Ghana's Defence Minister Refutes NDC Ethnocentric Claims on Military Deployment
Ghana's Minister of Defence Dominic Nitiwul, on Monday, refuted claims by the Minority NDC that government has deployed soldiers to Volta and Oti regions to intimidate residents from registering for the new voter cards.
Mr Nitiwul, responding to the NDC's allegations and giving an update on the joint security operations along the country's borders, at a news conference in Accra , said Government had no ethnocentric agenda against any ethnic group or political party in the deployment of security personnel to protect the country's frontiers.
According to him , "Those going that tangent should drop it because it will not help anybody. I want the chiefs and people of the Volta and Oti regions to know that this is pure propaganda and mischief by the NDC and should be ignored, "Mr Nitiwul said, adding, “Those whipping up ethnocentric sentiment should bow down their heads in shame".
The Minister said the soldiers were deployed to the border towns to prevent unlawful entries and not to polling stations to intimidate or brutalise civilians.
Mr Nitiwul, also the member of Parliament for Bimbilla, said the Akufo-Addo-led government was not interested in ethnic politics, but to implement programmes and policies that would better the lives of Ghanaians.
The Minister said the soldiers deployed under "Operation Enhanced Calm Life" were given resources to stay at the borders for three months, while efforts are underway to find more resources to enable them to police the country's borders for extra three months.
Recounting when the military deployment started, the Minister said government, through the ministries of Defence and the Interior, started deploying soldiers and police to the border towns from February 21, 2019 under an operation code-named "Operation Conquered Fist", to complement the efforts of personnel of the Ghana Immigration Service and the Ghana Revenue Authority to prevent illegal entries.
On March 30th and April 20th, 2020, government deployed more soldiers to beef up security at the borders following the outbreak of the coronavirus to prevent foreigners from being sneaked into the country and ensure the border closure was respected.
However, he said, government realised that during the lockdown some recalcitrant people were still sneaking foreigners into the country through over 250 unapproved routes and 500 paths, hence it deployed more soldiers to stop the importation of the respiratory disease.
He said, for instance, some 5,000 foreigners attempted to cross into the country during the partial lockdown and were subsequently arrested.
He noted that a test conducted by the health authorities on the suspects revealed that between 10 and 30 per cent Covid-19 infection rate among the suspects.
Mr Nitiwul observed that the deployment of security personnel at the borders helped immensely in reducing crimes at the border towns, especially in the northern part of the country such as Tumu, Bawku and Talensi during the lockdowns.
He, however, said upon easing of COVID-19 restrictions, crime rate started surging at the border towns whilst foreigners started using unapproved routes to enter the country.
He said, on June 18 and June 19, 2020, the Defence Ministry launched an operation code-named "Operation Enhanced Calm Life" to allow more soldiers to be deployed in order to support personnel of the Immigration Service at the borders.
The soldiers were deployed in nine border regions including; Volta, Oti, Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper East, Upper West, Bono and Western regions to enforce the border closure in compliance with theCOVID-19 protocols.
Mr Nitiwul stated that eight senior officers and 199 soldiers were deployed in the Upper East Region, four senior officers and 65 soldiers in three operational areas in the Upper West Region, three senior officers and 99 soldiers in the North East Region, two senior officers and 70 soldiers in six locations in the Oti Region, three senior officers and 95 soldiers in the Volta Region, whilst the Western Region received one senior officer and 13 soldiers.
Mr Nitiwul condemned the false claims being peddled by the opposition NDC and former President John Mahama, who is the NDC flagbearer for 2020 election, saying that it was pure mischief to create disaffection for the ruling government.
The Volta caucus of the minority in parliament on Monday gave a 24-hour ultimatum to government to withdraw the military personnel deployed to the Volta Region ahead of Tuesday’s nationwide voter registration exercise.
Condemning the military deployment, leader of the caucaus, Emmanuel K. Bedzrah at a news conference in Aflao Monday said the fact that they are peace-loving people does not mean they are cowards.He thus demanded the immediate removal of military personnel from the area.
According to the minority caucus, there is no war between Ghana and Togo to warrant the level of military deployment to the area which is the National Democratic Congress’ electoral stronghold.
He said Ghanaians and Togolese will continue to coesist as “there is no war between Ghanaians and Togolese,” adding “We are peace loving people”.
Armed military personnel have since last week been deployed to the area, raising concerns among the people in the area who claim the military is there to intimidate them from taking part in the voter registration exercise which begins from Tuesday, June 30.
There have been conflicting statements regarding the actual motive behind the deployment.
Municipal Chief Executive of Ketu South, Elliot Edem Agbenorwu has justified the military presence in the area, claiming the security personnel are there to help fight Covid-19 by patrolling the unapproved routes being used by people to enter the country.
Adansi Asokwa Member of Parliament K. T. Hammond had also claimed last week that the deployment is to check foreigners from Togo from entering Ghana to register in the planned voter registration exercise.
But that appears not to have calmed residents who have been agitating over the government action.
In a statement to comment on the ragging issue Monday, former President John Rawlings who hails from the Volta Region said the deployment of military to the two regions has not only generated “animosity” but also created “so much suspicion”.
“The deployment along the borders at peacetime especially at this particular point in time has created so much suspicion and will call for a lot of intelligent flexibility and diligence,” Mr Rawlings said.
He said it is “generating animosity especially amongst innocent citizens whose basic way of life is being disrupted.