Do Not Politicize the Ghana Armed Forces!

Sun, 8 Nov 2009 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

Several reputable pro-Ghanaian Web sites are reporting today, November 5, 2009, that Col. Kwadwo Damoah has been dismissed from the Ghana Armed Forces! Undoubtedly, I expect the contents of this piece to engender an incendiary deliberation among Ghanaians, both at home and in the Diaspora. A discussion about the politicization of the military is, understandably, a tempers-flaring, take-no-prisoners, no-holds-barred topic, certainly a behemoth of an issue, but we must try to tackle it with a sense of candidness and sensitivity. Still, no one should be surprised if the peace-loving and idealistically didactic camp, on the one hand, and the invectives-throwing and overtly derisive faction, on the other, show up to confront the subject matter. Hopefully, my optimism for a civil dialogue will not become a fleeting illusion.

Modernghana.com – the Web site credits the information about the colonel’s dismissal to the Daily Searchlight – reports that Col. Damoah’s dismissal letter was written, signed and handed over to him by one Lt. Col. F. Vib-Sanziri – the latter is a member of Major-General Adinkra’s staff – shortly after Col. Damoah had arrived at Army Headquarters for what was purportedly an interview (for a promotion, perhaps?). For clarification purposes, Major-General Adinkra is the current Chief of Army Staff.

By law, an officer with the rank of colonel or higher can only be dismissed by the nation’s president and Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, so this unfortunate move to forcibly retire this officer of the Ghana Armed Forces could have come from only one person: John Fiifi Atta Mills. What is also incontrovertibly true is the fact that Col. Damoah’s dismissal could only have happened upon recommendation from powerful sources within the upper echelons of the Ghana Armed Forces. And as if Colonel Damoah had not suffered enough vilification, Major-General Adinkrah, a man very familiar with military protocol, would superintend Col. Damoah’s coup de grace by instructing a junior officer to write the colonel’s dismissal letter!

It must be recalled that Col. Kwadwo Damoah, who rose to prominence at the time that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was in power, was accused by some leaders of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), shortly after Election 2008, of using his position to recruit men and women of a particular lineage into the Ghana Armed Forces, although, according to the colonel’s accusers, some of these young men and women had also lacked the mandatory qualifications for entry into the military. Some pundits have argued that Col. Damoah had recruited as many as 400 such men and women. What is also interesting to note is that, as soon as they took over, the leaders of the NDC would cancel all of the recruitments that Col. Damoah, at the time the Director of Personnel Administration of the Ghana Armed Forces, had undertaken.

It must also be noted that Col. Kwadwo Damoah had appeared before a Board of Inquiry to explain his position on the recruitments, and had vehemently denied any charges of malfeasance in the recruitment process, an issue that further amplified the post-Election 2008 chasm between the NPP and NDC. That Col. Damoah would suffer untold embarrassment by being relieved of his official duties is known to all Ghanaians, but what I find most upsetting about this dismissal is the fact that the letter was written and served Col. Damoah by a subordinate in the military! At least, show the man some respect for all the years he had served Mother Ghana! Military protocol is sacrosanct and so to treat Col. Damoah like a nonentity after all of his years of service to Mother Ghana is truly saddening.

I have a few questions for John Atta Mills and his NDC sympathizers inside and outside of the military. Since Ghanaians have not been told that Col. Damoah had violated any laws, what is the official reason for his dismissal? Even if Col. Damoah had acted unethically – but certainly not unlawfully! – could he not have been reprimanded and allowed to remain on the job? Knowing that the military does not allow its officers and men to address the press on sensitive issues unless authorized to do so, is it not obvious that the Military high command can prevent Ghanaians from knowing the real truth behind this dismissal, since its public relations department could simply be instructed to not address the matter? Can the Atta “Man of Peace” Mills-led NDC government declare truthfully that this dismissal was not politically motivated?

It is possible that certain officers, seen as NDC aficionados, may have met a similar fate during the time of the John Kufuor-led NPP administration (2001–2009), so what kind of a military force do we have in Ghana, if politicians can whimsically effect, via phone calls to their appointees in the top ranks of the military, the dismissal of officers of the Ghana Armed Forces, simply because these people are considered sympathizers of the opposition? What kind of democracy are we practicing if we can forcibly remove soldiers and senior civil servants from office because of a perceived allegiance to another party? Ghanaian voters need to write to their legislators and the president to make sure that the military does not become politicized. The Ghana Armed Forces is made up of men and women who have taken an oath to defend the sovereignty of the nation, to the death, and the last thing they need is for a politician who may have never endured suffering on the job – these soldiers spend time away from their families on peace-keeping missions; get deployed without sufficient notice; endure hunger and thirst; and could be killed at any time while on duty for Mother Ghana – to pick up the telephone and contemptuously end their careers because of partisan politics.

Col. Damoah’s case is clearly a sad one, and the furor that the matter has generated is completely justified. After all, he who is without sin, so goes the popular aphorism, should cast the first stone. It is imperative that politicians be prevented from destroying the careers of disciplined officers of the Ghana Armed Forces. Just because an officer takes an oath to obey the Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces does not mean that politicians can ignobly and callously ruin the career of the officer, if they so choose. Ghanaians must stand up for justice by rejecting oppression in all of its forms!

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.