jogging when he was accosted by neighborhood youths who suspected him of being an armed robber. Their suspicion was further heightened when they found Mahama dressed in regular clothes and carrying a pistol.
Witnesses say Mahama had earlier asked for directions from a group of women, who quickly raised an alarm on sighting an unfamiliar face. Word then got to an elected Assemblyman who ordered the mob lynching.
Mahama’s repeated pleas to the irate crowd that he was an officer and thus licensed to bear arms fell on deaf ears as they hit him with stones and cement blocks before setting his body on fire.
Joy FM reported that after the news of the unfortunate incident was circulated, military operatives poured into the town to retrieve Mahama’s remains – prompting residents to flee in fear of reprisal attacks from the soldiers.
Public lynching of suspected criminals is sadly not uncommon across parts of sub-Saharan Africa where confidence in the criminal justice system is abysmally low. Mahama was married with two children and had just returned from a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon and was well on track to be promoted from the rank of Captain to that of Major.