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General News Mon, 12 Jan 2009

The Sad Cases of Ex-Military Officers

Somewhere in the Diaspora, there are numerous ex-military officers silently suffering and submitting petition after petition to have their cases reviewed. Over the last four or five years, the CDS, Gen JB Danquah, arbitrarily decided not to approve the release of many military officers who had submitted their applications for voluntary retirement from the armed forces. Most were forced to resign and leave the military without any benefits and entitlements. In some cases, even the resignations were not accepted and the officers were declared Absent without Official Leave (AWOL).

In all cases, the officers were more than qualified to retire voluntarily, having served more than the minimum of ten years required for eligibility. In fact, most had served twenty years or more and sought to leave the armed forces to pursue other careers in the UN and other civilian institutions.

The CDS also introduced, in his usual arbitrary fashion, a policy that officers had to give a year’s notice of their intended retirement and six months notice to resign their commissions. Those who could not wait for the one year period to pass would lose the equivalent of about two years salary. Officers who were desperate to leave the military to pursue other careers and whose prospective employers could not hold their positions for them were therefore forced to lose a lot or all of their entitlements. In one case, an officer who decided to resign his commission was given only twelve hours to vacate his military quarters and the CDS sent military police to throw him out. The names of officers who were declared AWOL have been given to the Immigration authorities at all entry points in the country and instructions have been issued to effect their arrest on their return to the country. In another interesting twist to this story, the CDS tried to get the present employers of those officers to terminate their employment. Fortunately common sense prevailed and the CDS did not get his way.

What makes all this sad is that our armed forces is made up of volunteers not conscripts. The officers did their utmost to abide by existing regulations but were constantly frustrated by the CDS at every turn. Even when the Army, Navy or Air Force Commander recommended the release of the officer, the CDS would refuse to grant approval, making nonsense of the whole process.

This was especially true of cases in which the CDS thought the officer had acquired a more lucrative job. Sometimes he would withhold approval for so long - more than three months in most cases - that the prospective employer, out of impatience would withdraw the job offer. Only then would the CDS grant approval, leaving the officer unemployed.

In some instances where the officer was a personal friend of the CDS, the approval process could take less than three weeks! Some officers recognising this vindictive pattern, simply submitted their resignations and surreptitiously left the army. Then the CDS would have them declared AWOL.

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There are at least twenty officers affected by these arbitrary and vindictive and perhaps even illegal decisions made by Gen JB Danquah. Each one differs in the specifics, but there is no doubt that every effort was made by the CDS to coerce officers into remaining in service. It is interesting that in spite of the shabby treatment, they have received, these officers have remained loyal to the military. The three I contacted spoke to me on conditions of anonymity, even though they are all keen to have their cases reviewed by the incoming administration of President Atta-Mills.

If nothing at all, we have just witnessed during these elections, strong indications of the commitment of our uniformed personnel to remain steadfast and supportive of our young democracy. Their regulations do not permit them to go on strike or disobey orders and even when they are under incompetent leadership, they have to comply with orders.

It would however be a miscarriage of justice and national ingratitude if we allow these officers, all with impeccable records to suffer because of the vindictive ineptitude of Gen JB Danquah.

Over to you President John Atta Mills!

Kwabena Bremang kbremang@yahoo.com Accra

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