‘Scorched-earth’ policy?

Remembrance Day, November 11 (11/11) annually, could henceforth be probably remembered beyond the original reason of the guns of WW1 officially going silent at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

On November 11, 2022, Russia announced that it was withdrawing from the Ukrainian city of Kherson. Interestingly, the Kremlin dissociated itself from the announcement, attributing it to the military.

Kherson had been the most prized trophy Russia had won since it attacked Ukraine on February 24, 2022 in what it called a “special military operation”.

On Monday, November 14, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelensky made an unannounced trip to Kherson to visit his troops. According to a top Ukrainian official on BBC, conditions in Kherson were dire as there was no water or electricity.

The reason was that the retreating Russians had in addition to laying mines, destroyed all water and electricity/energy installations, as well as any infrastructure of importance which could help Ukraine rebuild.

This reminded me of the concept of “scorched-earth” policy I was taught in the early 1970s as an officer cadet.


Scorched-earth policy is a military strategy where a withdrawing or retreating army destroys anything that might be useful to an advancing enemy. While it is generally carried out in enemy territory, it could in some cases be carried out in own friendly territory.

Like a losing boxer retreating when under pressure from his opponent, “withdrawal” as a phase of war is generally undertaken when an army is under pressure from an advancing enemy. Morale among troops is low as a withdrawal is often resorted to in the face of a tactical defeat.

In order not to leave anything advantageous to the advancing enemy, a withdrawing army destroys anything in sight. The aim is to prevent any valuable asset from falling into hands, which could be used against the withdrawing or retreating army.

In addition to the destruction of communication equipment, electricity or water installations and general infrastructure, oil wells as happened to the Kuwaitis in their war with Iraq in 1991 could also be destroyed.

Indeed, in January 1991, while retreating under pressure from the American-led coalition in the Iraq-Kuwait War, the Iraqis set fire to over 600 Kuwaiti oil wells in a scorched-earth action.

Burkina Faso

In mid-November 2022, in a reaction to the nationalisation of mines by the government of Burkina Faso, Canadian mining firm Trevali at Perkoa, Burkina Faso destroyed vehicles and any equipment they could, in what could pass for a scorched-earth action, albeit in a non-military situation.

Rather than leave intact any mine equipment which the Burkinabes could utilise, they destroyed anything or everything in sight.

Incidentally, this was the zinc mining company which in September 2022 was found guilty of manslaughter following a flooding disaster in April 2022 that killed eight miners.


In recent times, the unbelievable impunity of destruction of lands, the pollution of our surface water bodies, the denuding of our forest vegetation, the cutting and export of millions of rosewood trees in Ghana make me wonder if we have not embarked on a deliberate domestic scorched-earth policy against ourselves in support of foreigners!

It is unconscionable the massive destruction Ghanaians are inflicting on Ghana. Unfortunately, the question I am often asked during such conversations is, “Do they have any conscience?”

In scorched-earth policy, the target is the enemy as in the Iraq-Kuwait scenario where the retreating Iraqis destroyed Kuwaiti oil wells.

To a lesser extent, the foreign mine owners, out of frustration, may see the government of Burkina Faso as the “enemy” for wising up to exploit their minerals themselves.

However, in the case of the destruction going on in Ghana where forest reserves are busily being converted into deserts, and rivers into sewage sludge heavily polluted with mercury and cyanide, I have difficulty understanding what Ghanaians are doing to Ghana, aiding foreigners to destroy Ghana. Ghana Water

Company spends heavily treating our almost untreatable water.

A popular radio analyst recently asked in frustration, “What kind of people are we?” Where is the patriotism Osagyefo taught us, as Ephraim Amu composed in our patriotic song ‘Y3n ara y’asaase ni’?”

Thomas Hobbes

In all this, where are the Ghanaians supposed to manage us the way the 17th-century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes proposed in his book The Leviathan?

He said if every individual had to fend for himself, providing all his needs, including security, humanity would be reduced to the jungle law of survival of the fittest.

Life would become “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”! Hobbes’s idea was later improved upon by John Locke, JJ Rousseau and other 18th-century political philosophers.

It is on account of this that in a civilised society, the majority cedes part of their rights and privileges in a social contract to a government which must provide them with security, infrastructure, good governance or leadership in what a democracy is supposed to be.

Leadership, lead! Fellow Ghanaians, wake up!

The writer is former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya & Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Accra.
E-mail: dkfrimpong@yahoo.com 

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