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The 64 Infantry Battalion: JJ's 'private army' disbanded by Kufuor

John Agyekum Kufuor and late JJ Rawlings

Sun, 3 Sep 2023 Source:

The topic of special wings of African armies being formed to protect presidents and other top regime officials has come up strongly after the August 30 coup in Gabon.

General Brice Oligui Nguema, the head of the Republican Guard - an elite force meant to protect the First family and others - led the overthrow of president Ali Bongo Ondimba, who he had been faithfully protecting since 2019.

The trend of head of presidential guards removing their bosses and taking over has previously played out in Guinea - between Colonel Doumbouya and president Alpha Conde and in Niger - between Abdourahmane Tchiani and president Mohamed Bazoum.

Ghana has not experienced any such incident despite being in her Fourth Republic, meaning there has been four disruptions to her democratic experiment since 1957.

The country, however, has the history of a private army so-called established in the early 1980s under the Jerry John Rawlings-led Provisional National Defence Council(PNDC).

According to a brief on the group as shared in a write up by RefWorld, "the Commando unit, a private army established by the PNDC in 1983 to protect the Rawlings regime...

"Even though the Commandos Unit has been incorporated into the Ghana Armed Forces to circumvent the Constitutional provision prohibiting the establishment of any private army, the 64thIR is the only unit where the other ranks are permitted to carry side arms even when off duty."

January 2001: 64 Regiment pledges support to govt

Days after coming into office in 2001 of John Agyekum Kufuor, the then Commanding Officer of the 64 Infantry Regiment, Lt. Col. Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, pledged the commitment of the regiment to protecting constitutional rule in the country, according to a GNA report.


"We are not a coup-making regiment, neither was the unit established to perpetuate the rule of any one person but to ensure stability at all times and act as a rapid deployment force in emergencies," he said.

Lt. Col. Gbevlo-Lartey gave the assurance when the Minister of Defence-designate, Dr Kwame Addo-Kufuor, made a familiarisation visit to the unit as part of a visit to the Ministry of Defence to interact with the top hierarchy of the Ghana Armed Forces on behalf of the President, Mr J. A. Kufuor.

"We are clear in our mission and the task assigned to us and we will continue to perform those duties to ensure stability in the country at all times," the Commanding Officer stressed.

June 2003 - 64 Battalion Now Part Of Regular Army

By June 2003, the Kufuor government had undertaken a series of reforms to realign the purpose of the battalion and formally reintegrated it into the regular army.

A GNA report at the time read: "Members of the erstwhile 64 Battalion of the Ghana Armed Forces have been integrated into the regular army with a clearly defined duty.

"The soldiers who, according to the Minister for Defence, did not have a clear task previously," now have a clearly defined role in the Ghana Armed Forces, adding that none of them have been sacked or fired from the Ghana Armed Forces.

Dr Kwame Addo-Kufuor was refuting allegations by a questioner at the Meet-The-Press that members of the Battalion had been fired. He explained that it was not in the interest of the nation to put such a highly trained core of personnel on the streets.

Kufuor government lived with fear of the battalion even after disbanding

According to multiple reports the Kufuor government at the time chose a phased disbanding and reintegration of the battalion knowing that most of them had their loyalties with the Rawlings government.

The move was, however, greeted with a lot of praise from security watchers who stated that it was important that the then government treaded cautiously because of fears of another coup.


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