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Wed,23Jul2014

News & Analysis

Botswana: Rough diamonds and harsh cutbacks

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Parliamentary rows threaten coalition

The political impasse has become serious enough to prompt the US’s new Africa chief Johnnie Carson to make Nairobi his first port of call on 12 May and to provoke Kenyan women to go on a sex strike until the predominantly male politicians put the national good ahead of personal interests.?

 

The parliamentary rows over the speaker’s position, electoral reform and the trial of those accused of political violence have threatened to break asunder the power-sharing coalition. Many Kenyans have come to regard politicians from the two main parties – their MPs are among the best paid in the world – as dangerous parasites on the public purse. In late April, there was an unseemly jostling over the position of leader of government business and appointments for the agenda-setting House Business Committee. A week before parliament re-opened, prime minister Raila Odinga wrote to the President saying that it was he, not vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka, who should assume these positions. Eventually the speaker, Kenneth Marende, found a way to forestall the crisis.?

 

Relations between President Mwai Kibaki and Odinga have steadily deteriorated after parliament’s post-National Accord agenda failed to take off last year. MPs, rebelling against what they regarded as impositions by the executive, rejected bills tabled to institute post-Accord reforms.?

 

This state of affairs is not helped by the fact that the militia, many of whom are said to have been sponsored by politicians, have never been disarmed. In the week that parliament reconvened, suspected members of the notorious Mungiki sect brutally murdered 29 people in a village in Nyeri East, Central Province.?

 

But it is the swirling animus among the political elite that is most worrying. When talks between the two parties failed to take off at a meeting in Kilaguni at the end of March, political temperatures rose almost instantly. The country appeared to be returning to a war footing, forcing the main media houses to make a high-pitched appeal for calm. Even though recent opinion polls show the extent to which the coalition government has fallen in the public’s eye (from approval ratings of 70%, less than a year ago, to just over 30%), it is quite evident that this is still a nation in the grips of two rival political camps. And while prime minister Odinga remains the most popular politician in the country, he only mustered a 19% approval rating, while President Kibaki’s popularity plunged to a mere 6%.

 

Back to Unhealed rifts haunt Kenya's Rift Valley

Peacekeeping keeps military off politics

 

As Congo descended into chaos immediately after its independence from Belgium in 1960, Ghana’s first involvement in peacekeeping was a traumatic but important experience for the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), according to retired General Emmanuel A. Erskine, who held senior command positions with UN peacekeeping missions in Sinai and South Lebanon between 1974 and 1986. Peacekeeping duties enhanced the GAF’s professional expertise and gave soldiers an improved standard of living.?

 

Although he did not see action in Congo himself, Erskine recalls being envious of fellow officers who were posted there. The Ghanaian battalion attached to the UN force served from 15 July 1960 to 25 September 1963. When a shortage of troops forced the UN to look for new contributing countries in 1973, Erskine as Chief of Defence Staff was more than happy to accept on behalf of the GAF, as he recalls in his memoirs (‘Mission with UNIFIL’, St Martin’s Press, New York, 1989). The first troops to serve in the Middle East were sent there in January 1974.

 

?“Ghana’s performance in ‘Op[eration] Sunrise’, especially with UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) in South Lebanon where I kept an eagle eye on the troops, was commendable. Like other units they had their ups and downs, but on the whole, taking the entire difficult and confusing situation of Lebanon into consideration, they did well. Part of their good performance could be attributed to the financial incentives from UN headquarters, through the government,” Lieutenant-General Erskine wrote.?

 

“‘Op Sunrise’ undoubtedly helped to improve the living standards of our troops. For once they could afford freezers, cookers, hi-fi systems, television sets and all sorts of household items normally too expensive for them. A corn-milling machine – known to the Ghanaian troops as a ‘knicker-knicker’ – became the status symbol for all troops on ‘Op Sunrise’. Almost every soldier bought one, either to use commercially himself or to sell.”

 

Back to Ghana's Military, From khaki to democracy

Ghana's Military: From khaki to democracy

 

After a succession of destabilising coups between the 1960s and the 1990s, Ghana’s military have exchanged their political ambitions for better pay and conditions and service on peacekeeping missions

 

For many Ghanaians, President John Atta Mills’s accession to power is the culmination of the country’s lengthy political transition to democratic maturity. The country’s journey took it from independence in 1957 through a series of highly debilitating military interventions to the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the 1990s, an evolution that was achieved under the reformed but two-time military leader Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings.?

 

It was Rawlings who handed over power to his avowed political opponents when his National Democratic Congress (NDC) lost the 2000 election. In turn, it has taken the election of President Mills, who is Rawlings’ successor as leader of the NDC, to convince many Ghanaians that the military may have finally let go of their political ambitions. In last year’s election campaign, the incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) accused Mills of being a place-man for Rawlings and that electing the NDC would somehow bring the military in through the back door, which is why President Mills now seems determined to prove that he is his own man.

