Ex-Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan announced his retirement from active football on June 20, 2023. However, the former Sunderland player has, within the last two weeks, been the center of media attention, including social media, after the High Court in Accra gave its judgment in a suit challenging his marriage to his wife, Gifty, and the paternity of their three children.
There have been screaming headlines in the media in Ghana and other parts of the world, with varied narratives about the decision rendered by the Ghanaian court.
An Accra-based 3 News reported, “Asamoah Gyan’s divorce: Court grants ex-wife cars and two houses.” Also, Ghana’s state-owned newspaper, Graphic Online, wrote, “Why Asamoah Gyan conducted DNA test and said he has no regrets marrying Gifty Dzamesi.”
“Breaking: Asamoah Gyan to lose his properties following a divorce with ex-wife,” Kofi Ratty wrote on X.
Another user, Kasoa Blogger, wrote, “Asamoah Gyan’s ex-wife gets GHS25,000 monthly, mansions, cars, and land post-divorce. After years of dispute and paternity doubts, the court confirmed on Oct. 31, 2023, that the three kids are Gyan’s.”
Finding love and starting a family
Court records showed Gyan, who had just been called up to the National under-23 football team, the Black Meteors, met Sandra Gifty Gyamesi in 2003 while she was an employee of Wangara Hotel in Accra.
The former Rennes player entered into a romantic relationship with Gifty, which produced their first two sons, the High Court established.
The two, however, sealed their relationship with an ordinance marriage on August 31, 2013, under the Marriages Act, 1884 to 1985 (CAP 127) of Ghana at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA).
Records available at the court showed that the couple did not cohabit after marriage but lived in separate homes while entertaining periodic visits from each other both in and outside Ghana.
The couple is blessed with three children: Frederick Asamoah Gyan Junior, 17, Raphael Mensah Gyan, 11, and Zelda Ohemaa Gyan, 9.
The couple shared good moments together in the early days of their marriage, to the delight of their fans.
In a video posted on his YouTube channel in 2019, Gyan and his wife were seen picking their children up from a UK school.
“Hey guys, like I promised you guys, I just came up from London. I went to see the family and enjoyed some nice time with [my] family, and now we are back to business,” he said in the video, starting from minutes 0:00 to 0:20 here.
Hugging Raphael, his first child, after he had returned from school in the video here, starting from minutes 5:11 to 5:39, the former Ghana Black Stars striker is heard saying,
“That is my boy. That’s my firstborn. Say something to them, tell them you miss daddy… that’s junior baby jet. Now, I am daddy jet, so he is the baby jet.”
There is no doubt Gyan, Gifty, and their three children formed a happy family readily available to support one another.
“All you fathers out there who do not care for your children, just see how beautiful they [Gyan, Gifty and their children] look. God bless you, Asamoah Gyan; despite all the fun you have been having, you still make time for your family. Keep it up.”
The three children are reported to be football lovers as their parents, and Raphael is reported to be in the Ghana Under 20 team, getting ready to continue with his father’s legacy.
In another post that got many fans talking, Gifty posted a picture of herself in the kitchen on Instagram, as reported here five years ago, saying,
“My favourite place in the house #thekitchen.”
The beginning of the end of the marriage
After nearly ten years of marriage, court records have shown that things began to take a different twist in the family when the football legend claimed to have discovered that his wife was married to another man before their union.
Gyan petitioned the High Court in Accra to annul their marriage since his wife could not marry two men contrary to the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1971 (Act 367) of Ghana.
He also doubted the paternity of his children and requested a Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) test to be conducted to establish the truth as revealed by the court records.
What Gyan said in open court
Gyan told the court that when he met Gifty, she presented herself as a spinster named Gifty Akua Oware.
The ex-footballer further told the court that Gifty lured him into marriage by using a different name, Gifty Akua Oware, to contract a second marriage.
He, however, discovered that she had been married to one Frederick Odame Antwi on Feb. 26, 2002, under the Marriages Act, 1884-1985 (Cap 127), bearing the name Sandra Gifty Gyamesi. Because of his discovery, Gyan asked the court to annul his marriage to Gifty.
He also asked the court to grant an order for a DNA test for the determination of actual paternity of the said three issues of the marriage and a declaration that a reasonable amount would be made for the maintenance of the problems until the paternity test had been completed.
