Scanning through recent photos of the Ghana Independence celebrations, for the first time, I saw photos of Ghana's Special Forces. No doubt, these Special Forces looked disciplined and well trained as they marched with high morale and combat readiness reminiscent of North Korean soldiers. I felt very good. I knew right away that with his obvious new found confidence, the President is striking the right notes and making the right decisions for Ghana, including the establishment of the Special Forces Unit and the recent commissioning of four warships for the Ghana Navy.
The fact is that Ghana has always been an important member of the international community- UN contributions, international human resource contributions, African Diaspora, ECOWAS, African Union, top cocoa and gold producer, peace and stability, internationally recognized football nation and many more. With the new discovery of oil, Ghana has become 'strategically important' to the international community and now features more prominently on global radars. Ghana's security architecture must therefore be redesigned to match her new found international status.
Are Special Forces new in Ghana? I really don't think so. I know about the existence of the 64 Battalion. Some form of Special Forces existed in Ghana long before, so the issue of Special Forces Unit (SFU) is not new, after all. Whatever it is, the re-establishment or expansion of the Special Forces Unit is a great idea that is long overdue. This is one of the best decisions made in defence of Ghana's strategic interests.
If this is such a great idea, then why are some people so opposed to the idea of Special Forces? Why has the idea become so controversial in Ghana? Reports made available to me indicate that politicians like Ursula Owusu have allegedly strongly criticized the President for setting up the Special Forces Unit. (By the way, I strongly condemn recent attacks on Ursula Owusu) In a report carried by MyJoyonline.com on March 11, 2012, Ursula reportedly said "no special forces can stand against the will of the people.", and that Ghanaians will resist any intimidation from the Special Forces. Since her comments were not clarified, it was not immediately clear if she was just referring to the idea of setting up the SFU or rather she was merely opposed to possible manipulation of the SFU by the President for political advantage.
Whatever her comments may mean, politicians who merely oppose the idea of the establishment of the SFU should bow their heads in shame. Do their criticisms stem from reality or political expediency? Do they have their eyes on the national interest or on their own sectional interests?
In Armies all over the world, Special Forces play a leading role in securing freedom and prosperity. They are often in the frontlines of any intelligence battle and combat against external and internal enemies. The following are six reasons why Ghana must have Special Forces:
According to D.G.S Wilson, there are six major areas in the world that major powers like the United States, China, and the EU and their allies have targeted in history's largest scramble for hydrocarbons and, it's important to remember, against a recent backdrop of diminishing energy consumption, plunging prices and both the discovery and presumption of oil and natural gas reserves that remain unexploited. They are the Persian Gulf, the Southern rim of the Caribbean Basin, the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Western Africa, the Caspian Sea, the Arctic Circle, and the Antarctic Ocean and adjoining parts of the South Atlantic Ocean. These strategic oil centers hold the key to global economic domination and prosperity. The road to paradise runs through here. That's why the scramble is on not just to secure an abundant supply of oil, but the real endgame of these global powers is to own and control the oil wells, pipelines, transit points, shipping lanes and refineries in order to almost guarantee an uninterrupted and abundant supply of energy to run their economies.
In the now strategic Gulf of Guinea, or West Africa, the stakes are sky-high, as this recent article in the Wall Street Journal proves: “West Africa's appeal has run high ever since Anadarko and its partners discovered the vast Jubilee oil field offshore Ghana in 2007, which is believed to contain up to 1.8 billion barrels of crude. But the find announced Wednesday suggests the coastal waters stretching some 700 miles to the west, beyond Ghana to Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone, could hold many more Jubilee-like structures, marking the region out as a potentially eye-popping new oil frontier”.
Much as the West Africa region has become strategic due to recent oil discoveries, international crises are so unpredictable. From the Korean Peninsula to the Baltics, from the South China Sea to Iran, tension appears to be high as opposing militaries continue to exercise with live fire. Should war break out in the Middle East, for example between the U.S and Iran and say Hugo Chavez's Venezuela freezes oil exports to the US as he has allegedly threatened, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) gives the US lots of strategic options to secure its oil supply by for example denying China access to oil supply. In times of war, anyone's oil could be fair game. In such a scenario, if hostilities break out, Ghana must have the capability to defend her oil assets regardless of which side it may take. Special Forces will be most needed in times like these.
