Sunday, September 21, 2008



Sunday Nation, Nairobi
September 20 2008

Saturday, Accra - Ghana’s government has banned seven former military and police chiefs from the country’s defence installations, touching off security jitters and a political row ahead of elections in December.

The National Security Council this week cited “interests of national security” to bar the former military and police figures from defence premises across the West African country.

Following its return to multiparty politics in 1992 after decades of coups and short-lived military governments, the cocoa and gold producing former British colony has gained a reputation as a model for democracy and stability in Africa.

Political violence

But recent political violence has raised concerns ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections set for December 7.

In sanctioning the former security chiefs, the National Security Council recalled a similar ban remained in force against outspoken former president Jerry Rawlings, who gave up power in 2000 after leading two coups which earned him the nickname “Boom Man”, after the local slang for coups.

While government spokesmen shied away from accusing the banned officers of a coup plot, they said security services had investigated their activities after they held a September 1 meeting with Rawlings at his home to discuss national security.

“I will not like to use the word subversive or coup ... but definitely there is some suspicion about the activity of these personalities which the National Security found not in the interest of the nation,” Deputy Information Minister Frank Agyekum told Reuters.

Rawlings supporters called the move absurd and accused President John Kufuor’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) of trying to smear the charismatic former leader and founder of the opposition centre-left National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Political decision

“It’s a political decision to divert attention from the questions they face from the electorate whose problems they are unable to address,” Rawlings aide Kofi Adams told Reuters.

Those barred included former chief of defence staff Brigadier General Nunoo Mensah, who dismissed the sanction.

“The only way they can ban me is to stitch my mouth,” he told local radio, denying he had any coup intentions. “I didn’t go to the army to overthrow governments,” he said.

Some commentators accused the government of overreacting.

In an article titled “Unintelligent Intelligence” on the Joy Online Website, journalist Ato Kwamena Dadzie wrote: “Rawlings meets with a bunch of ageing (and aged) former military officers and they think he’s going to stage a coup? ... Some might say this is justifiable paranoia. I think it’s just petty.”