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01.10.2005 Diaspora News

A Brigadier-General who lacks initiatives but seeks to shoot his way to glory

By T. Agyeman Gyamfi-Kumaning
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I write in response to the remarks made by Brigadier-General Richard Debrah published at Ghanaweb ( on the 16 September 2005.

The Brig-General commented that those ex-servicemen associations in the UK which open their doors to people who deserted the armed forces and civilians now living in the UK would undermine the integrity and professional standing of the Ghana Armed Forces. That it would encourage more desertion from the Armed Forces.

This, the Association of Ghanaian Ex-servicemen and Women UK, and I will not hesitate in saying it is preposterous and indicates his lack of leadership. It is provocative and unproductive. Instead such a discouraging discourse from a Brigadier-General in a public office (Ghana High Commission in London), undermines the purpose of Ghana Government's reconciliation programme, the objects, values and efforts of the Association of Ex-servicemen and Women UK (AGE UK), the goodwill of all other ex-servicemen, civilians, and Ghanaian's associations abroad. The Brig-General should have understood that none of the associations he attacked is recruiting for the Ghana Armed Forces. Therefore, there was no substance for his comments and for any association of ex-servicemen to be subjected to his membership definition or selection criteria. It is a ridiculous comment against every Ghanaian permanently living abroad.

I am sure the UK government would not attack the Ghana High Commissioner for his remarkable interest and involvement in Ghanaian businesses, associations, and the opening of his doors to every Ghanaian. At this point I want readers to assess the leadership styles of these two men. The Brig-General's style is obviously the “weakest link”.

Brig-Gen Debrah's protectionism for power, integrity, professionalism and strategy against desertion is not about attacking anyone or organisations. It is about formulating persuasive strategic emergent and prescriptive plans in the armed forces, adopting situational approaches and managing by walking around (MBWA) to understand the feelings of serving soldiers and ex-servicemen in Ghana and abroad.

In terms of desertion, these associations were formed just a year ago based upon their experiences of the past and present. Didn't he know that the exodus of Ghanaian soldiers began nearly 35 years ago? If he did, then what had he done, and what similar comments had he made in the last 35 years in his military career? He should have understood that what really works is when people are self-motivated and do something because they want to. When they are inspired, they enjoy their work and retention is higher. They are productive and proud of their efforts. They remain focused and committed to the task at hand. In short, they put forth out best effort.

In terms of integrity and professionalism, will the Brigadier now explain his staff selection procedure; who gets to work in his office (defence advisory) in the Ghana High Commission in London?, his role as a defence advisor and the functions of his office? Over the last 3 years he had consistently said he had no support or resources for helping out ex-servicemen in the UK. He would not even help the ex-servicemen in UK to send medical items to 37 Military Hospital in Ghana. Does he now say his office and the Ghana Armed Forces have the resources to support some or all Ghanaian Ex-servicemen in Ghana and abroad? And does he know that he holds a public office meant to carry out specific functions without being malignant, bias or having personal alignment? Isn't he aware that even the 37 Military Hospital in Ghana is now accessed by both civilians and soldiers?

The crust of his comments is that he felt guilty for not initiating the Association of Ghanaian ex-servicemen in UK. In his attempt to use his position and staff (seen in the photograph) to dissolve the Association of Ghanaian Ex-servicemen & women UK (AGE UK) and the other ex-servicemen association in the UK, members refused. Hence, Brig-General Debrah and his staff hastily launched the Ghana Armed Forces Ex-servicemen Association in his bit to globally attack members of other associations. His concern was borne out of frustration, anger and dictatorship power. Watch him. If he cannot socially reside with or relate to ex-servicemen then he does not understand the values, objects and emotions of them. So why did he want to lead them? It is typical. He was quite happy to bring all the ex-servicemen associations in UK under his control without a thing against deserters if they had accepted his proposal. Isn't it very typical and dangerous to allow such a person to work in a public domain where human and social justice is predominant? I think the Brig-General did not realise that in a civilised and democratic society there is no place for tyranny, dictatorship or bully. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of his military rank, only by persuasion, gentleness and by support or love unfeigned.

Did the Brig-General realise that such utterances not only aggravate members of the Association of Ghanaian Ex-servicemen and women UK but a large spectrum of Ghanaian ex-servicemen both officers and other ranks, and civilians globally.

As a Brig-General making such criticism or comments, did he consider thinking strategically in terms of the economics and social needs of his country Ghana? The environment, control or legalities of the country (UK) he is working from? Or the strengths and weaknesses of those individuals and as associations he criticised as opposed to the strategic advantage or opportunities they bring to Ghana economy and its communities?

The Association of Ghanaian Ex-servicemen and women UK is of professionals, nobles, charitable, willing and hard-working people who not only trying to support themselves but others both in Ghana and abroad as well. They cannot be cowed and controlled by the Brigadier-General or anyone who seeks for power and do nothing. Or micro-managed, overly demanding, poor communicator, mistrustful leader but someone with people skills. This, members of the association (AGE UK) believe in Relationship Management that encompasses the ability to develop others, inspire others, influence others, resolve conflict, and build teamwork and collaboration.

