On 18 January, Ahmed Hussein-Suale, a Ghanaian investigative journalist who had collaborated with the BBC, was shot lifeless close to his household dwelling in Accra. Ghanaian police imagine he was assassinated due to his work.
At first the gunshots gave the impression of firecrackers, and Unus Alhassan puzzled why somebody was setting them off so lengthy after Christmas.
It was almost midnight in Madina, a suburb of the Ghanaian capital Accra. Alhassan’s household was sitting collectively speaking exterior the household dwelling, as they usually did late into the evening. His brother, Ahmed Hussein-Suale, had simply left to verify on a nephew who was sick. When the sounds of the firecrackers stopped, and the extraordinary noise of the neighbourhood settled, Alhassan turned his consideration again to his household and he did not take into consideration the sounds once more till a person got here operating in direction of him crying out that his brother was lifeless.
100 metres down the highway, Hussein-Suale, who was 31, lay slumped within the driver’s seat of his dusty blue BMW with bullet holes in his chest and neck. Eyewitnesses mentioned he was killed by two males who fired on the automotive from shut vary because it slowed for a junction. The primary bullet hit Hussein-Suale within the neck and the automotive accelerated, crashing right into a storefront. One of many gunmen calmly approached the driving force’s aspect and fired two pictures by way of the damaged window instantly into Hussein-Suale’s chest. Then he turned to these watching, smiled and raised a finger to his lips.
Three witnesses to the crime who reside close by informed the BBC they noticed the boys hanging across the junction on a number of events within the week earlier than the killing – two unfamiliar faces in a well-known neighbourhood. The boys, one tall and well-built, the opposite quick and wiry, leant on their motorcycle or chatted with neighbours to go the time. They purchased alcohol from a store and helped a person carry pails of water. One neighbour mentioned they appeared suspicious. One other mentioned she thought they have been robbers.
However nothing was stolen from Hussein-Suale and no-one near him believes he was a random goal. He was an investigative journalist whose undercover reporting had uncovered traffickers, murderers, corrupt officers and high-court judges. He labored with Tiger Eye, a extremely secretive workforce led by probably the most well-known undercover journalists in Africa, Anas Aremeyaw Anas. In Ghana and past, the workforce’s daring, nameless reporting made them modern-day people heroes. And it made them enemies.
When Tiger Eye aired its newest investigation, which uncovered widespread corruption in African soccer, Ghanaian MP Kennedy Agyapong started a marketing campaign of hostility in opposition to the workforce, saying he was offended by its undercover strategies. He referred to as publicly for Anas to be hanged. Weeks after the movie was screened, in June final yr, he used his personal TV station to assault Hussein-Suale and expose the journalist’s most intently guarded secret – his face.
“That is him,” mentioned Agyapong, as photos of Hussein-Suale appeared on display screen. “His different image is there as effectively, make it massive.”
Agyapong revealed Hussein-Suale’s title and the neighbourhood he lived in. “For those who meet him someplace, slap him… beat him,” he mentioned, staring into the digicam. “No matter occurs, I am going to pay.”
No-one anticipated the primary recorded homicide of a journalist in 2019 to occur in Ghana.
Throughout a lot of Africa, authoritarian regimes have successfully suffocated the free press. However in a handful of less-repressive nations, tenacious younger journalists are holding the highly effective to account and advancing a tradition of investigative reporting. Ghana is high of this checklist. Final yr the nation was ranked first in Africa on the annual Reporters With out Borders press freedom index. Globally it ranked 23rd out of 180 nations – effectively forward of the UK (40th) and the US (45th).
Anas and his workforce are the nation’s most high-profile reporters. Anas has been praised by the nation’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo and by President Barack Obama, who mentioned he noticed the spirit of democracy “in brave journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the reality”. In his 20 years of undercover journalism, Anas has posed as a feminine investor in excessive heels and lipstick; labored as a janitor in a brothel; acquired himself despatched to jail; and hidden inside a pretend rock along side the highway. In public appearances, he wears a placing disguise – a hat with a multicoloured veil of beads that hangs in entrance of his face. In Ghana it has turn into a logo of resistance to corruption that’s graffitied on partitions across the capital.
