In a recent episode of Mayhem, host John-Andrew Addo delved into the story of Johnson Kombian, a notorious figure in Ghana’s North-East region, whose tale is etched in fear and tragedy.
Johnson Kombian’s name has become synonymous with daring prison breaks in Ghana. His escapes, while captivating the public, raised a crucial question: is Kombian an extraordinarily lucky fugitive or a testament to his own cunning and talent? The answer, like Kombian himself, seems to elude easy categorization.
Born in Nakpanduri, Kombian’s journey from a small-town boy to a feared local champion began with dropping out of school and joining a gang of troublesome boys. His big physique and rumored magical powers made him a symbol of terror, robbing and stealing with impunity. His name, “Garkum,” was a household term for thieves.
Trouble escalated when Kombian and his gang robbed a family, leading to a confrontation at the Nankpanduri chief palace. Ignoring invitations, they engaged in a deadly gun battle with the police, resulting in two officers losing their lives. Fleeing to Togo, Kombian’s escape triggered a nationwide manhunt, leaving a trail of destruction.
Fleeing for their lives, Kombian and his gang sought refuge in northern Togo, but the long arm of the law would not relent. A nationwide manhunt ensued, with billboards featuring his face plastered across Nankpanduri. Eventually, he was apprehended while visiting his wife and sentenced to six years in prison at the Tamale Central Prison even though he declared he was innocent. However, that was not the end of his story. Kombian managed to escape, attacking a pedestrian and taking his Haojue motorcycle, leaving chaos in his wake.
This led to a police operation that resulted in the destruction of property and injuries to civilians. Over 100 armed officers, acting on the orders of the Police High Command, raided the town in search of Johnson Kombian. The operation caused significant damage, including the burning of 21 houses and stores, a filling station, supermarkets, and food crops. Additionally, innocent civilians, including young and elderly people, women, and children, were injured during the raid.
On October 17, 2010, Kombian caught wind that the police were around his vicinity. He and his accomplices ambushed and attacked police officers, leading to the deaths of two officers. The deceased are Constable Prince Agyare and Constable Owusu Frimpong, but a third policeman, Corporal Osei Bonsu, survived after sustaining gunshot wounds.
He escaped to Togo but was eventually captured by INTERPOL while visiting his girlfriend. In 2015, justice caught up with him, leading to a death sentence for murder and a 30-year jail term for conspiracy. In court, Kombian claimed to have bribed his way to freedom during his time at the Tamale Central Prisons. The intense legal battle unfolded, with the defense highlighting inconsistencies and the prosecution asserting Kombian’s culpability. The jury unanimously found him guilty.
In 2016, Kombian attempted another daring escape but was caught by a vigilant prison warden. Despite the attempt, he remained determined, revealing the challenges faced by the prison system.
In the podcast episode, the host addressed the death penalty system which has been a topic for some time now. The Ghanaian Parliament decided on July 25, 2023, to formally abolish the death penalty for misdemeanor offences. The death penalty is still an authorized punishment for high treason under the Constitution. The death penalty was removed from the country’s legal code and replaced with life in prison.
The saga of Johnson Kombian, from his early days of menace and mayhem to the dark chapters of destruction and escape attempts, paints a vivid picture of crime, its consequences, and the challenges within the justice system.
New episodes are out every two weeks and are available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, YouTube, and wherever you listen to your podcasts with the RSS Feed.