AGE UK's objects and activities have been recognised by the UK Charity Commission and have been awarded charity status to educate, relieve poverty or hardship and to provide social welfare with the object of improving the condition of life. We believe that from among an array of groups, people should be free to choose a social group that shares the ideas, values, beliefs, or principles they believe in. That is why our values concern 'human-centred' agenda worth pursuing in its own right, independent of any ethnicity or political affiliation. We cannot any longer be controlled by any dictator, bossy leader or be structured as if we were in the Ghana Armed Forces.

AGE UK is proud of its 135 active members in its first year. It is the fastest growing African Association in the UK. In its first year alone, the association spent a total of £17,713 towards good causes. We have been directly involved in organising 8 major funerals at a total cost of £11,368. We sent a large quantity of surgical gloves to 37 Military Hospital and provided financial assistance to 3 Individuals who have been removed without notice totalling £1,500. We donated £605 to other association with similar aims and objectives. What is more, we organised 25 social gathering to the tune of £4,540 providing opportunity for inclusion.

It was unbelievable, unprofessional, naive and selfish for the Brigadier-General to request for dissolution of such an organisation performing credibly well just because he did not take the initiative. After all he is a serving officer so why should he interfere with our interest and way of life in the UK and fails to find the strategic solutions to retention problem in the Ghana Armed Forces?

It is absurd for Brigadier-General Debrah to be concerned about who joins the Association of Ghanaian Ex-servicemen and women in the UK. The recruitment of Ghanaians into the Armed Forces is voluntary so one must have the desire, if not poverty in joining. The only cause of such people fleeing the Armed Forces is of no doubt the lack of motivation and prospect, the effect of internal and external politics, suppression, social exclusiveness, injustice and economic deprivation caused by Ghanaian leadership. Soldiers fleeing are no different from people who flee their professions, institutions or country as results of poor management and leadership.

At Richard's level he should be thinking strategically rather than having a go at external welfare organisations that have no immigration or border control. Civilians mixing up with servicemen or ex-servicemen in a joint registered and recognised UK welfare and charity organisations such as the Association of Ghanaian Ex-servicemen & women UK is not a bad thing. It does not influence in anyway or undermines the integrity and professionalism of the Ghana Armed Forces.

I feel it is appropriate to be upfront with him and to remind him of his pre and post military life, the need for neutrality and fairness, his role as a Defence Attaché. He was probably a teenager or pretty inexperienced young man when he joined the army about 35 years ago. He has enjoyed the unproductive culture of bi-standard, close communication system, ageism, suppression and unfair treatment that no-one dared to challenge him. Besides, I would like to take the opportunity to suggest to him that the underlying issues of his desertion, integrity and professionalism concerns must be attributed to Leadership, Culture and People management of the system he has been part of for more than 35 years.

He should have understood that the underlying causes of desertion or absenteeism are Lack of leadership, Unacceptable Culture and Poor People management – relating to people. Better leadership creates more productivity, greater job satisfaction, more loyalty… you get the picture. Therefore, the Brig-General needs exceptional leadership by relating to people in such a way as to inspire them to give their best effort – for themselves, their organization, their community, their family, and/or their world.

I believe there is a strong relationship between a strong culture and organisational or individual performance that often lead to retention. A well-developed and business-specific culture in which management or leadership and staff are thoroughly socialised can underpin stronger organisational commitment, higher morale, more efficient performance, higher productivity, and generally higher retention. Instead of unproductive culture of bi-standard, close communication system, ageism, suppression and unfair treatment that Brig-General has enjoyed all those years. Like the Brig-General, many officers and other ranks have forgotten a basic fundamental principle which is “BEHAVE towards others as you wish them to behave towards you”.

To me and like many others, Brig-General Debrah and his so called “Ghana Armed Forces Association” failed disgracefully to EVALUATE each of those ex-servicemen associations their functional strengths and opportunities with total, fact-based objectivity. They also failed to CONSIDER the five key issues such as Politics, Environment, Social, Economics and Legalities impacting Ghanaians both in Ghana and abroad.

I think the Brig-General is out of date with the current affairs in Ghana and out of touch with majority of Ghanaian abroad. His leadership style and comments is a mismatch against the government's reconciliation programme and AGE UK's effort in re-imaging Ghanaian soldiers, even the Ghana Armed Forces. Typically, he is a leader who fails his people and refuses to take responsibility of doing something about it rather than blaming the individuals and external organisations. Such his leadership style indicates a mishmash of his roles as military leader and as of public office.

With these in mind, I urge Ghanaians both in Ghana and abroad to be upfront with military leaders such as Debrah, who interfere with our civil liberty. They should be told not to mix up their military role with civil roles to gratify their pride, their vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon anyone, in any degree of unrighteousness. This, many ex-servicemen and women (whether it be a month or 35 years in the armed forces), and civilians had learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of some military officers, particularly Brigadier-General Debrah, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

He should be ashamed of his level of analysing or reasoning, negotiation and diplomatic skills. He is incapable of adapting situational approach in managing or leading. Therefore he must quit his position as a defence advisor, retire from the army or be restricted from speaking as a public figure.

In any case who dares Brigadier Debrah to interfere with our way of life abroad and in Ghana, and ruin our lives?

T. Agyeman Gyamfi-Kumaning (Chairman of Association of Ghanaian Ex-servicemen & Women UK)

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