However behind the masks there isn’t just Anas’s face. There’s a workforce of extremely expert investigative journalists that put their lives in danger to report tales, and Hussein-Suale was chief amongst them – Anas’s chosen workforce chief.
Hussein-Suale grew up amongst eight siblings in Wulensi, a small city in northern Ghana, the place he stood out for his fierce curiosity in politics. At 18 he moved to Accra to review political science on the College of Ghana, the place he first met Anas.
Anas had already made a reputation for himself as an undercover reporter and Tiger Eye was a fledgling workforce. Hussein-Suale sought him out the identical manner a number of early Tiger Eye workers had, by asking round till somebody may inform him: that’s the man often called Anas. Anas responded the best way he did to all potential recruits – he set him a take a look at: journey to Tema, north of Accra, and report a narrative there about cocaine. Hussein-Suale went to Tema and promptly failed. He blew his cowl and acquired himself arrested. “He didn’t carry out to my expectation,” mentioned Anas, “and that was that.”
However Hussein-Suale wrote Anas an extended letter explaining why he ought to be given one other likelihood. “So I gave him one other likelihood,” mentioned Anas, in an interview with the BBC final week. “And from that day he excelled from one investigation to the subsequent.”
Hussein-Suale’s first massive story got here in 2013 when he travelled with Anas to northern Ghana to show witchdoctors behind the poisoning of youngsters – usually kids with disabilities – believed to be possessed by evil spirits. In an elaborate sting typical of Tiger Eye’s fashion, the workforce organized for the witchdoctor’s “concoction males” to go to a household dwelling with a supposedly possessed baby. Whereas the concoction males have been exterior cooking their poison, the workforce swapped the toddler for a prosthetic child. When the boys returned and took maintain of the pretend child, police swooped.
The movie – Spirit Youngster – aired internationally on Al Jazeera. Hussein-Suale, then 24, impressed Anas along with his pragmatism, not hesitating when it got here to coming into the witchdoctor’s shrine. “The typical African is spiritually afraid of traditions and gods,” Anas mentioned. “However Ahmed was all the time daring.”
His pure manner was the other. He was quiet and unassuming, to a fault. “You’ll be prone to disregard him at first,” mentioned Sammy Darko, Tiger Eye’s lawyer, “however that made him a great match for investigative journalism.” He was additionally scrupulously attentive and diligent. He turned often called the “encyclopaedia of the workforce” for his detailed information of every venture, and later as “religious chief” for his behavior of main a prayer earlier than undercover operations.
His cubicle at Tiger Eye’s places of work had notes and paperwork from numerous investigations piled on the desk and pasted on the partitions. “He would exit quietly and do numerous background work,” mentioned a fellow investigator, “in order that once we got here on to the story we knew precisely what we have been doing.” However he additionally had a playful streak. “I acquired irritated with him as soon as,” recalled Seamus Mirodan, the director of Spirit Youngster. “One of many villagers gave him a just-slaughtered guinea fowl as a present.” Hussein-Suale put it in Mirodan’s tripod bag and it launched its bowels everywhere in the inside.
In 2015, Hussein-Suale took the lead on a narrative that may rock Ghana and propel Tiger Eye into the nationwide highlight. “Ghana within the Eyes of God” – a three-hour undercover epic primarily based on tons of of hours of secret filming – uncovered widespread corruption in Ghana’s judiciary, exhibiting judges and court docket employees accepting bribes to affect circumstances. Greater than 30 judges and 170 judicial officers have been implicated. Seven of the nation’s 12 high-court judges have been suspended. The movie performed to six,500 individuals in 4 showings on the Accra Worldwide Convention Centre and introduced gridlock to the streets of the capital.
