Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

A Rejoinder: Military-Servants Or Masters?

Captain (Rtd.) Baah-Acheamfour

The writer, Captain (Rtd.) Baah-Acheamfour was a member of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council AFRC, which ruled Ghana from 4 June, 1979 to 24 September, 1979, the first government of Flt-Lt. Rawlings. He has since then been living in Britain where he had come on a training course after the hand-over to an elected government. He was retired from the Ghana Army during the Limann administration when all the other military personnel associated with the AFRC were retired.
I have read Col. Annor Odjidja's three part article in the Talking Drums captioned as above. I do emphasise that it has taken me a good deal of soul-searching to have finally decided to respond to it, knowing fully well that I run the risk of being labelled pro-militarist etc. But I have nevertheless been moved into writing by a strong and genuine conviction that, it would be a great disservice to my country and people if the Colonel's article were allowed to quietly slip into the dustbin of history without comment.

Indeed, I am absolutely astonished by the most simplistic approach he has adopted to such an important subject, which promises to occupy not only the Ghanaian but the third world intellect for the foreseeable future. Far from being an in-depth analysis of the causes of coups in Ghana, Nigeria etc, I find the work both superficial and patchy.

I wish he had dealt a little more clinically with the causes of the coups, rather than to subject us to a long and boring lecture on contemporary Ghanaian military history and how to combat coups d'etat. I am appalled by the degree of emphasis the Colonel places on the mere elitism of our mili- tary, the ambition, self-importance and disdain of its members for intellectualism etc, as the raison d'etre for intervention in Ghanaian politics. After all, military coups d'etat are not the prerogative of the Ghana Armed Forces.

So if the mentioned characteristics of our military were to constitute the matrix of the seizure of state power in Ghana, would it follow that other armed forces in Latin America, Asia, Portugal or even Spain, who also intervene in civil politics have the same characteristics? If that is not the case, then for his postulations to hold, he should have done well to differentiate between the nature of our armed forces, the stimuli for our intervention in politics and the examples given. Surely, the problem is not with our military as an institution per se, nor with its members who are just ordinary Ghanaians in khaki.

The root of instability in Ghana lies in the weaknesses that exist in our state structure and which, in a young and developing country like ours, also confers the monopoly over the means of violence to an averagely intelligent group of Ghanainas. If we would be sincere with ourselves then it is in the fragile nature of our relative new national apparatchik and the weaknesses of our national leaders - civil and military that we should seek to find both the opportunity and motivation for the numerous coups and the attempted ones. I can only hope that Col. Annor Odjidja is not misled into thinking that Ghana's problem with instability will be all over if our armed forces were pruned to 1,000 men or even disbanded.

Unless and until our future national leaders genuinely strive to strengthen the national apparatchik, govern with a little more efficiency and fairness, and to cater for the very limited needs of the majority of our people, we are likely to continue to live with forcible intervention in politics.

If that were the case, I wonder what he would do with the border guards or with the Ghana Police Service whose counterparts only recently flexed their muscle in the Gambia. I take this opportunity to bring home to the Colonel that, the need or otherwise for standing armies and the uses or non-uses of armed forces are questions which predate both him and the creation of modern-day nation-states like ours, and that they will continue to be asked long after these nation-states have either congealed or disintegrated.

I can also assure him that, unless and until our future national leaders genuinely strive to strengthen the national apparatchik, govern with a little more efficiency and fairness, and to cater for the very limited needs of the majority of our people we are likely to continue even long after Jerry Rawlings is gone, to live with the problem of forcible intervention in politics either by the armed forces and or the police if they have not been disarmed or by our 'asafo' companies.

A major concern in my response to the Colonel's article, is his attempt to pull wool over the eyes of Ghanaians and to build up a credible image for himself whilst running everybody from Kwame Nkrumah to Limann down. I am very sure that those Ghanaians who know him as closely as I do both civil and military - must be wondering what his real motive in undertaking that exercise is. Since when did Col. Annor Odjidja become an apostle of military non-intervention in either Ghanaian or African politics? For those of us who have had the privilege of listening to him at first hand talk about the glorious days of the African Liberation Movement and his personal exploits in it, it is sad to see him now turn around, to condemn his former political masters and 'comrades', as well as his professional colleagues just so to satisfy the current anti-militarist mood. By the way, has the Colonel any plans to brief readers of the Talking Drums about his exploits in Zaire, or in Southern Africa as an operative of Ghana's former Bureau of African Affairs Operations