Gifty’s response to Gyan’s claims in court
Records of proceedings evident on page 11 of the certified judgment showed Gifty admitted the fact of the marriage between her and Eugene.
Gifty explained to the court that when she met Gyan, she opened up to him about some health challenges she had been suffering from and explained to him that in the attempt to resort to treatment facilities outside Ghana, her foster mother, Madam Lucy, arranged a marriage with her son, Eugene Odame Antwi and procured a marriage certificate to support her visa processing.
She continued that when the visa was finally issued, she travelled to Italy, where Gyan visited, and introduced him to Eugene as her boyfriend. Gifty said she was chaste when she had sexual relations with Gyan in 2004.
Gifty later told the court Eugene is married to a lady in the UK who is aware of the arranged marriage in 2002 to procure travel documents. She argued the marriage between her and Eugene was void because she was 17 years old, a minor at the time, and the said marriage was contracted without the consent of her parents, contrary to Ghanaian law.
Also, she added that since her purported marriage to Eugene was not consummated, the marriage is void. She, therefore, asked the court to dissolve the union between herself and Gyan, celebrated on Aug 31, 2003.
Gifty counter-petitioned the court and further asked for custody of the three children, a lump sum of $1 million, and a monthly amount of £5,000 towards the maintenance of the home and upkeep of the three issues of the marriage pending suit and after the final determination of the suit.
She also asked the court to give her a 50% share of Gyan’s properties and businesses, as found on page 5 of the court decision. The possessions include Baby Jet Boxing Promotions, Baby Jet Airline, Weija mansion, UK mansion, cars, Paradise Pac Mineral Water, BJ Sports Bar & Restaurant, Gyan Investments Ghana Limited, and a printing press in Dubai.
The decision of the High Court in Accra
The High Court in Accra presided over by Hafisata Ameleboba JA, annulled the marriage between Gyan and Gifty on Oct. 31, 2023, after considering several issues, including the legal status of the marriage between Gifty and Eugene in 2002.
The court held documents tendered by Gifty, including a marriage certificate, confirming that she married Eugene on Feb. 26, 2002, at the Tema Metropolitan Assembly. However, she was unable to produce evidence of her admission, diagnosis, or treatment in any hospital in Italy during the period 2004 to 2005 to prove that the said marriage was one of convenience, as she claimed.
“Since the Respondent (Gifty) was unable to discharge her burden of adducing credible evidence to establish her assertion, her case that the marriage was for immigration purposes fails,” the judge ruled.
The judge, therefore, held that the “marriage between Eugene Odame Antwi and the Respondent (Gifty) cannot, therefore, be said to be void, because same was for immigration purposes only.”
The court further held that Gifty deceived Gyan by misrepresenting to him that she was a spinster at the time of the marriage when she was married to Eugene without regard to the consequences.
“The Petitioner (Gyan) did, in fact, rely on the said misrepresentation and thereby entered into a marriage with the Respondent (Gifty) to his detriment.
The detriment being that by the said marriage, the Petitioner unknowingly contracted a marriage with another man’s wife, an agreement he would not have entered into, had the respondent been candid with him, before the marriage between the parties,” the Judge said on page 41 of the certified judgment.
The judge held that “the marriage celebrated between the Petitioner (Gyan) and Respondent on Aug. 31, 2003, in Accra, under the Marriages Act, 1884 – 1985 (CAP 127), is hereby annulled, forthwith.”
On the paternity issue, the court held that Gyan is the biological father of the three children after a DNA test confirmed it. However, custody of the three children was given to Gifty, as explained by the judge, to “enable continuity in their care and control and allow for the siblings to bond as they grow together.”
To provide for the upkeep of the children, the court awarded GHS25,000 to be paid by Gyan to Gifty on the 1st of every month, starting from Nov. 2023, for the maintenance of the children and the upkeep of the home.
Pronouncing the properties acquired during the pendency of the marriage, the court held that Gifty contributed in kind toward acquiring the properties by catering for the children and living with them. At the same time, the ex-footballer plied his trade; she was entitled to a share of the property.
