Opinion

This military impunity must be stopped once and for all!

Ever since I can remember, Ghanaian soldiers have always behaved recklessly as if they were over and above the laws of the land. We all witnessed this a little over a year ago, at Denkyira-Obuasi, in the wake of the admittedly brutal murder of then-Capt. Mahama, when irate colleagues of the slain soldier swamped the town and decided to take the law into their own hands by allegedly rounding up and savagely brutalizing their own choice of criminal suspects. This sort of reckless behavior in peacetime is undoubtedly what differentiates our men-in-green uniforms from their counterparts elsewhere in the civilized West. I use the adjective “civilized” strictly with regard to cultivated respect for law and order on the part of our soldiers relative to their counterparts here in the “non-shithole” West who run afoul of the law.

What I mean here is that it is perfectly common and normal to witness a publicly misbehaving soldier here in the United States promptly put under arrest by a police officer and duly processed and prosecuted according to the norms of the law, where necessary and appropriate. But in Ghana, one can almost be certain of having a soldier who got arrested by the police for disturbing the public peace bring in a platoon of his khaki-uniformed colleagues to teach the arresting officers and their colleagues where real power lies. This precisely appears to have been the case on Wednesday, May 16, when a soldier who had reportedly been arrested for roughing up a civilian jumped the charge-office’s counter and brought in a platoon of his colleagues to teach the “snooty” arresting cop where real power lay (See “Police, Military High Commands Vow to Punish Personnel in Tamale Brawl” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 5/17/18).

As of this writing, the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, was reported to have summoned the Ministers of Defense and the Interior, Messrs. Dominic Nitiwul and Ambrose Dery, respectively, to appear before a full-session of members of the House to explain the outbreak of his wanton hostility by members of the country’s two most significant and largest security agencies, on a day that marked the beginning of Ramadan, the holy season on the Muslim calendar. What I know to be a fact is that the 20-year period during which Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings and his so-called Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) junta peremptorily dominated Ghana’s political terrain, contributed in no small way towards the unprecedented exacerbation of the impunity with which our soldiers treated our peace officers and the rest of the general civilian population. Nearly two decades after the end of the ham-fisted rule of Chairman Rawlings, our men and women in green khaki uniform have apparently yet to learn that they are also subject to the laws of the land.

The leaders of both the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and the Ghana Police Service (GPS) have announced that they have launched an investigation into the events that led to the widely reported clashes between personnel of the two national security agencies, that reportedly resulted in the serious injury of at least some 6 police officers, as of this writing. We hope that the investigations, which are being jointly conducted, will be expeditious and those deserving of punishment promptly disciplined, including court-martialing and summary dismissal from the two security agencies. What is clear here is the fact that the culture of impunity among personnel of the GAF needs to be immediately and radically overhauled and made civically more friendly and responsible. Which is not in any way to either suggest or imply that our men and women in blue uniform have always performed above board or without blemish.

Indeed, recent widely reported incidents involving our police officers and our media operatives and the general civilian population indicate otherwise. On a balance, however, our men and women in blue, as it were, are generally known to be far better behaved than their counterparts in green khaki where law and order are concerned. This unruly routine behavior of our soldiers needs to promptly change, if Ghanaian democracy is to be reckoned to be formidable and progressive. Our soldiers and police officers need to work more closely together in the way that they are known to be positively collaborating in the uphill battle against Galamsey, the wanton destruction of our landed, forestry and water resources by illegal small-scale miners. Such constructive collaboration will go a long way to whittle away some of the suspicion that has tended to govern the behavior of personnel of the two security agencies.

An avenue also needs to be healthily created whereby willing members of the GPS get to serve in the military as reservists or volunteers paid stipends, as is quite common here in the United States. Actually, permitting healthy and able-bodied members of our civilian population to be recruited as “stipended” volunteers in both the GAF and GPS will go a long way in creating mutual respect between members of our security agencies and the general civilian population. It would also cost-effectively facilitate the augmentation of the capacity of our security agencies to fighting crime, as well as maintaining law and order in the country.
Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, jr.,PH.D.

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