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The Realities Of Ghana’s Insecurity - COMMENTARY


For much of the Cold War period most writing on the subject [of national security] was, in the words of Baylis & Smith, dominated by the idea of national security, which was largely defined in militarized terms. The main area of interest for both academics and statesman tended to be on the military capabilities that their states should develop to deal with threats that faced them. More recently, however, this idea of security has been criticized for being ethnocentric (culturally biased) and too narrowly defined. Accordingly, contemporary writers have argued for expanded conception of security outward from the limits of parochial national security to include a range of other considerations. In his study, People, States and Fear, Barry Buzan(1983:214-42), emphasizes on security to cover economic, societal, environmental as well as military aspects and which is also defined in broader international terms.

This involves states overcoming what is described as ‘excessively self-referenced security policies’ and thinking instead about the security interests of their neighbours. There are those who argue however, that the emphasis on the state and inter-state relations ignores the fundamental changes which have been taking place in world politics especially in the aftermath of the cold war. For some, the dual process of integration and fragmentation which characterize the contemporary world mean that much more attention should be given to ‘societal security’. Buzan states that when this discussion is in the context of the international system, security is about the ability of states and societies to maintain their independent identity and their functional integrity’. Booth and Wheeler believe that ‘Stable security can only be achieved by people and groups if they do not deprive others of it; this can be achieved if security is conceived as a process of emancipation.’ In the context of Ghana the process of emancipation could mean freedom from environmental and ecological degradation, corruption, injustice or for example, the effects of load shedding because it can subvert the country’s industrialization and the people's lifestyles?

Load shedding, defined as when there is not enough electricity available to meet the demand from for example, all ECG’s customers, it could be necessary to interrupt supply to certain areas. Load shedding is further described as a last resort measure. Only when all other options at ECG/VRA’s disposal have been exhausted, such as running its power stations at maximum capacity and interrupting supply to industrial customers with special contracts will for example, ECG/VRA cut supply to other customers. In the words of Arrivealive.co.za [3], power outages could remove important road safety features such as street lighting. “This makes it extremely difficult for motorists to spot road hazards such as potholes, debris and even pedestrians on the road surface… During load shedding it is possible that hijackers and “smash and grab” criminals might see an opportunity for themselves – be attentive and raise your levels of awareness!” It is said that in the US load shedding affects internal security, enabling thieves to have a field day in businesses with business and store employees stealing the most by far - a whopping 48%.[4]

In the historical debate about how best to achieve national security, Machiavelli, and Rousseau [2] tended to paint a rather pessimistic picture of the implications of state sovereignty. In the words of Baylis & Smith [ibid], the international system was viewed as rather brutal arena in which states would seek to achieve their own security at the expense of their neighbours. Thus, interstate relations such as that of Ghana and Nigeria, for example, could be seen as a struggle for power as states constantly attempt to take advantage of each other. This view holds that permanent peace between Ghana and Nigeria- the country’s current and major gas supplier, speculatively, cannot always be guaranteed. So all that states could do was to try and balance the power of other states to prevent anyone from achieving overall hegemony. This was a view which was shared by writers, like E.H. Carr and Hans Morgenthau, who developed what became known as the realist school of thought in the aftermath of World War II.

Admittedly, John Herz [2] talks of security dilemma, first clearly articulated in the 1950s. It states: ‘a structural notion in which the self-help attempts of states to look after their security needs, tend regardless of intention to lead to rising insecurity for others as each interprets its own measures as defensive and the measures of others as potentially threatening’ According to this view, in a self-help environment, like the international system, states are faced with an ‘unreasonable uncertainty’ about the military preparations made by other states. Are they designed simply for their own defence or are they part of a more aggressive design. It is said that because the uncertainty is unreasonable, states are like to remain mistrustful of each other. Thus at the root of the security dilemma, therefore, are mistrust and fear. Yes, Herz and others, were obviously, much concerned about the outcome of battle preparations and confrontations. More recently, economic, ecological and environmental considerations are the focus.

In the findings of Owen Greene [6] since the late 1960s, awareness of the risks and implications of a wide range of international environmental problems has increased greatly. It has become clear that most of the world’s seas and oceans are over-fished. Soil is being degraded eroded on a large scale throughout the world. Natural habitats are being destroyed: for example the area of tropical rainforest has reduced by over 50 per cent since 1950, and the process continues largely unabated. As a result, tens of thousands of species of plants and animals are probably becoming each year endangered. The dumping of waste products into the sea, air, and land means that pollution problems are ubiquitous. Huge quantities of waste, including hazardous chemicals, heavy metals, and radioactive materials, have been dumped at the sea, either directly or carried by rivers. Together with sewage and oil spills, these have profoundly damaged sea environments, with lakes semi-enclosed seas proving particularly vulnerable. As a result, billions of people, as Greene puts it, suffer daily air pollution. Acid rain, stratospheric ozone depletion, and climate change are major regional or global problems arising from atmospheric pollution.

