Outrage after army officer lynched in Ghana

On the left, a photo of Maxwell Adam Mahama in his military uniform. On the right, a screengrab from the video of the lynching.
On the left, a photo of Maxwell Adam Mahama in his military uniform. On the right, a screengrab from the video of the lynching.

An army officer in Ghana was lynched on Monday, May 29 by a furious crowd of townspeople in Denkyira-Obuasi in the country’s Central Region. Captain Maxwell Adam Mahama was out for a morning jog and had his gun in his pocket. Although the circumstances aren’t entirely clear, some reports say that he stopped to ask for directions, locals saw his gun and assumed he was an armed thief, and went to alert other townspeople. Mahama was set upon by a crowd, stoned to death, and partially burnt.

Gory videos of the killing, filmed on smartphones, have flooded social media, along with tributes and calls for justice. One of the videos shows the beginning of the lynching: people running along a road, congregating to meet Mahama. They begin to beat him, using wooden planks to hit him and then dropping large bricks on his head. His body is dragged to a ditch. They continue to beat him. A woman crouches down to set him alight. The FRANCE 24 Observers team has decided not to publish the videos because of their violent and upsetting content.

A crowd gathers around the body of Mahama, which lies in a ditch. Screengrab from the video.

The lynching was met with outrage, and authorities acted quickly, dispatching the military to the town to find the perpetrators.

In the following days, there was some tension between the police and the military – with the former protesting that the presence of soldiers caused people to flee, hampering investigation efforts. Local media is reporting that schools have shut down as children have fled the town with their parents, fearing reprisals from the army. There have been complaints that the army has been punishing the residents that remain.

People run to the site of the lynching. Screengrab from video.

“We hope attitudes towards lynching will change because of this”

One of our Observers in Ghana has been following the events. He says that lynchings are unfortunately not uncommon in Ghana.

On Tuesday, May 30, the first group of military troops stormed the village and punished the villagers. They gathered them up and made them do exercises, told them to slap each other. It was some form of retaliation. I think it’s wrong. They said it was just military drilling but I think it’s human abuse. A number of the inhabitants then fled, although some have now come back. Most of the young men you can see in the [lynching] videos have fled.

People surround Mahama, preparing to beat him. Screengrab from video.

One attacker throws a brick at Mahama. Screengrab from video.

Lynching is very common, especially outside of urban centres, and especially if the suspect is armed. A crowd will overpower him and lynch him. There’s this idea of ‘an eye for an eye’ – if you try to kill me, I’ll kill you first.

But this story stands out. First of all, this man was innocent, he wasn’t a suspected criminal. He was in the army, a respected industry. He wasn’t in uniform and they saw him armed and that was why they did it. It could have ended differently if he had been in uniform.

We hope attitudes towards lynching will change because of this. It sends a strong message to people who are found guilty of these kinds of acts. I hope the people caught will be given a full trial.

Here you can see one of the attackers lifting up a plank with which to beat Captain Mahama. Screengrab from the video.

“Lynched by the very people he had sworn to protect”

Fred McBagonluri is Captain Mahama’s uncle.

I was about to sleep when I heard the news. It was 11pm [on Monday evening] when a call came to my wife, his aunt, and I heard the name Adam and I knew something bad had happened to him. He was lynched by the very people he had taken an oath to protect. He had only been in the area for about three weeks.

Online tributes have been shared repeatedly across social media.

Online tribute for the soldier.

There is a certain degree of tolerance for this level of lawlessness. People have lost confidence in legal proceedings and so they resort to lynchings. If lynchings have become the law of the land, we should all be afraid. A systemic solution needs to be found, this heinous crime needs to find justice.

A crowd gathers around the body of Mahama. Screen capture from the video.

The Ghana Police have arrested seven suspects, who were all identified through the smartphone videos of the killing.

Captain Mahama leaves behind a wife and two young children. He was in the region as part of a group of military sent to crack down on small-scale, illegal miners known as “galamsey”. Galamsey operations have a detrimental effect on the environment, using excavators and heavy-duty machines that pollute nearby water sources with industrial waste or oil. Ghana is the second largest gold producer in Africa, and has a serious problem with unregulated mining.