Episode 3.5: Ahmed Divela
Hello, and welcome to Assassinations Podcast!
This week, we’ll be looking at the case of Ahmed Divela, a journalist from Ghana who was killed after receiving threats from a prominent politician in the country.
But before we get started, we have some quick housekeeping.
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Also, please stay tuned after the episode to hear about a show we’ve been enjoying lately: Nordic True Crime.
And now, without further ado, let’s launch our investigation into the life and death of Ahmed Divela.
The day: May 30th, 2018.
The place: Ghana, West Africa. More specifically, a studio of the popular television channel Net 2 TV.
A leading Ghanaian politician sat down in front of the cameras. His name is Kennedy Agyapong.
He is a member of parliament from the ruling New Patriotic Party, and he was there to be interviewed for a national news program.
The interviewer sat across from him, and the two men were mic’d up. The producer counted down, and the show went live.
The host introduced his guest. Mr Agyapong is a very important man in Ghana, not only a politician, but a wealthy businessman.
What the host did not say, though it’s no secret, was that Agyapong is also the owner of the TV station.
Agyapong talked about the state of the country. In particular he criticized the role of what he considered to be “troublemakers”, people who were damaging the image of Ghana and hampering the country’s progress.
He named one person as being especially “problematic”: Anas Aremeyaw Anas. This is a man who runs a website called Tiger Eye Private Investigations.
The site publishes investigations into corruption by government officials and businessmen, with a particular focus on abuses of children by those in positions of power.
Anas specializes in undercover investigations, where his investigators will often pose as people wishing to bribe an official or procure an illegal service. Hidden cameras or microphones are then used to record what’s going on.
In 2015, an investigation by Anas rocked the judiciary of Ghana. Tiger Eye investigators gathered evidence showing widespread bribe-taking. The exposé resulted in the dismissal of 13 high court judges, 20 lower court judges, and 19 administrative personnel.
Tiger Eye had also recently exposed a massive corruption scandal inside the Ghanian soccer association - a scandal that implicated Mr. Agyapong.
The true identity of Anas is a secret.
The name Anas Aremeyaw Anas is a nom de plume. And if he has to appear in public, he wears a mask or veil over his face.
He claims - with good reason - that to reveal his true identity would be to put his life in danger.
Ghana is not the most dangerous country in Africa to be a journalist. In fact, it is, relatively speaking, one of the safest.
Nonetheless, journalists such as Anas, carrying out investigations into the doings of the most powerful people in the country, do so at great personal risk - as will soon become all too apparent.
Kennedy Agyapong continued his tirade against the “troublemakers”. He then revealed to the interviewer that he had carried out his own investigation and that he could make an exclusive revelation that his viewers might find very interesting.
Agyapong pulled out a photograph of a man. He named him: Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela - a journalist at Tiger Eye Investigations.
Divela played a major role in exposing the soccer scandal. A documentary based on his work had led to resignations and criminal proceedings against some rich and influential people, not least Agyapong.
The politician stated that Divela was causing serious problems - he was a danger to the country. An enemy of the people.
“I'm telling you, if you come across this man, you should beat him,” Agyapong said. “Whatever happens, I'll pay.
“If anyone meets this man, they should …”
Agyapong raised his hand to his throat and drew the tip of his thumb across his neck - miming to the viewers the universal sign of death.
So, what was so important about corruption in the world of Ghanian soccer? How high stakes can it be?
The short answer is, very.
The documentary, titled “Number 12: When Greed and Corruption Become the Norm” shocked the nation and rocked the national sport, soccer.
There are eleven men on each side in a football match - and the the documentary’s title, “Number 12”, refers to the other player involved in the game - dirty money.
The film prompted an investigation by the Ghanaian government into corruption within the national football association, and Divela was assisting government prosecutors with that investigation.
Kennedy Agyapong was one of those implicated in the film.
As a result of the exposé, the head of the Ghana Football Association was forced to resign. He was caught on camera, allegedly asking for $11 million to influence decision-making about large-scale projects, and accepting a $65,000 payment.
Similar corruption was also exposed among soccer officials in Kenya, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in the continent - Africans are passionate about football, and several of the best players in the world hail from countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and Cameroon.
And therefore, football is also big business.
It might be known as the “beautiful game”, but it has an ugly side, too.
The nations of Africa are caught up in a global contest that’s not played out on the pitch but in the boardrooms of the various national football associations.
Which country will host the next Africa Cup? Moreover, which country will host the World Cup?
