A SAMPLE CHAPTER TO ENJOY **
7) Dubious recruiting methods and tactics exposed
ONE DAY, about a week into their forced conscription, Kakra and Nyamekye were sitting under one of the many trees in the camp when a group of other recruits, three in number, approached them.
“You look quite unhappy”, one of them inquired. “What’s the matter with you?" “How can I be happy after being torn apart from my family in such a brutal manner?” Kakra said.
“What do you mean?”
Kakra then revealed the circumstances of his and Nyamekye’s abduction. “I miss, in particular, Panin, my twin brother!”
“You have got to get over it and make the best out of a bad situation, my friends. Though we were not abducted at gunpoint as in your case, our individual stories are not very dissimilar from yours.”
“We have told you our names and how we got here – how did you get here?” Nyamekye joined in the conversation.
“Well, I will begin with myself. I am Nii Odarmetey!”
“A Ga man?” Kakra inquired.
“Who taught you to speak Twi?”
“Well, my father went to Akyem Abuakwa to engage in farming – Begoro, to be precise. I was born in Bukom in Accra but grew up in Begoro. According to my parents, I was a few months old at the time we moved to Begoro.
“My father has four strong boys, I am the third.
“To expand his farm, my father contacted the chief for additional land.
“‘You have to offer one of your children in return’, the traditional leader told him
“‘In what way?’ my father inquired, somewhat confused.
“‘To the army, to fight for King and Empire. You have heard about the big war going on and the conscription exercise underway in the whole of the Gold Coast, haven’t you?’
“‘Yes, one of my cousins who visited from Accra recently spoke about it. No problem, you can have one of my four boys’, my father conceded.
“One morning, at dawn, just before we got out of bed, there was a knock on the door of the room where I and my three other brothers were sleeping.
“‘Nii, come out”, my father called out.
“‘Put on your clothes and follow these gentlemen.’ He pointed to two solidly built men, each aged about 40, standing nearby. I obeyed without question.
“‘We are travelling to Koforidua to pick up something for your father’, one of them told me.
“When we got to the main road, a vehicle was already waiting for us. Seated in the back cabin were about half a dozen other young men of about my age. Instead of heading for Koforidua we ended up here.
“Kwaku, now it is your turn”, Nii addressed his friend on his immediate right.
“I am Yaw Bonsu, from Kyebi. You may as well use the title ‘Nana’ to address me. Indeed, I am a royal, from the Kyebi Royal family. My uncle who happens to be a sub-chief of Kyebi just picked me up and handed me to the conscription team that had made their weekly call in our area to pick up the weekly quota of recruits demanded of our traditional area.”
“Why did he single you out?” Kakra asked. “Surely there were other young men in your family apart from yourself?”
“Good question! I suggest you ask the leading members of my extended family.”
“But you must have a clue as to why?”
“Well, they regarded me as being hot-headed, a kind of outcast – not their idea of one who met the traditional expectations of a royal!”
“Do you consider yourself hot-headed?”
“Of course not! You know the mind-set of our people. The younger ones are not expected to contradict the elderly. But I am by nature outspoken. I won’t allow anyone to place what I consider to be undue restrictions on my freedom to say what is on my mind. That has led to my present predicament – I was accused by leading members of my extended family of arrogance and disrespect. What I was not aware of was that they had been plotting behind my back to be rid of me! So, the recruitment drive was the opportunity they sought to get me out of the way. In the end, I was tricked into this situation. A group including a white man called on my uncle.
“‘They are looking for a houseboy for the white man’, my uncle said. ‘Go with them to Accra and take up the position.’ That is how I ended up here!”
“That is really harsh!” Nyamekye remarked on hearing the story.
“My name is Kofi Awartey”, another said. “I am a Krobo. I was not recruited from Krobo territory though, but from an Akan area, namely, Akim Oda. My only fault was that I happened to have fallen in love with the daughter of the paramount chief of the area.
“On several occasions, I was sternly warned to refrain from ‘defiling’ a royal person.
“Following repeated warnings, I sought to end the relationship. Much as I advised my lover – Yaa Yaa is her name – not to approach me, she did just that!
“One morning, two attendants of the eminent chief called on me.
“‘Nana has asked me to summon you to the palace’, I was told.
“‘What is the matter?’ I asked. I was really scared.
“‘Don’t be afraid’, one of the attendants said. ‘I have been told to let you know that after much consideration, Nana is now inclined to give up his resistance to your friendship and accept you as his potential future son-in-law. For that to happen, however, he wants to meet you to clarify one or two issues concerning your background. Of course, you don’t expect one of our royals to be married to an individual with a questionable background, do you?’
“You are all aware that when a traditional leader calls, his subjects have no choice but to obey the call, so I followed the messenger to Nana. What I was not aware of, shortly prior to my arrival the conscription truck had arrived to collect the conscripts quota assigned to the King for that week.
“On my arrival, I was greeted in an unexpectedly friendly manner by Nana. After the initial greetings, he began:
“‘Just as I sent the messenger to call you, these gentlemen arrived.’ He pointed to two gentlemen standing a few centimetres away from where we were. ‘I have hired their truck –they are going to purchase cement at Pokuase. They do not know the way, so please accompany them and direct them.’
“Not suspecting any foul play, I did as requested. Instead of heading for Pokuase, they took the road to Accra. That is how I ended up here!”
In the end, the five of them became close friends.
In due course Kakra learnt from other recruits that they too had not signed up voluntarily, but rather had been tricked into the situation by their traditional leaders. The traditional leaders employed several methods to achieve their goal. Only two methods are cited below:
In one instance, they had been invited to an assembly before the traditional leader for an important announcement. As they gathered there, a truck pulled by. They were asked to join it to collect something for the chief. Instead of heading for the stated location, they were driven to a recruitment centre.
In another case, they had assembled to perform some form of communal labour. As they were at work to perform an activity for the benefit of the community – constructing a public latrine, building a school block, weeding around their respective settlements, etc. – a truck pulled up near them. A dozen or so strong men were told to get on board. They were told they were being driven to a site to collect construction material – sand, stone, cement, etc. Instead of heading for the supposed collecting site, they were driven to a conscription centre.