Not everyone appreciated Tiger Eye’s strategies. The workforce confronted accusations of entrapment. “It’s mistaken to induce any person by an enticement of one thing profitable, massive cash or no matter, then flip round and say the individual is corrupt,” mentioned Charles Bentum, a lawyer for a number of judges implicated within the expose. “You can not exonerate the enticer and condemn the sufferer.”
The judiciary story made Anas well-known in Ghana. Behind the scenes, Hussein-Suale’s mixture of diligence and mettle was impressing his boss; he was changing into Anas’s right-hand man. In early 2018, Anas requested Hussein-Suale to accompany him to Malawi for a grim story about “muti” – the apply of harvesting human physique components for good luck rituals – that a younger Malawian journalist, Henry Mhango, had dropped at them. “I selected Hussein-Suale as a result of I knew he had the capability to resist the shocks,” mentioned Anas.
However in Malawi they might run into hassle past something Hussein-Suale had skilled. Mhango had arrange a rural assembly with two males who mentioned they might kill kids for his or her physique components. At nighttime, Hussein-Suale, Anas, Mhango and producer Darius Barzargan drove with the boys to the outskirts of a village to barter.
However the villagers had seen the unfamiliar males assembly among the many timber and suspected them of being baby killers. They attacked the workforce, first with their ft and fists then with stones. Anas’s swimsuit was slashed up the again with a knife. The hidden cameras stored recording because the assaults intensified. “I am right here, I am right here, let me maintain you,” Anas mentioned quietly to Hussein-Suale. Then: “They’ll kill us.”
They have been saved by a brave group of villagers who put themselves between the workforce and the attackers and helped them attain the home of the village chief. The mob was making an attempt to power the door and Mhango, on his first undercover job, was shaking. Hussein-Suale sat subsequent to him. “He informed me to overlook my environment and be robust,” Mhango recalled. “He mentioned, ‘Henry, these are the incidents that encourage us to do much more, as a result of our work is to battle evil.'”
Finally, with the assistance of the small group of villagers, they made it out and Anas and Hussein-Suale flew again to Ghana. However Hussein-Suale stayed in contact with Mhango, mentoring him in lengthy telephone conversations over the next yr.
“He informed me tales about Ghana and he gave me tales in Malawi. He had an enormous impact on my profession,” mentioned Mhango. “His loss of life it not solely a loss to Ghana, it’s a loss to all of Africa. He was a journalist for Africa.”
Shortly after the workforce returned from Malawi, Tiger Eye would produce a narrative that may make headlines throughout the continent and past. “Quantity 12” was an investigation into corruption in soccer refereeing, and Hussein-Suale once more took the lead. Referee after referee in Ghana accepted money items from undercover Tiger Eye journalists, and the workforce set its sights past the nation’s borders. By the point the investigation was completed, almost 100 soccer officers throughout Africa had accepted money, together with a Kenyan referee slated to officiate on the coming World Cup.
The investigation led to a cascade of bans and resignations. On the high of the checklist was Kwesi Nyantakyi, the pinnacle of the Ghanaian FA and a member of Fifa’s elite council. Mr Nyantakyi had flown to Dubai for what he believed was a gathering with a sheikh eager to put money into Ghanaian soccer. When he sat down in a lodge room reverse “HH Sheikh Hammad Al Thani” and stuffed $65,000 in money right into a black plastic bag, he may don’t have any manner of figuring out the quiet man who organized the assembly was Ahmed Hussein-Suale.
Mr Nyantakyi was banned from soccer for all times, and the investigation delighted Ghanaian soccer followers sick of the corruption crippling the game. It additionally infuriated a few of Ghana’s strongest individuals. Kennedy Agyapong, an MP from Ghana’s ruling celebration, railed in opposition to the group, saying he was offended by the best way they carried out investigations. He obtained Hussein-Suale’s title and placement and made them public. Tiger Eye was compelled to activate security protocols: members left Accra; the principle places of work have been deserted and stay largely unused; and Hussein-Suale travelled to the north, returning periodically to the capital.
