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Opinions of Saturday, 10 June 2006

Columnist: Abokyi, Vincent

GAF in Desperate Moves to retain officers

We have heard that our soldiers and officers are leaving the Ghana Armed Forces in droves. Most of them are dissatisfied with the conditions of service and are looking for employment elsewhere in a bid to find job satisfaction. We also hear that the commanders are desperately trying to prevent the officers from leaving by rewriting the regulations and revising the conditions under which the officers can retire. No effort, however unconstitutional is being spared in this regard.

Several officers, after being frustrated in their efforts to retire, are forced to resign and lose all their benefits. Some just leave unceremoniously and are declared deserters, making it difficult for them to return to Ghana. One senior officer of the navy recently attempted to retire, having been in the military for more than twenty-two years. He was told to go and think about it for six months. He asked for leave and fled to New York to work with the UN. Another officer has had his application pending for approval for several months now. We hear the officer has been offered employment by the UN and the armed forces hopes that by wasting time, they can force him to stay. Yet another senior officer with similar number of years of meritorious wants to leave and participate in politics. The armed forces still refuses, even though the national consitution stipulates that soldiers who want to engage in politics must leave the armed forces. These are just a few of the many cases that have become part of a disturbing trend over the last few years.

If an officer gets frustrated and resigns, the armed forces immediately moves to his military quarters and throws him out, sometimes the day after receiving his resignation letter. It is so heartless and cruel! The fear of being thrown out and not immediately having a place to live is forcing many soldiers to divert their scanty incomes from peacekeeping operations into building houses, just to forestall that possibility. Afterall, no one stays in the armed forces for ever. The armed forces has been paying lip service to assisting soldiers to secure accommodation on retirement for many years. Many schemes and plans exist only paper.

Isn't it dangerous to force officers to stay in the armed forces? I mean, these people are trained to use guns and if they are frustrated, one day they will just pick up their weapons and other like-minded soldiers and start another June 4.Any Ghanaian will tell you that we don't want discontent soldiers running around. On the other hand, our armed forces is a volunteer one and not made up of conscripts, so why prevent people from leaving when the regulations allow them to leave? What the commanders seem to be saying to the soldiers is that they cannot leave until they are sacked or compulsorily retired. This in army of volunteers.

Meanwhile we also hear that the big men are enjoying the privilges of their high office. Some have up to six luxury official vehicles while the rank and file have no vehicles and equipment even to do the jobs they are paid to do.

Some one should tell the President and his brother the Minsiter of Defence, to sit up and pay close attention to the dissatisfaction in the armed forces. We are sitting on a potential powder keg here. Hmmm. I've told you oh!

Vincent Abokyi Chicago USA

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