These are massive questions. Millions of dollars are at stake when it comes to hosting rights for the continent’s main football tournament. But billions of dollars are at stake for the World Cup, the biggest sporting event on the planet.
Each country’s football association has a say in where these tournaments are played. And corruption has long tainted the decision-making process.
Everything from cushy junkets to full-on bribes are deployed by the wealthy nations that vie to host these sporting spectacles.
It might be the world of sport - but, at the top level, the game can be quite deadly.
The media campaign by Kennedy Agyapong against Tiger Eye Investigations then went a step further.
In response to the scandal surrounding corruption in Ghanian football, and the Number 12 documentary in particular, Agyapong produced his own film.
Called Who Watches the Watchman?, this film criticized the work of Anas and Divela. According to Agyapong, they were a threat to the country - not just the elites, but to all Ghanians.
Their methods were crooked. They were not real journalists, but criminals.
The film, which came out in June, 2018, shows a figure claimed to be Anas attempting to extort a bribe to cover up a corruption scandal that Tiger Eye had uncovered back in 2009.
Given that the identity of Anas is a closely guarded secret, it’s impossible to verify if the footage in Who Watches the Watchman? is accurate or not.
But Anas rejected the allegation, stating that the footage was staged, and clearly motivated by the desire of Agyapong to deflect attention away from his involvement in the soccer scandal.
It was now clear that this was a battle: on the one hand, Agyapong and his allies. Theirs was a media offensive to regain the upper hand by accusing Tiger Eye Investigations of the very crimes that it had exposed.
One the other hand, Anas and his team refuted this campaign as a smear job, and vowed to continue their investigative work.
It was a battle fought out in the public area; and, in a sense, it was a battle for hearts and minds.
For Agyapong was challenging the not only Anas, Divela, and Tiger Eye - he was attacking the very methods of investigative journalism that they employ, such as sting operations and hidden body cameras.
Opponents of their work described it as unethical journalism, using entrapment and breaching individual privacy in order to carry out politically biased reporting.
They also criticized Tiger Eye for releasing the documentary “Number 12” without first giving the implicated people from the Ghana Football Association the right to view and respond to the film.
Anas rejects these complaints, which come from powerful politicians and wealthy individuals, saying that they criticize the work of Tiger Eye not because of its methods, but because it investigates and exposes high-level corruption.
Let’s pause for a moment to ask, why is it that Ghana has, for a long time now, been one of the safest places in Africa to be a journalist?
It’s a difficult question to answer, bound up, as it is, with the complex history of this West African nation.
Ghana was one of the first countries to free itself from European colonial domination, becoming partly independent in 1957 and fully independent in 1960.
The country was seen as a beacon of post-colonial development and pan-Africanism by many people across the continent who were struggling against foreign rule.
Ghana has had a mixed record of dictatorship and democracy over the years, but since the early 1990s it has enjoyed relatively peaceful and stable democratic government, with regular transfers of power, and a pretty robust civil society.
In that environment, the country has developed one of the most healthy media landscapes in the region. It’s certainly not without problems, including ownership of media outlets by a small number of wealthy and powerful individuals. But, according to international indexes of press freedom, Ghana ranks among the highest not just in Africa, but in the world.
According to the international journalism rights organization Reporters Without Borders, in the 2018 World Press Freedom index, Ghana ranked first in Africa and 23rd in the world in terms of press freedom.
In fact, Ghana is, according to this index, a safer place to be a journalist than the United States, which ranks 45th in the world for press freedom.
Nonetheless, Tiger Eye Investigations has come under a lot of scrutiny and pressure - indeed, full frontal attack - by those in Ghana opposed to its work.
Let’s take a break, and when we return we will ride with Ahmed Divela through the bustling streets of Accra on the day that journalism in Ghana took a massive step backwards.
We’ll be right back.
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Now, on with the show.
On January 17th, 2019, Ahmed Divela, riding his moped, sped and swerved through the bustling streets of Accra, the capital city of Ghana.
The sidewalks, as ever, were alive with shoppers and hawkers. The air, thick with a strange mix of acrid exhaust fumes and delicious street food.
And the road - well, it was the usual jumble of traffic that somehow flows without incident, despite the lack of signals or road signs - car horns and hand signals seem to do the trick.
Ahmed Divela was rushing home from the office of Tiger Eye Private Investigations.
He’d received an urgent phone call saying that his young child was sick.
Divela was well aware of the dangers he faced. After he had been threatened by the politician Kennedy Agyapong, he was attacked by unknown assailants in September 2018.
