Merely dismissing the 500 military recruits is not enough

Mon, 11 Jan 2016 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Monday, December 28, 2015

Folks, the immediate move made by the military high command to dismiss 500 recruits being trained at the Asutsuare military installation is proper and should be accepted in its stride. But more action should be taken to clip their wings so they don’t unleash their venom on society. At least, once given some military skills (basic or not), they constitute a threat to society, especially embittered as they are now for losing out. Will they not be potential targets for recruitment by terrorists or political parties in Ghana establishing private security units to defend their interests? Such disaffected and disgruntled elements shouldn’t be allowed to walk free. Is anybody listening?

We were told last week about the events leading to the dismissal of the recruits. Apparently, they had violated military standards/code of behaviour by refusing to do what their training entailed.

As explained in a statement issued by the Public Relations Directorate of the Ghana Armed Forces, "the 500 were sent packing home last week for putting up “insubordinate behaviours”. They had staged an “unauthorized assembly” on December 3, complaining bitterly about a “strenuous” training they were being subjected to, which to them amounted to “maltreatment”... The implications of the recruits’ behaviour are far-reaching and inimical to the security of the State.”

Adding more flesh to this statement, Colonel Dr. Emmanuel Kotia (chief instructor at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre) said that the recruits were dismissed en bloc for alleged mutiny and exhibited signs of soldiers who were not ready to defend Ghana. To him, the recruits were not prepared to go through tough training to enable them live up to their own oath of defending the state by air, sea and land at any time.

(See http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2015/December-28th/dismissed-soldiers-arent-ready-to-defend-the-state-col-akotia-suggests.php#sthash.UoJJ9kY4.dpuf).

I agree zillion times with the military authorities. We are yet to hear from the recruits themselves to see both sides of the coin and know what exactly motivated their resistance/rebellion.

Even before then, we note that soldiering is not for the faint-hearted; it is for those who have the mental, physical, psychological, and moral capacity to go through strenuous training to cultivate the hardihood needed in the profession. Anybody complaining about training rigours is not fit to be in the army.

There are many questions to ask, though:

1. How were these recruits "spotted" and mobilized for the military training? I've asked this question because of my concern that these recruits might be either people pushed into the system through political connections or those related to the wives, girlfriends, cronies, former school mates ("old boyism"), or powerful traditional leaders. It is possible in Ghana where "connections" work for those who know how to pull strings. Some might even have bribed their way through. Thus, the fundamental concern is about the recruitment process itself.

Many years ago when I participated in the monitoring of the annual military recruitment exercises in some regions of the country, I noticed how the process could help eliminate misfits at the initial stages, especially those who couldn't pass the physical exercises part. I can't tell what happened after that stage because successful applicants moved to higher levels that I wasn't privileged to monitor.

If what we've heard about these dismissed 500 recruits is anything to fear, then, we urge the military authorities to do more than they've done so far.

2. Did the military authorities not have any means for detecting dissent/discontent among the recruits at the initial stages before that feeling turned sour? If they couldn't detect the problem at its formative stage, they failed. In such a security situation, surveillance should have given them a head-start advantage over the recruits.

3. For how long have these recruits been trained before being flushed out? If they had already gone through many months of training, it means that they have been given a lot of skills and can use them to do whatever they want to. That's very scary, especially given the fact that soldiering involves weaponry, and the technical skills needed for it are acquired during such training sessions. Once given the skills, the beneficiary is pumped up and primed for action. In this case, the dismissed recruits cannot take action in a legitimate institution as the military. They will do so elsewhere.

4, Has any step been initiated to ensure that these dismissed recruits don't find their back into the military set-up when the dust settles? My fear is that many things can happen for them to be recruited again. We are talking about Ghana, where everything is always in flux and the situation is always fluid to allow much water to pass under the bridge. The connections are always actively used!!

5. Beyond dismissing these recalcitrant recruits, what else have the military authorities done to ensure that having already being exposed to the modalities of military training, these recruits won't take undue advantage to use such skills to tyrannize society? They already constitute a national security risk. What effort has been made to either monitor their movements or punish them as such so they don't go out there to worsen the security situation in the country?

I am calling on the authorities to ensure that the dismissed recruits are not just let loose. Having already been established as "mutinying" (which is a serious offence in the military), they should be taken through the administrative process to be tried and punished if found guilty. Such characters deserve more than has been meted out to them.

I want to say here that the country's security will be threatened by such characters and many others being mobilized by political parties as "private armies" or security whatever. And we must not tolerate it.

The discovery of caches of weapons in Kumasi and the interception of 1 million cartridges by the customs officers operating in the Aflao area call for serious action to prevent any catastrophe, especially as the country prepares for Election 2016 and some disgruntled politicians have already begun preaching violence.

Truly, times are rough and the government and all state security and intelligence institutions must sit up. Otherwise, Ghana will not be the "oasis of peace and stability ion the sub-region" anymore. Any reasonable observer of the situation can tell how the tide will flow in 2016 as far as partisan political interests are concerned. Those ill-prepared to deal with the process will definitely go wayward and use anybody with any skill in weapon handling to foment trouble. That is why I urge the authorities to go after these dismissed recruits to clip their wings.

This is the first time that such an incident has happened; and it must be seen as a major challenge to tackle now before it worsens.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.