General News Sat, 20 Dec 2003

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SFG Questions Clearance Of Military Hardware

On November 12, 2003 Ethiopian Airways, a commercial airline arrived at the Accra Airport with 127 crates of cargo which was labeled as cartridges. This apparently was part of approximately 2 tonnes of military hardware imported into the country by the National Security Council of the Kuffour Administration.

The airway bill covering the 127 crates bore number 07112196446. Six other crates arrived on November 16, 2003 by the same Airline, four of which were cleared and two were mistakenly left behind, apparently by mistake, and were later cleared by persons believed to be ex-army officers.

All the crates contained military hardware manufactured by Israel Military Industries Ltd, based at Rabat Husharon in Israel. They were not cleared by bonafide personnel of either the Ghana Armed Forces or Police but ex-army officers, who claimed to be acting on behalf of the office of the President. Procedures for clearing of ammunition were either sidestepped or completely ignored.

Indeed, the ammunition was moved without the normal armed escort and at night to Australia House, which is a presidential lodge on the Switchback Road. Information available to us confirms that even at the Australia House, none of the formal security services took part in off-loading the ammunition and that the task was performed by machomen of dubious identity.

The Socialist Forum of Ghana (SFG) is alarmed by the very bizarre circumstances surrounding the importation and handling of the 133 wooden crates of ammunition that were imported into the country ostensibly by the National Security Council from Israel, and is worried about the purpose to which it may be put considering that we are entering an election year.

The Kuffour administration has so far refused to comment on the issue, except to say that the government has the right to import arms. However, the issue under contention is not just the importation of arms but their handling by persons, such as ex-military personnel, who are not authorized by law to handle or possess military arms. Storage of arms in a residential area, and the possibility of its use by forces outside the constitutionally mandated security agencies are serious issues to contend with.

Given the fact that the ammunition has not been made available to the regular security agencies, we would like to know, first, who took possession of them, and second, what they are meant for.

Could it be that the Kuffuor administration is training its own militia outside the formal security structures? If that is the case, is it that the Government has lost confidence in the formal security structures as was indicated in a security report about 3 months ago? How will a private army or militia affect the effort to nurture democratic practice? What about the vitriolic criticism of the NPP against the NDC for allegedly forming a private army when the latter was in power?

Or is it that given the waning popularity of the NPP and their fear of losing the next elections they are anticipating using militia forces as was done in 1954 during the ''Matemeho'' era. Does the importation of the ammunition have anything to do with conflicts in West Africa?

These questions require answers, particularly when there are hints that some parties of the Dagbon conflict are stockpiling arms and also because some of the arms that were used in the Dagbon conflict were military grade. Moreover, there are other potential conflict areas within Ghana. The Kufuor administration must answer these questions in order to allay the fears of citizens who are apprehensive about the emergence of private armies in Ghana.

The current political contest and tension between the NPP and the NDC could lead to armed conflict if we allow militia groups that operate outside the constitution of the 4th Republic to exist. Militias of the political elite should not be allowed because they are a danger to our collective national security and the free exercise of the people’s democratic right. The killings of the Kume Preko demonstration are a clear reminder of the possible mayhem they can be put.

The State provides sufficient Instruments of State power to counter any undemocratic attempts to seize power. In the hands of a competent government, this State power, when exercised in accordance with the constitution, is sufficient to allow a competent pro-people’s government to serve its term without fear of undemocratic forces.

More often than not, our bankrupt political elite, immediately they get into power, replaces the national interest of the people with their partisan political and economic interest. Consequently, national security, in their minds, simply reduces to just the security of the executive. The security of the people is considered secondary and becomes relevant only when it furthers their continuous stay in power. NPP by their behavior and practice to date seem be embarking upon the same path.

There is no denying of the fact that small arms have become a menace in the West Africa sub-region. These arms are imported and supplied by the political elite, either in government or opposition, to further their political and economic interest in flagrant violation of the interest of the broad masses of the people.

It is also a fact that ex-Ghanaian military personnel have served as combatants or advisors to various militias in conflict areas in other West African countries. Some of these ex-military personnel are known to be working in the Kuffour government’s security establishment.

Militia type conflicts assume the character of ethnic or religious wars thus attracting the unemployed and children as its foot soldiers. They result in the plunder of a country’s resources, sow terror among the population, create refugee crises by displacing innocent civilians some of who lose their lives.

Eventually, the country’s infrastructure and production capacity gets destroyed. Civilians, mainly women and children, are its primary victims. Ghana has seen its share of refugees from other countries, and participated in Peacekeeping missions in war-torn areas.

The Socialist Forum of Ghana believes therefore that we dare not and cannot ignore any situation where ex-military personnel are made to have control over military hardware of any type whatsoever.

We see the behaviour of Kuffour’s government on this issue as irresponsible and dangerous, and as the arms could threaten the national security of our dear country Ghana, we demand an explanation from elected representatives now.

We also call on the United Nations (UN), which has just launched its campaign against the proliferation of small arms in West Africa, to investigate the matter.

Finally, we also call on all peace-loving Ghanaians and organisations -churches, the NGO’s, etc., to remain vigilant and join hands with the SFG to protect constitutional rule, UNITY, SOVEREIGNTY, and PEACE in our dear country Ghana.

Source: Kwami Agbodza - National Co-ordination Council

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