Global energy crunch
The world's total oil reserves are in severe danger of running out especially as global population increases and mega oil consumers like China and India become even hungrier for more oil due to double-digit economic growth. Experts call this the oil crunch and when it hits the world, animal instincts could easily take over with grave consequences including possible major wars. Industry analysts widely believe that, as a consequence of China and India's explosive oil demand, coupled with stagnating global oil production capacity, the world could experience a crippling oil crunch in as early as 2015. Back in the 1920s, global oil demand was in the single digits of millions of barrels per day --- today it's around 85 million barrels per day.
According to the research carried out by consulting firm Arup, oil production levels will grow from the current 85 million barrels per day to peak at 95 million in about five years. Production won't increase beyond that because of extraction difficulties and soaring demand from emerging markets.
It is at this time that a devastating oil crunch is projected to hit global markets. The Super Powers are well aware of this and are leaving no stone unturned to position themselves for maximum advantage. The Super Powers especially the US, China and the EU would need to turn to West Africa for cheap and abundant oil supply. Again, in any possible global oil crunch scenario, Ghana must have the capability to defend her oil assets regardless of which side she may take.
Pirates and secessionist militants
In Nigeria's oil-rich Delta region, heavily armed militants rule like a no man's land reminiscent of America's Wild West. Kidnappings, sabotage, lawlessness and killings that have taken place there have shocked the world. Some even wanted to break away to form an independent homeland. While some of them have been rehabilitated through government programs, full peace has still not been restored to Nigeria's troubled Delta region.
Also, in the Gulf of Aden, Somali pirates prey on oil tankers and have made busy shipping lanes dangerous and costly to traffic. Ghana must learn fast from these experiences and take strong pre-emptive measures to protect her oil assets. Special Forces come in handy here. Areas around these oil installations should be declared no-go areas to the public and cordoned off under the protection of Special Forces.
Warning signal to external enemies
As the saying goes, success attracts enemies. Some external players may threaten Ghana's new found oil assets. Foreign mercenaries and illegal fishing boats could pose a threat. More importantly, Ivory Coast for example is laying claim to some part of Ghana's oil-rich territorial waters. In partnership with the Ghana Navy, Special Forces should be made combat ready in ways that compel the Ivorians to back off.
Some enemies may also come from within. Home-grown terrorists, nation wreckers, assassinations, hijackings and many more could pose a threat to the nation's cherished peace and stability. Stationing Special Forces at strategic locations throughout the country would deter would be adventurists and enable swift action to be taken when necessary.
Imagine waking up one morning to the sound of gunfire in the streets of Accra. Then suddenly a young military officer announces on Ghana Radio that there has been a successful coup in Ghana and that the constitution has been suspended. His reason for the coup? “Because of the government's new austerity measures, soldiers cannot afford to buy enough goat meat for their wives”. This may sound funny but remember that these days soldiers are giving all kinds of ridiculous reasons for staging coups. Just think about recent coups in Mali and Guinea Bissau. Where those coups necessary? According to the BBC, no elected leader in nearly 40 years of independence has finished their time in office in the former Portuguese colony of Guinea Bissau! This sounds like the coup capital of the world. What those soldiers don't really care about is that the already poor nations may have been set back probably another 25 years. The critical task for the Special Forces, and surely the most important of all, is to protect and preserve Ghana's freedom and democracy. The Special Forces must be deployed in strategic locations throughout Ghana and around Ghana's borders to protect vital national assets and institutions including the presidency.
Good as it may be, the establishment of SFUs is one thing and the right management and deployment of SFUs is another. If the SFU is manipulated for political advantage and are used as instruments of terror to oppress their own people, rather than protecting vital national interests, then it will fail and the consequences could be catastrophic. If the force becomes tribalized and filled with one particular ethnic group, again, it will fail. If the force is manipulated to knock heads against the regular army instead of complementing it, it is bound to fail.
There is no doubt that the re-establishment or expansion of Ghana's Special Forces is an idea whose time has come. The President must be commended for his decisive move. The force must be defenders of freedom and justice. A force for good, ready to respond to the higher call of duty in defence of Ghana's strategic interests.
By Moses Asare, African Leader Media Group, New York City