Major General Robert Kotei was a soldier, politician and track and field athlete. He was once the Chief of Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces and also a member of the Supreme Military Council which ruled Ghana between 1975 and 1979. He was executed in 1979, following a military coup. He also held the Ghanaian high jump record for many years.
The son of a District Officer, Robert Ebenezer Abossey Kotei was born in The Gold Coast on 15 July 1935. Educated in Nigeria, he was an outstanding schoolboy athlete. After training at the Officer School in Accra, he was selected to attend Sandhurst but deferred for an intake in order to take part in the British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Cardiff in July 1958. Placed 3rd with a jump of 2 meters he was Ghana’s only medalist at the games.
Entering Sandhurst on Intake 25 on 17 September 1958, he was a member of Dettingen Company rising to the rank of Cadet Sergeant. At the 1960 Academy Athletics Championship Robert Kotei, not surprisingly, won the high jump with a leap of 2.06m. Immediately before commissioning on 22 July 1960, Robert Kotei was given leave to compete at the AAA Championships, where he won the High Jump with a height of 2.08m which remained the Ghana record for the next 36 years. Immediately after his Sovereign’s Parade, Kotei headed to the Rome Olympic Games where he finished a very creditable 10th.
Returning to Ghana, Robert Kotei concentrated on his Army career and by 1973 was a Colonel. Elected to his country’s Olympic and Commonwealth Games commission he was also appointed commander of 1st Brigade. In August he was instrumental in foiling a coup attempt against the ruling National Redemption Council (NRC). Serving on the NRC as Housing Minister, when the NRC was replaced by the Supreme Military Council (SMC) in 1975, Robert Kotei remained in Government as a senior officer. He was appointed army Commander in 1976 and Chief of Defence Staff two years later before retiring in 1979.
On 4th June 1979 the SMC was overthrown in a bloody coup by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council led by Flight Lieutenant Gerry Rawlings. The coup leaders demanded that former members of the Government report to police stations and when Robert Kotei did so voluntarily, he was immediately arrested, severely beaten and his property seized. Tried in a secret court at which he was not represented.
Major General Robert Kotei was executed by firing squad, together with General Fred Akuffo, also a former Head of state and Lieutenant General Akwasi Afrifa, Colonel Roger Felli, Air Vice Marshal George Yaw Boakye and Rear Admiral Joy Amedume.
Afterward the bodies were taken away for burial in a prison cemetery at Nsawam, north of Accra.
All eight senior military officers executed in June 1979 were exhumed and their bodies released to their respective families for reburial in 2001. On 27 December 2001, two of the eight, Major General Kotei and Air-Vice Marshal Boakye were buried with full military honours at the Osu Military Cemetery in Accra.