After this, Divela said that he feared there were people in the country who could do anything and get away with it.
He told colleagues he’d heard rumors that Kennedy Agyapong was actively planning to kill him.
Fearing for his life, Divela took the best precautions that he could. But there was only so much he could do, and yet he would not give up on his mission to tell the truth.
He’d try to avoid being tailed, changing up his route home in order to make it more difficult for anyone to track his movements and follow him.
That day, however, he was in a rush to get home. As he came to a stop, two men riding a motorcycle pulled up alongside Divela.
One of the two men pulled out a gun. He fired three times, almost point blank, into Ahmed Divela’s neck and chest.
The journalist fell to the road, dead. He was 33-years-old.
The response to the killing was swift.
The assistant commissioner of police in Acc-ra, issued a statement that detectives from the criminal division were on the case.
The President of Ghana posted on Twitter that he expected the police to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.
A spokesperson for the international organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that those responsible for Divela’s killing should be swiftly brought to justice and that Ghana’s government had to prove itself willing to hold accountable those who attack the press.
Th organization stated that his shooting was a grave signal that journalists might not be able to work safely to keep the public informed or hold power to account in Ghana.
The office of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner issued a statement calling on the authorities in Ghana to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
The statement reads:
If a climate of impunity is permitted to prosper in the face of attacks on journalists around the world, we can expect this trend to proliferate, with disastrous consequences for press and media freedom globally.
Referring to the threats issued against Divela, the UN body said that when political leaders brand journalists as evil or dangerous, they create a hazardous working environment for them.
Anas, speaking on behalf of Tiger Eye Private Investigations, stated that he was “deeply saddened” by Divela's killing, but that they would continue to report on corruption.
His message was blunt: “Come what may, we will never stop.”
Tiger Eye issued a statement calling for Kennedy Agyapong to be charged for inciting violence against Divela.
Confronted with news of the killing, Agyapong told a television news channel that he did not regret making the statements about Divela.
“It was necessary for me to bring the guy’s picture out for people to see who he is” Agyapong said.
He explained that had to expose Divela in order to protect potential targets of undercover investigations.
He also accused Anas of being behind the killing, and called for police to arrest the journalist.
In early April, the Ghana Police Service reported that one unnamed person had been remanded as part of its investigation into the murder of Divela, and that 13 individuals had been questioned.
One of those questioned was Agyapong, and police have also spoken to Anas.
Then, on the 12th of April, one man was arrested as the prime suspect in the case. Police arrested Abdul Rashid Meizongo, aged 29, at a shopping mall in Accra.
The suspect seemingly called police to hand himself in, proposing to meet at the mall. It’s been alleged in the Ghanian press that he had a large sum of money on him, which he planned to use to bribe the police officers to drop their investigation.
While he has been charged and remanded for attempted bribery, as of recording, we’re waiting on updates as to whether he will be formally charged with the murder of Ahmed Divela.
We’ll give you any updates on this case on social media when we know more.
Like all journalists to dare to uncover the dirty secrets of those in power, Divela, Anas, and the Tiger Eye organization are up against considerable pressure and acute risks.
On his website, Anas states that, regardless of the risks, he is committed to:
Human right investigations to help with creating a better life and providing equal opportunities for children and adults, whilst my corruption investigations focus on Government employees and executives who instead of working for the people rather loot the national kitty and thus deprive citizens of essential amenities that would create a better standard of living for them.
He continues that the aim of Tiger Eye Investigations is to use undercover journalism to name, shame and jail criminals who abuse their positions of power.
This, Anas states, is more than just “reporting” - it’s a crusade.
Commenting on the work of the team at Tiger Eye Investigations, Kofi Anan, the former United Nations Secretary General, who is from Ghana, said that:
“Sometimes it takes a spark, just a spark and I think Anas has provided that spark for the whole edifice to blow up for people to wake up and say: ‘No more’”
Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of Assassinations Podcast.
Next week, we’re launching a two-part investigation into the assassination of Ruth First, a South African journalist and political activist.
A friend and colleague of Nelson Mandela, she devoted her life to the struggle against apartheid and paid the ultimate price.
Now, please stay tuned after the credits to hear about a podcast we’ve been enjoying lately, Nordic True Crime. Their recent episodes on the sinking of the MS Estonia are both moving and fascinating. I highly recommend you check out the show.
This episode was researched & written by me, Niall Cooper.
Lindsey Morse produces and edits the show.
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Until then, goodbye.