Ending the cycle of military rule
1957 Ghana becomes independent with Kwame Nkrumah
as prime minister
1960 Ghana becomes a republic: Nkrumah elected President
1969 Brigadier Akwasi Afrifa takes over and introduces new
constitution: Leader of the Progress Party, Kofi Busia, wins
legislative elections and becomes Prime Minister
1966 General Joseph?Ankrah overthrows Kwame Nkrumah
in military coup, announced by Gen. Emmanuel Kotoka
1972 Colonel Ignatius Acheampong (pictured) leads military
coup against the Kofi Busia government and establishes
the National Redemption Council
1978 National referendum votes in favour of proposals
for a hybrid civilian-military regime
1978 General Frederick Akuffo ousts Acheampong
in palace coup
1979 Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings (pictured)
breaks out of jail and leads a coup against the Akuffo regime
and establishes the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC).
Generals Akuffo and Acheampong are tried, convicted
and executed for grand corruption
1979 In September, Rawlings’ AFRC organises elections
and hands power to Hilla Limann, leader of the People’s
National Party
1981 Limann ousted in military coup led by Rawlings
after two years of weak government and economic stagnation
1992 Ghanaians vote in a referendum for new constitution
with a multi-party system. Rawlings elected president on
the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC)
2000 John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party beats the
NDC’s candidate and former vice-president John Atta Mills
in the presidential election
2008 John Atta Mills, running again as NDC candidate, wins
a run-off vote against the NPP’s candidate and former foreign
minister Nana Akufo Addo

 

The Africa Report asked President Mills during his state visit to London what accounted for Ghana’s breaking out of the cycle of military coups. He replied that it was the momentum of democracy: “The most important lesson we can all learn is to respect the wishes of the people, where the people are determined to be heard, that they alone have the right to choose their leaders. I don’t think anyone [can] pull them back.”?

 

Mills admitted he was concerned about the return of the military in some states across Africa and that supporters of representative government should strongly promote their positions: “If we have chosen democracy and I can’t see a better alternative, let’s employ every means that we have to respect the will of the people. This is the message we have to send across to our sisters and brothers elsewhere – that the people must decide.”

 

A new political culture?

 

Alongside the new political culture that has developed in Ghana over the past two decades, there is a changed mood among the military themselves, observes Emmanuel Kwesi Anning, who runs the Conflict Prevention Unit at the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Centre in Accra. “Because of the interaction between civilian academics and senior officers, both professionally and socially, the Ghanaian officer corps have become more accepting of the idea of civilian political control of the military and the police”, says Anning, who teaches advanced courses in international relations for the top echelons of the military. “From the middle ranks upwards, there is now a recognition that coups and violence that undermine the state are not in their own interest.”?

 

A convention has been established that the best officers are promoted in tandem with the four-year political cycle. “Whoever was going to win the last election, the [now retired] senior officers were talking openly about who would succeed them even before the results were announced,” Anning notes. “The new top brass [appointed by President Mills in April this year] are all highly-educated – probably more so than their civilian counterparts.”?

 

However Major-General Peter Augustine Blay, the new Chief of Defence Staff, told a durbar of Regimental Sergeant Majors in Tamale on 29 April that the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) needs to “redeem its sunken image” and restore falling standards, traditions and values. Both Blay and the new defence minister, ex-General Joseph Smith, have promised improvements in the welfare and service conditions of personnel employed by the GAF.?

 

Peacekeeping duties have been the single most important factor in restoring the GAF’s reputation after the spate of coups in the 1970s and 1980s. “The soldiers are now much better paid,” says Anning. “They get to keep almost all of the daily allowance paid to the government by the UN, and governments have made sure that there is enough rotation to keep them happy.” ?

 

Another change has been what Anning calls the “re-securitisation” of the top security portfolios, which are currently manned by experienced retired army officers, such as the national security coordinator, ex-Colonel Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, and President Mills’s national security adviser, ex-General Joseph Nunoo-Mensah. Another former soldier, ex-General Joshua Hamidu, filled the coordinator’s role in the first two years of the previous government after the NPP came to power in 2001.?

 

Subtle evolution?

 

Along with other West African countries, Ghana has not simply alternated between military and civilian rule but has undergone a subtle evolution, says Yao Graham, coordinator of the NGO Third World Network-Africa. “It is not that there has been simply a move from military rule to civilian rule and back again. Since the 1990s, we have had military-turned-civilian leaders in Nigeria, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Niger and so on,” he says.

 

Peackeeping keeps military off politics

 

Keeping peace abroad boost soldiers' morale
at home. Read more

Graham thinks that the Congo peacekeeping experience of the early 1960s initially played a part in turning soldiers’ sentiment against Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah’s government. “Nkrumah felt undermined by the British control over the Congo peacekeeping operation, which is why General [H. T.] Alexander was fired, leading to the introduction of the policy of Africanisation [on 23 September 1961].” Nevertheless, Graham agrees that in general peacekeeping has played a big part in keeping the GAF happy, despite difficult experiences in Liberia and Rwanda. “In the 1970s, the soldiers were pampered by both the military and the civilian governments, and many decided they were better off under civilian rule, and sharing the benefits of peacekeeping.”?

 

The debate over the role of the military continues, with ex-President Rawlings energetically rebutting criticism from his long-time opponents in the NPP. “The election of the New Patriotic Party’s John Kufuor in 2000 gave a further boost to the development of our democracy. Many had serious doubts about the intention of Rawlings to hand over power and respect the will of the people, particularly if his party’s candidate lost the election,” Rawlings told a celebration of the Asantehene’s (the Ashanti king’s) first ten years in office and then turned on his opponents in typical vitriolic style. “Contrary to the assertion that their tradition was truly democratic, the NPP government was an excellent example of an undemocratic regime.”?

 

This debate nearly caught fire during the elections, when Rawlings accused the NPP of trying to steal the results. Yet the country’s peaceful transition after an election won by just 40,000 votes is a tribute to its developing political culture. 

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