Volta Chiefs, Deputy Minister clash over military deployment
Twelve days to the 2020 elections, the Volta Regional House of Chiefs and the Deputy Minister of Defence have clashed over the deployment of the military to the region.
The Volta Regional House of Chiefs has expressed concerns over what they describe as the increasing number of military deployments to the region.
They lament that the military presence is causing fear among residents as the country prepares for its presidential and parliamentary polls on December 7, 2020.
Vice President of the Volta Regional House of Chiefs, Torgbega Dekle Patamia said the government has refused to withdraw the military from the region despite an earlier assurance to do so.
“Election is not a do and die affair. After all, it comes every four years. We should stop intimidating our people, so they live their normal lives. We have done registration, election, and we have not seen this sort of military and their hardware. Are we at war?
“We had a meeting with the National Security Minister and as usual, what he said was, we’ll look into it. But nothing has been done,” Torgbega said on Starr News.
Responding to the concerns raised by the chiefs, the Deputy Defense Minister, Major Derek Oduro (Rtd) said the soldiers were there in the interest of the entire nation.
“We have a military deployment at the northern border, eastern and other places and they are not complaining, so why is the Volta Region complaining?…the deployment is for our own good” and “we’ll not sit down for people who want their own interest, so that terrorists can take over our country.”
He said the Volta Region was not the only region with military presence.
According to him, other regions like Northern and the Eastern regional borders all have military personnel deployed to man the country’s borders.
He, however, wondered why the Volta Regional chiefs and residents were the only people complaining of the presence of the military.
According to him, it was the NDC that had been complaining about the military deployment for a long time.
Major Derek Oduro (Rtd) who is also a Member of Parliament for Nkoranza North dispelled claims that residents were being intimidated by the military in the Volta Region.
“When the people in the Volta Region talk about intimidation, they [military] don’t come to your house. They have an area of responsibility. Generally speaking, every step taken by the national security is taken in the interest of the nation and not a few.”
“It’s not true that people are being intimidated. This is not the first time security is being deployed before, during, and after election to the Volta Region. The soldiers are in the Volta Region to provide security in the interest of the whole nation. It’s not intimidation,” he added.
Previous military deployment
On Saturday, March 21, President Akufo-Addo announced the closure of Ghana’s borders to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Months after the borders were closed, military personnel were deployed to border towns including the Volat and Oti Regions.
This was at a time when the registration for the new Voter ID cards was about to begin.
The military deployment raised eyebrows with residents insisting the presence of the military in the region was causing fear.
The largest opposition party NDC whose strongholds are the Volta and Oti Regions claimed the military deployment was aimed at intimidating residents to force them in their homes so as to not show up during the registration exercise.
They claimed the government’s agenda was to disenfranchise eligible voters in their stronghold.
Several groups, including some political parties, raised concerns over the military deployment.
Some security experts also criticized the government’s deployment of military men to border towns.
Another influential personality, the late former President Jerry John Rawlings, joined the several calls for the military to be withdrawn.
In a statement, the former president said the move by the government is “generating animosity especially amongst innocent citizens whose basic way of life is being disrupted.
“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”.
But the government justified the security deployment saying it was solely to ensure the strict compliance of the border closures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Defence Minister, Dominic Ntiwul said since February 21 to June 18, the government had been increasing its deployment of security forces to border posts all over the country, the Volta Region being no exception. The first deployment was about 895-force to towns mainly in the Northern, North-East, Upper West, Upper East, and Savanna regions.
“Then came covid-19. Almighty covid” he said and explained there was a further need for more deployments to the border towns to enforce the president’s directive to close the borders.
Dominic Nitiwul explained that Ghana has porous borders with more than 250 unapproved routes as against 50 approved ones.
It was easy to escape and slip into the country undetected, a practice that could potentially spread coronavirus infections.
The minister said during the patrols, more than 5,000 people were arrested trying to cross the border or enter through unapproved routes.
“When we arrest 30 people, about a third test positive for coronavirus” he expressed alarm.