27 January 2014

Ghana: Soldiers' Peace-Keeping Earnings

Some men of the Ghana Army, who returned home from peace-keeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo some two and half years ago, have complained that some Military High Command-approved importing companies have defrauded them of their hard-earned dollars.

While military personnel get ready at Bundase Training Camp for peace-keeping assignments abroad, these approved companies are allowed access to sell themselves to the men, as first class import-export agencies they could trust to supply all their domesticsigns of the good life -corn mills, deep freezers, LCD television sets, fridges, cookers, microwave ovens etc.

Convinced, each soldier signs an undertaking authorizing the paymaster to deduct the total cost of everything he would later select at source from his peace-keeping account and pay to his selected supplier (s).

The final step in the ordering process is the selecting of the items that the soldiers want and for which purpose the importing companies send their catalogues to the soldiers at their duty stations outside the country.

The general agreement is that the soldiers would get their preferred items a few weeks after they had returned back home.

However, this batch of justifiably aggrieved soldiers has been back home for about two and half years now - a total of 131 weeks. And somebody is saying they should not complain? How does anyone expect such a soldier to be focused on his core duty of defending the Motherland?

The Chronicle is highly disappointed at the Military High Command for allowing the report of the committee it set up after our first report on this scandal in May 2013, to gather dust at Burma Camp, until we hinted the Director of Public Relations that we were going to revisit the issue.

The Military High Command was unhappy then, that the complaining soldiers had gone to the media instead of their unit commanders. But the shelving of the report of the committee that looked into the issue confirms the claims of the soldiers then and now that their unit commanders could not be relied upon for any meaningful action to their benefit in the issue of willful refusal to supply their goods by companies known to the High Command.

If as the soldiers claim, it is true that the owners of these special import-export companies are retired ex-members of the High Command, The Chronicle can sympathise with the current members of the High Command for the quandary in which they find themselves.

However, we do not accept that their "fear" of their former bosses is a good justification for some soldiers to be defrauded of their dangerously-earned peace-keeping dollars.

Members of the Military High Command are usually Generals. And Generals retire on full salary and in the military tradition their former subordinates who may be Generals themselves now, are still their juniors who defer to them without question.

But we would advocate that a line be drawn somewhere in the sand: Where the actions of some retired Generals tend to incite soldiers to indiscipline, as in the case of preferring the media to their unit commanders, the incumbent Military High Command owes Mother Ghana a non-negotiable duty to call to order whomsoever is inciting the indiscipline. And to their own good name too.

The Chronicle would also like to seize the opportunity to appeal to any retired General whose importing company has collected peace-keeping monies of soldiers upfront on the pretext of supplying them specified items and has failed, to ensure that his company makes good its promise to the soldiers today, without further delay.

We would like any such General to please remember that officers are not merely soldiers but also gentlemen.

"An Officer and a Gentleman" is a high appellation that all officers, across all military traditions cherish. Elsewhere it is lived as well, both in active service and in retirement too.

The Chronicle hopes that this would be our last outing on this issue. But we will come back if give cause to do so!

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