The explanations by some government officials including a Deputy Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, for the setting up of a ‘special unit’ in the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) have raised questions about the motive behind the move.
On Independence Day, Tuesday, March 6, 2012, the military high command outdoored what they called ‘special forces’, reminiscent of the disbanded and hitherto dreaded 64 Infantry Battalion, popularly called Commando Unit.
Described as an elite group made up of personnel drawn from the Army, Navy and Air Force, the soldiers underwent special endurance and weapons handling training programme to prime them for deployment for unique operations.
The 55th anniversary celebration parade held at the Independence Square in Accra offered a rare opportunity to the government to scare the citizenry as gleaned from the reckless utterances of government appointees.
The posture of the officers and their grim faces were reminiscent of the dark days of the 64 Infantry Battalion then commanded by Col. Larry Gbevlo-Lartey (rtd), now Acting National Security Coordinator.
A military officer who took part in the commentary on national television during the parade appeared not to have any knowledge about the activities and operations of this new unit when he was asked during the live programme.
But DAILY GUIDE sources said these officers were carefully handpicked from the various units of the military and brought together to form the so-called ‘special forces’.
Unlike other security agencies, students and Trade Union organisations who took part in the march past, this group of well-built military officers, sporting sunglasses and wielding sophisticated weapons including rocket propelled grenade launchers and state-of-the-art machine guns, executed unusual foot drills reminiscent of Russia and Nazi Germany.
Elvis Afriyie Ankrah is reported to have said that the ‘special unit’ was set up to ‘crush’ elements of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) who may want to carry through their ‘all die be die’ mantra ahead of the 2012 polls.
Others including Deputy Information Minister, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa and Parliamentary candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Mohammed Abdulai Mubarak aka Ras Mubarak made similar ominous remarks about the unit.
Ras, a one-time ardent supporter of the Rawlingses who has switched to the Mills camp, posted on his Facebook wall, “2day’s independence parade was exceptional. Our Special Forces made my day with their war-like display. With these ‘scary’ forces, who wants 2 shout ‘all die be die’? We can continue 2 sleep soundly in da knowledge dat, dey got our backs covered – Rambo style. Congrats 2 da forces. As we celebrate 55yrs of nationhood, let us not 4get da sacrifices of those who made freedom possible.”
These and other interpretations and explanations put out by NDC functionaries about the reason behind the establishment of the ‘special unit’ have given others including the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) cause to raise concerns about its intended purpose.
A leading member of the party and spokesperson for the party’s flagbearer, Mustapha Hamid, has questioned the rationale behind the establishment of the unit.
NPP General Secretary Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie said that went to confirm their fears of government’s intention to create confusion in its strongholds, noting, “We know that the NDC is training people at Asutuare and elsewhere and all these are people that they are going to give military and police uniforms to so that they parade NPP strongholds like the Ashanti, Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Central regions”.
“We are aware of what they are doing and we have photographs of people who are being trained at Asutuare and elsewhere and so at the appropriate time this will be made available to the good people of this country,” he said.
“If they think that they are doing this in the quiet and that nobody knows, the very people they are training, some of them come to tell us what is happening and we have pictorial evidence.”
The military high command has however attempted to douse the flame that the outdooring of the elite group has instigated.
Public Affairs Director of the Ghana Armed Forces, Col. Mbawine Atintande, however said there was no cause for alarm.
Unaware of when the unit was formed, Atintande claimed the ‘special forces’ were created two or three years ago to respond to new challenges facing the country since the discovery of oil.
He said the show of force was meant to assure Ghanaians they were safe and that the army was capable of adequately protecting them, whilst telling the entire world that the Ghana Armed Forces were equipped to decisively deal with any external aggression.
He discounted claims that the unit was formed to intimidate Ghanaians during the 2012 general elections.
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