Unit in the early 1960s? I hope he would also summon enough courage to tell them about his connection with the Selormey-Katah group, which finally merged with the Acheampong group to overthrow Busia, or that most of the meetings by the group which came to constitute the leadership of the AFRC, were held under his auspices in suites set aside for him as the then Managing Director of the State Hotels Corporation. Against the background of the sudden and surprising death sentence recently passed on him by the PNDC -2½ years after he ran out of Ghana

the bizarre circumstances and timing under which his article surfaced, as well as the article's unusually strong anti-militarist stance by somebody who has spent most of his working life in the military surprised if anybody interpreted the Colonel's posturing in the light of mere objectivity. To say the least, Col. Annor Odjidja is either being hypocritical, peevish or as usual up to something sinister.

Could he be taking undue advantage of the current justifiable anti-militarism of Ghanaians, to ensure for himself another big appointment in post Rawlings Ghana? Or was his article intended to serve as a decoy, to enable him win the confidence of all anti-PNDC elements, so that he can operate freely and effectively for his old friend Kojo Tsikata without suspicion.

It is true that the Ghana Armed Forces has become politicised, and that the officer corps is divided into pro and anti-CPP. What I detest about the Colonel's style however is the attempt to conceal his own past and to tell us what is wrong with our country and military. Given the political and ideo- logical education he received as one of the blue-eyed, CPP young officers of the Nkrumah regime, his appointment as Director of a state corporation by the Acheampong regime, his central role within the inner core of the AFRC and his extra-professional involvement in the meetings and deliberations of the PNP, it will not be an overstatement to suggest that Col. Annor Odjidja until his retirement had been one of the leading political soldiers Ghana has ever produced.

It is most unfair for him to try to pass the buck to the civilians by int- imating that, "it needed the naivety and the seeming weakness of the Limann government for Rawlings and the other ranks to force another change of government". In fact, if blame is to be apportioned for the series of blun- ders which made it possible for Rawlings and the other ranks to overthrow the last civilian government, the Colonel definitely emerges most culpable. As Director of Military Intelligence even under a civilian government, he did not only try to impose himself on, but actually interfered with the operations of the other security bodies, which antagonized them and weakened their morale and efficiency.

It was he who authorized the one year, 24-hour surveillance over Kojo Tsikata, which, besides the cost to the nation, ended in court with a major propaganda victory to Kojo Tsikata and his New Democratic Movement, and their allies in the June 4 Movement Ghana's present day rulers. No matter what explanation the Colonel gives for the reluctance of Ghanaian soldiers to stand up to the defence of the PNP I am convinced that the single most important one was the sense of outrage which rightly or wrongly his handling of security matters had evoked amongst soldiers. Otherwise how does he explain the intense wrath which was directed at his intelligence outfit as has never been seen in the annals of Ghanaian coups?

Only God knows how many military intelligence personnel have either been despatched to their graves, or are lang- uishing in jails and in exile, due to the folly and political power games the Colonel indulged himself in during his short-lived period in office as Ghana's Director of Military Intelligence.

I will not for a moment deny the Colonel's assertion that corruption is rampant in our armed forces. But I take very strong exception to his brazen attempt to besmear all but himself, when people like him and of his rank were the epitome of both moral and material corruption in the Ghana Armed Forces.

Will he, for example, deny any knowledge of how Jerry Rawlings managed to pass his last promotion examinations after three unsuccessful attempts?

Let it be made clear to the Colonel that the Ghana Armed Forces would never be efficient in the proper use of its own resources if senior officers will continue to purchase cars for their girl friends with armed forces funds, use unit vehicles for months on end to cart building materials to private building sites, or purchase air tickets for their friends under the cloak of national security etc. We will also fail to halt the "intake of considerable numbers of officers and men of doubtful calibre and quality, and of distinctive political beliefs" into the Armed Forces, so long as senior officers continue to pull their ranks and positions to influence recruitment into our training schools. Finally, I have been greatly amused by the Colonel's statement that "there is no tradition against military intervention among our officers and men," when by 9.30 a.m. he, as Director of Military Intelligence was already speeding in a Datsun 'Stanza' car to Lome. I wonder why he did not remain at post for at least the six hours he claims in his article to be critical for coup leaders to help service and unit Commanders co-ordinate resistance to the rebellion.

Editor's note:

Col. Odjidja has declined our invitation to react to Capt. Baah-Acheamfour's article. We might point out that Col. Odjidja had given us the entire manuscript for the three-part article some three weeks before we started publishing and his sentencing to death in absentia by the PNDC occurred a week and a half after the first part of the article came out.

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