We cannot talk about Ghana’s insecurity without reference to the ongoing deforestation and soil degradations through [il]legal mining and sanitation, not forgetting offshore fishing with chemicals in our water bodies. Of course Greene [6] observes that environmental problems are not new. “Human societies have long had a major impact on their environment. Their tendency to exploit it as it were an inexhaustible resource has repeatedly led to disaster, sometimes leading to the loss of entire human communities. Over much of human history, however, the environmental impacts of over exploitation or pollution have typically been quite local. Communities could often escape the consequences of such activities moving on to relatively unspoilt areas. Even if they could not, the local impoverishment did not necessary affect the continue well-being of neighboring societies. Widespread industrialization and rapid population growth changed this situation. Severe environmental damage unsustainable exploitation occurred over whole regions of the world. By the late 16th century, the impacts had become truly global.”

Photo Reporting- Ghana’s Rain Forest Under Siege

Besides the threats of environmental and ecological degradation is the perception or should we say, the reality of corruption in Ghanaian society. In the words of Yury Fedotov- the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [7], corruption is a global threat and a serious roadblock to economic development. “Corruption aggravates inequality and injustice, and undermines stability, especially in the world's most vulnerable regions.” As EndTheInjustice.org [8] puts it, there are many injustices in our world; the well-known being poverty. “Almost half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day. At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. Human slavery – there are more slaves today than at any time in human history. Many are children. It is estimated that 2 children per minute are trafficked for sexual exploitation [Homelessness and Online child pornography]. Children without a mother and a father – some have said that there are 143 million orphans living in our world today.”

In the words of EndTheInjustice [ibid], for the most part, we do not realize the injustice around us because we are driven by our society and the culture we live in. “For many, entertainment is the center of our lives. We live in a “ME” society. We are surrounded by advertisements that focus on the promotion of self or the encouragement of self. We are inundated by a “ME” society, preventing us to recognize the world of hunger, poverty, child sex slavery, unjust death and many others. In order to step out of our comfort, we need to take a proactive approach to educating ourselves of the injustices around us.” On 29 March 2010, moderators Jill Severn and Jan Levinson[9], of the Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia, led a community forum on the issue of “America's Role in the World: What Does National Security Mean in the 21st Century” ‐ part of the Life and Legacy of Jeannette Rankin Program Series.

The quest was how US citizens think their elected leaders should go about securing their nation: does it lie on strengthening the military or balancing the budget? Or perhaps it’s an issue of its active participation in a global society– working with other countries to find collaborative solutions to issues like overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, global warming, pandemics, and food shortages. It was submitted that the US is a bully and that is a perception held by many countries around the world. It was offered among others that the US should be a place that supports diplomacy and democratic ideals, that as a nuclear power it is seen as a protector for other nations. “When prompted to return to the question of the essential components for ensuring national security, the crowd brought a variety of issues and seemed to feel that the essential question went beyond a discussion of national defense or international trade policies and into the deep bipartisan rift that now divides Americans and American politicians. They agreed that the media has played a role in cultivating this rift, as well as in creating a heightened sense of insecurity. The three approaches outlined by the issue guide are culled fully as follows:

Approach 1: National Security Means Safeguarding the United States. This approach suggests that our global objective must always be to maintain the safety of the United States and its citizens. We must give national security the highest priority and recognize that terrorism and unstable nations are our greatest threats, while not ignoring conventional threats either.

Approach 2: National Security Depends on Putting Our Economic House in Order With such significant economic issues facing us, we need to focus on eliminating our staggering public indebtedness and improving the balance of trade. This means spending less on the military and reducing the amount of money that flows overseas.

Approach 3: National Security Means Recognizing that Global Threat Today’s challenges face everyone on the planet, not just one nation. We must take a leadership role in working with other nations to address long‐term threats to humanity: nuclear proliferation, environmental devastation and climate change, pandemics, overpopulation and food shortages, and the depletion of natural resources.

Is National Security the most essential function of government? The crowd countered this question offered by approach one, by offering another: what do we mean when we say “national security”?

Some said that the U.S. meddles too much and that often its intervention is inspired by the prospect of economic or political gain. Many issues were raised but most relevant to our case are that most in the crowd strongly opposed the suggestion that the U.S. should increase military spending and questioned the effectiveness of the war on terrorism, describing it as “covert” and “misguided”. When asked what should be cut in order to reduce the national debt several suggested the military budget. This lead the discussion back to a question of political motives and the idea that many times wars are promulgated because of the inherent profits they yield to many industries. On approach three- bipartisan politics and division in the US, nearly all participants agreed that the United States should work with other countries to attack global threats, but feared that the lack of bipartisan efforts in the Congress could stand in the way of these efforts; if we can’t get along with each other, how can we collaborate with other countries?


In this article we have attempted to show that the traditional notion of national defence or security where politics had been preoccupied with show-of-force and armaments; are gradually giving way to a more responsible leadership where government expenditure takes account of fighting corruption, effects of load shedding, judicial improprieties, environmental and ecological injustices and the mystery of its impoverished citizens who live on less than US$1 day; rather than erection of police-cum-military road blocks and check-points which as history had shown, could not even stop the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989.

Asante Fordjour authored this Compilation and Commentary for The OmanbaPa Research Group.





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