However, the court held there is ample evidence on record that before and after the marriage, there was no intention by the parties to hold properties jointly.
“Upon the totality of the evidence, I find that the Respondent (Gifty) is entitled under Sections 20 and 21 of the Matrimonial Causes Act to those properties acquired for her by the Petitioner (Gyan), while the Petitioner retains ownership of the properties he acquired for himself,” the judge said.
In view of her role in taking care of the children of the union, the court settled the following properties on Gifty, a UK property, a gas station at Prampram, a 4-bedroom house at Spintex, a suburb of Accra (purchased for her before the marriage in 2013) and two cars, a luxury BMW, and an Infiniti.
On the issue of the $1 million financial settlement asked by Gifty, the court held that because of the nullification of the marriage and the settlement of some properties on her, there is no need to award further financial provisions.
“The Respondent can, therefore, secure employment for her upkeep,” the Judge said in dismissing the $1 million request of Gifty.
Media reports after the court’s decision
“Former Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan must pay compensation to his ex-wife after a court ruled on their divorce case and determined he is the biological father of their three children,” UK’s BBC reported.
Also, a Ghanaian-based online news portal, YEN, reported here on Nov. 1, 2023, that:
“Ghanaian football star Asamoah Gyan has broken his silence following the recent court ruling on his long-standing divorce battle with ex-wife Gifty Gyan.”
Referencing a report allegedly filed by Ghanaian online news portal Ghanaweb, a Nigerian-based blog, Lindaikejiblog reported here that,
“Ghanaian footballer and captain of the Ghana Black Stars, Asamoah Gyan, has allegedly filed for divorce from his wife, Gifty Gyan, at the Divorce and Matrimonial Division of the High Court, Accra.”
Is dissolution and annulment of marriage the same in Ghana?
In Ghana, a marriage can be ended either through dissolution or annulment. Divorce is a mode of dissolving an otherwise valid marriage. In contrast, annulment is the process used to invalidate a marriage manifestly incurable and not recognised by the law as valid.
Section 263 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) of Ghana reads,
“A person commits bigamy who, knowing that a marriage subsists between him or her and any person, goes through the ceremony of marriage, whether in Ghana or elsewhere, with some other person.”
The type of marriage referred to in Section 263 of Act 29 of Ghana is the ordinance marriage, otherwise known as a church wedding. In other words, when a man and woman are married under the ordinance, either party can only marry another person after a competent court dissolves their first marriage.
The law, however, does not apply to customary and Mohammedan marriages, which are by their nature polygamous. Under customary law and Mohammedan marriages, a man could marry more than one woman, but a woman cannot marry more than one man.
Void vs. voidable marriage under Ghanaian law
Under Ghanaian law, when a person marries under customary law and then remarries under ordinance when a court of competent jurisdiction has not dissolved the first marriage, that subsequent marriage is considered void.
Explaining what a void marriage is in the celebrated case of [De Reneville v De Reneville], the English court held a void marriage will be regarded by every court in any case in which the existence of the marriage is in issue as “never having taken place and can be treated by both parties to it without the necessity of any decree annulling it.”
In Ghana, a void marriage does not comply with the substantive or procedural requirements in Section 74 of the Marriages Act, 1884-1985 (Cap 127) of Ghana, which defect is incurable irrespective of the parties’ intention.
A marriage may be said to be void in Ghana where there was no publication of banns, parties used false names, the minister who officiated the marriage has not been licensed or gazetted, the place the marriage was celebrated has not been licensed or gazetted, and where none of the required certificates (Registrar’s Certificate, Marriage Officer’s Certificate, and Special License) had been issued to the parties.
The other factors are where a Mohammedan marriage contracted is not registered within one week after its celebration and where a marriage prohibited by consanguinity and affinity (blood relations) is contracted.
However, a voidable marriage is considered valid for all intent and purposes until steps are taken by a party to the marriage to nullify it.
Under Section 13 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1971 (Act 367) of Ghana, a marriage is voidable where it has not been consummated owing to the wilful refusal of the respondent to consummate it and where, at the time of the marriage, either party to the marriage was of unsound mind or subject to recurrent attacks of insanity.
The other factors are whether the respondent was, at the time of the marriage, pregnant by a person other than the petitioner or whether the respondent was at the time of the marriage suffering from an incurable venereal disease in a communicable form.