When his household noticed the footage of Agyapong’s rant, they urged Hussein-Suale to depart Ghana totally, however he resisted. “He was of the view that he didn’t do something mistaken, that he did what he did to avoid wasting the nation, so why ought to he depart,” mentioned Alhassan.
Anas additionally instructed Hussein-Suale to take a again seat amid the publicity. Begrudgingly he did, and in time he agreed to avoid the household dwelling for a interval. However it jarred along with his character. He pushed Anas to carry him again to investigative work and he started to return to Madina. He most well-liked to hope at his typical mosque. He felt protected in his dwelling neighbourhood. “You possibly can examine it to a gangster movie,” mentioned Tiger Eye’s lawyer Sammy Darko. “The gangster all the time feels protected in his neighbourhood as a result of his mates and his household are round him.”
However Ahmed was not a gangster. He was a journalist, a son, a husband, and a father to 3 younger kids. His homicide has shocked Ghana and reverberated past its borders, drawing condemnation from President Akufo-Addo and from the UN. Press freedom activists say they concern a chilling impact for journalism on the continent. “It’s the final type of censorship,” mentioned Angela Quintal, Africa co-ordinator for the Committee to Shield Journalists. “You censor the person who is killed; you censor the workforce they work with; and also you ship a message to others: when you cross the road we’ll get you.”
A spokesman for Ghana’s police power informed the BBC that each one the proof that they had pointed in direction of a focused assassination, they usually have been pursuing traces of inquiry associated to Hussein-Suale’s work. Kennedy Agyapong has been informally questioned by police. He denies any duty for the killing, and claims Anas and his workforce are blackmailers who use doubtful strategies. Requested by the BBC if he now regretted publishing Hussein-Suale’s private data, he mentioned: “I do not remorse something in any respect as a result of they’re evil.”
Whoever is behind Hussein-Suale’s homicide, they could discover that their actions have the other of the specified impact. Within the days after his loss of life, functions flooded in to Tiger Eye from younger Ghanaian journalists eager to comply with in his footsteps, Anas mentioned. In time, Anas will vet them. Some could also be set a take a look at. “We are going to proceed to battle,” he mentioned. “Ahmed all the time mentioned posterity wouldn’t forgive us if we didn’t battle.” Others vowed the identical. “What occurred to Ahmed won’t maintain me again,” mentioned Manasseh Azure Awuni, an investigative journalist with Ghana’s Multimedia Group. “As I communicate to you I’m engaged on an investigation, and it will likely be broadcast in Ghana within the coming weeks.”
Hussein-Suale was laid to relaxation final weekend in Accra. His funeral was attended by household, mates, politicians from numerous events and strangers from throughout the town. His homicide has left a household bereft. In addition to his personal three kids, Hussein-Suale had taken in a nephew – the son of a brother who died within the line of responsibility as a policeman – and he supported quite a few prolonged relations. He lined college charges, contributed to marriage ceremony funds and paid for the maintenance on homes. He was naturally beneficiant, mentioned his brother Kamil. “That’s how we have been raised. You probably have one thing small, you share.”
In Madina, Hussein-Suale’s household nonetheless gathers every evening exterior the household dwelling. Final evening they have been there. For 20 years they’ve come collectively after work and prayers to take a seat and speak, about nothing specifically, all the time out entrance, the place mates and neighbours who go by may cease and speak for some time too.
Typically there are greater than 20 individuals collectively till the early hours, generally there are much less. The evening Hussein-Suale died there have been six or seven – shut household and mates. He spent his previous couple of hours with the individuals who raised him and shared his actual life. He was quiet, as typical, and distracted by his telephone, however he was in a great temper. Not everybody there knew precisely what he did. They beloved him for the person he was that evening in Madina. Throughout Ghana, individuals have been extra free due to his work.
Extra reporting by Favour Nunoo.
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