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Opinions of Thursday, 7 January 2010

Columnist: Yeboah, Akwasi

Disband The Ghana Armed Forces - Rejoinder

Reading through the numerous rejoinders to my article on the above subject was frustrating and exhilarating in equal measure. One reader probably felt so helpless at evoking counter arguments that all he could do to appease himself was to call me a “bed-wetter.” Others found it worthwhile to make unsavory tribal comments than to focus on issues raised in the article. They remind me of the student who was once asked to describe an Acacia tree during a biology examination. Conscious of his near ignorance about Acacias, he decided on mischief – to con the examiner by evading the question through insidious digressions that he artfully blended with clever circumlocution to produce a lizard, out of his perverse imagination, on a branch of the Acacia. The lizard, whose biology he knew quite well, then became the object of description instead of the Acacia. In the end, the examiner, who would have no nonsense, awarded a grade F, for foul play! Aside comic rejoinders and incendiary comments, there were valid questions which will be addressed in this article.

The question was asked about the entity that would replace or perform the role of the military after it has been disbanded. This question begs the issue. Disbanding the army only to replace it with another entity leaves us back with an army. It essentially amounts to giving a new name to an old dog. If we decide, for reasons already articulated in my previous article, that the military is no longer essential to us then we don’t need to find a replacement after it has been disbanded. If you were to decide, for example, that marriage is not good for you because it is a drain on your resources, would you divorce your wife to marry another woman? No, you would rather stay celibate since your problem is with marriage, not with your wife.

So how do we protect our sovereignty without having the military? My answer is how did we win our sovereignty from the British, nuclear power and twice victor at World Wars, without using an army in the first place? How did Nkrumah, Danquah and others triumph colonialism without raising an army against the British? Doesn’t this historical fact prove that we can protect our sovereignty without the armed forces? Isn’t it an eternal demonstration of our resolve never to be subjugated regardless of our military weakness? What logic encompasses the belief that a military that surrendered to handful of profligates who seized power can be relied upon to protect our sovereignty?

How about the United Nations and the African Union among others? If we cannot expect these powerful organizations to force any aggressor out of our country in contemporary times, what are the reasons for our continued membership of these organizations? What was the principal reason for their formation if not to safeguard the sovereignty of member countries? Those who express skepticism about the ability of these organizations to help protect our sovereignty should revisit the example of Kuwait. My answer to the reader who compared the military to a watchman and asked whether it is prudent to be without one is: Yes, you can afford to be without a watchman provided everybody is awake and looking. Over 15 countries that are currently enjoying peace and security without an army have shown this is possible.

Another interesting argument is that we require the military to deter potential aggressors. Some have argued that but for our armed forces Ghana would long have been annexed by another country. Holy Maria!!! Give me a break! Who even in the armed forces or the national security apparatus believes this? Those who get seduced by this argument exaggerate the importance of the military by assigning to it roles that belong to the intelligence agencies, namely the BNI and National Security. Without the intelligence agencies the military can do nothing even in the face of the weakest enemy. Nkrumah said it better when he declared that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” The fact that almost all successful coups in our history were the result of failed intelligence supports this argument even though a coup may be considered a purely internal affair. You might wonder about the importance of intelligence if there is no army to exploit it; trumpeting the evidence at the UN will invite the wrath of the international community on the potential aggressor.

Interestingly, some argued for the military on the grounds that Ghana has benefited from peacekeeping operations involving its soldiers. Those who point to the beatific aspect of peacekeeping overlook its grisly side. They probably do not know that in the early 1960s a whole company of the Ghana Army was wiped out on a single day in Congo. Fortunately, one officer who witnessed this incident was none other than Lt. Gen Akwasi Afrifa, then a lieutenant in charge of a Rifle Company. Angered by the massacre, which he blamed Nkrumah for, he returned to Ghana with seeds of a coup firmly planted in his mind – the direct benefit from peacekeeping in the Congo; they probably do not also know that the family of the poor Ghanaian soldier who died in Darfur in 2007 has to date not been paid the deceased’s Family Pension. Our soldiers may not care about dying for Ghana, but they most probably do about dying for some other country. Which Ghanaian soldier has had a monument raised to his honor by a foreign country for dying to preserve it? The exasperating reminiscence of these historical events empties my repertoire of words appropriate for responding to those who called me “literate yet uneducated.”

Permit me now to ask the ultimate question – the one that causes intoxication and prevents many from distinguishing fantasy from reality. Can we really count on our armed forces to defend us in case of external aggression? I beg to differ, and anybody who thinks otherwise should better wake up from their hedonistic utopian dream. Though our armed forces are among the best-trained in the world, it is no secret that they are also one of the poorly equipped. For one thing, our Navy is not even sufficiently equipped to chase away pair trawlers, let alone ward off an invasion by sea. I am not about to assess the combat capabilities of the sub-regional armies in order to draw comparisons; I don’t have that expertise, but when I see Fleet Admirals who have no fleets or Squadron Leaders with virtually no flights in their squadrons I get the impression of our military as a quixotic cavalry and a gargantuan security fraud perpetrated for decades under the pretext of deterring an imaginary enemy who stands ready to attack us once the army is disbanded. It is a pity that this delusion has such a magnetic hold on the national psyche more than 50 years after independence. This is never to suggest that we should equip and retain our armed forces. I have already provided reasons why we don’t need an army in my previous article and I don’t need to repeat them here.

Finally, let me invite all stakeholders and respected citizens of our dear country to join in this debate, especially at this period of constitutional review. The issues are too crucial to be left in the hands of amateurs and so-called social commentators to toy with or manhandle. I need not mention that this debate should occur in a politically inert environment because I have no reason to believe partisan interests will usurp our patriotism. In the end, let the sovereign will of the people prevail. God bless our Homeland Ghana!

Author: Akwasi Yeboah, Tema.

Email: cripto_icon@yahoo. com