A major difference between void and voidable marriages is that with a void marriage, a party can remarry without annulling the first marriage, which is considered never to have taken place. However, with a voidable marriage, a party must annul the first marriage before remarrying since it is considered valid in the eyes of the law.
Another difference between void and voidable marriages is that with a void marriage, anyone, including a person not a party to the marriage, can petition the court for the annulment. However, only parties to a voidable marriage can petition the court for the annulment of the marriage, and no other person.
The Matrimonial Causes Act, 1971 (Act 367) of Ghana in Section 13 empowers any person to present a petition to the court for a decree of nullity for the annulment of the marriage on the ground that it is by “law void or voidable.”
Divorce versus annulment
However, divorce is significantly different from annulment, which can only take place where there have been substantive and procedural breaches of the law in contracting the marriage.
Divorce refers to the formal termination of a marriage, the status derived from it, and the extinguishing of the duties and rights accompanying it. Divorce is governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1971 (Act 367) of Ghana.
Under Section 31 of Act 367 of Ghana, to petition for divorce, either party to the marriage must be a citizen of Ghana, domiciled in the country, or ordinarily resident in Ghana for at least three years immediately preceding the commencement of the proceedings.
According to Section 1(1) of Act 367, the sole ground for asking for divorce in Ghana is that “the marriage has broken down beyond reconciliation.” However, for the court to grant the decree of divorce, the petitioner must prove one of six factors, namely, that the respondent has committed adultery, that the respondent has behaved unreasonably, and that the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
The other factors are that the parties have not lived as man and wife for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, that the parties have not lived as man and wife for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and finally, that the parties to the marriage after diligent effort have been unable to reconcile their differences.
Victory or loss for Gyan
“Every month biaa 25k for cry for her account. Herh marriage,” wrote Ardavinga on X.
For another X user, Spirocobbold, “A man’s loss and a woman’s gain.”
But Gyan did not lose the case, and the footballer bought the properties the court settled on Gifty in her name, Baffour Gyan, a brother of the ex-footballer, has said.
“The properties in the lady’s possession were gifts from Gyan, and the court asked that she keep them. Her lawyers had wanted $1 million and more, but the court declined their request,” the former Ghana Black Stars footballer said of his brother’s marital dispute.
“On the matter of the properties, when Asamoah and Gifty were together, he bought Gifty and the kids a house at Spintex, so that house was already in Gifty’s name. Gifty also bought a plot of land in Tema to be used as a gas station. That piece of land was also in her name already. And then the Infiniti car,” he reportedly added.
He explained to Accra-based Asempa FM, who reported here that “Asamoah Gyan has been in contact with his children throughout this case and has been taking care of them, so the GHS25,000 monthly support to the children is no news.”
Gyan’s reaction to public uproar about the court’s decision
Hours after news broke about the annulment of his marriage to Gifty, Gyan shared a cryptic message under a post on X made by a Ghanaian blogger, Ameyaw Debrah.
The former Sunderland skipper wrote:
“If I have 10pts and I keep quiet cos I’m mature, and you have 2 pts, and you’re going to find public sympathy, then it’s cool. You are very funny. This is deep, so think about it.”
Despite the annulment of the marriage, Gyan has said he did not regret marrying Gifty, irrespective of the issues they faced.
“During the marriage, a lot of things came up, which I didn’t even want to talk about, so many years, but I decided to do the needful because of how things were being unravelled. I did my investigations and saw the truth, and I took it to court,” the ex-Black Stars captain told Accra-based Asempa FM, as reported here.
He explained he went to court for the annulment of the marriage based on the things he discovered and that “my wish has been granted because the things I unravelled were the truth.”
Responding to a question about a possible remarriage, Gyan said he will concentrate on “caring and providing for his children, which he considers as the most important thing.”
“I am very, very happy with my life. I am a family man; my children like and love me, and I also love and like all of them, so that is where my focus is,” he said.
Gyan is the father of Raphael Mensah Gyan, Frederick Asamoah Gyan Junior, and Zelda Ohemaa Gyan, who are children of his nearly 10-year marriage to Gifty despite its annulment by the Ghanaian court.