Captain Budu Koomson was recently invited by the security agencies as having come to security notice due to an interview he granted to an Accra-based radio station on his views about the security situation in the country. The whole affair has indeed been blown out of proportion.
Here are the facts:
1. He was NOT speaking in his capacity as the Chief Operating Officer of the UT Group, owners of UT Bank. He was speaking in connection with his position as the honouree of the Security & Intelligence Studies Fellowship at IMANI.
2. He was drawing on the work he has been doing in guiding IMANI to develop some functional capacity in an area where the organisation is exceptionally weak. Despite the emergence and importance of ‘human security’ as a critical link across multiple disciplines: economics, sociology, social psychology, and traditional security, among others, IMANI has not been at its best when incorporating this framework into its work.
3. The invitation issued to Captain Koomson by the security agencies was made to look like a summons to someone whose actions are considered inimical to national security. This is deeply regrettable, and this action of the security services amounts to an attack on academic freedom.
4. Captain Koomson is eminently qualified to research into and discuss security matters from a dispassionate, professional, yet patriotic, point of view. He was a frontline participant in attempts to quell at least three major mutinies and coups in this country.
5. He has been adjuctant at some of our most sensitive military installations, and was at one point a leading officer of the Presidential Guards Corp of this country. In fact, he had to spend decades in exile in view of his complete opposition to coups in Ghana. He represents no security threat to the state. Rather he is a fount of wisdom in these matters that the professional research community, and indeed the security services, can tap into for keener insights into security failures at the highest echelons of the security establishment.
6. The area of regime collapse and coup d’etats in Ghana has been far less studied than most people suppose. It offers a fertile space for new research thinking. Already, the eminent security theorist, Dr. Kwesi Aning, widely noted for his seminal work on civil-military relations in Ghana, has begun to take on Captain Koomson for some of Captain’s hypotheses on the ‘socio-psychological triggers’ of regime collapse in Ghana. That is the very essence of scholarship and debate. Scholars, authorities and practitioners of deep experience counter each other with competing hypotheses, thereby advancing the state of knowledge in the field. All over the civilised world, security operatives learn from such work. They do not rush to curtail these precious academic freedoms.
7. Professional and academic research is meaningless if it does not filter into the public domain. The way to prevent weak and perverse ideas from contaminating the public mind is not to drive them underground but to let them crumble in the presence of stronger ideas. That is why the public sphere is ultimately one of the most important stages for examining ideas. An idea that remains confined to academia has not yet truly arrived.
8. Captain Koomson’s media comment on coups in Ghana drew on ongoing work, and has obviously been badly misrepresented. Some of the key points to note are that:
A. Coups in Ghana have not all been of the same flavour. One can discern three broad types: military takeovers with the complicity of the high command (eg. General Akufo’s removal of General Acheampong, and the JWK Halley – Kotoka led overthrow of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah), mutiny-triggered coups by disaffected other-ranks and junior officers (eg. the Rawlings coups), and regime displacement by a sub-command with a coherent, intact, internal structure (the Akyeampong coup).
B. Ghana has never had a civilian-led coup (such as, for eg., the Charles Taylor coup in Liberia), or an invasion-triggered coup (eg. the overthrow of Field Marshall Idi Amin in Uganda). Though both types have been attempted, or are believed to have been attempted, in Ghana.
C. Though coups have become a matter for caricature nowadays, they DON’T NEED TO SUCCEED or be popular to cause immense havoc in Ghana. THIS IS A KEY POINT.
D. Coups are NOT necessarily the direct result of socio-economic disaffection. Rather, well orchestrated perceptions of such disaffection CAN BE HARNESSED to trigger a COUP SITUATION. Such a situation may even be instigated by mercenaries, and whether such a situation progresses to actual regime collapse or is aborted, it can engender permanent cracks in the security structures of the state, leaving the country’s immune system weak and vulnerable to other poisons. The failure or otherwise of the actual regime displacement attempt is not the critical factor, it is the consequences of any such attempt for democracy, social cohesion, human rights, and economic stability THAT ARE MOST CRITICAL in any discussion of this matter. And let us remember, a failed coup attempt could set off a chain of other equally destabilising occurrences such as dispersed or concentrated inter-ethnic conflict, which is no mean a mess by itself.
E. The management of the GENERAL SECURITY situation requires that political leaders not take such important matters for granted. The current situation where all key ministries and castle posts have been filled, yet the holders of the most sensitive security positions have not still been confirmed in their posts or new ones appointed should fill all cautious observers with anxiety . The political leadership may argue that there is no vacuum at present, but they cannot ignore the expectations that customary practice has created: a new president must publicly confirm the security chiefs or appoint new ones. Presently, the positions of Head of BNI, Head of Research Department of the Foreign Ministry (external intelligence), Head of Military Intelligence, Head of the Police CID, National Security Coordinator, and National Security Adviser are affected by this ‘limbo’.
F. It will be foolhardy to assume that the ongoing presidential election petition hearing could not be misused by some hostile power to create a state of emergency in Ghana. Captain Koomson asserts that the interactions among key stakeholders (including the political parties) and the security services should be both covert and public and should be designed with a view to managing the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling according to the different outcomes possible.
G. Here is the crux of his argument: in all serious countries, SCENARIO MODELLING is a key security planning tool used to anticipate and mitigate risks. SCENARIO PLANNING requires that a possible outcome, however undesirable, be carefully considered and modeled for the right response measures to be adopted.
H. A coup d’etat, much as we all hate the very idea of it, is not alien to our security environment and requires scenario planning. Here is where Captain Koomson differs from Dr. Aning. During the Cold War, countries on both sides of the iron curtain developed public drills and public scenario models for potential nuclear threats. Those who have read even FICTION BOOKS by the likes of Tom Clancy must be familiar with the open and wide-ranging ways in which threats to countries on both sides of the iron curtain were discussed and even fantasised about. In fact, today, the same is the case with terrorism in Europe and America. All sorts of scenarios and perceived weaknesses in national security infrastructure related to terrorism are widely and openly discussed in order to bolster national preparedness plans.
I. The reaction of the security agencies to Captain Koomson’s intellectual exercise shows a woeful lack of tolerance for this kind of rigorous examination of the national security plan and system. This lack of tolerance could hide a serious lack of preparedness. In serious countries, classified material remains effective only because of the huge amount of analysis that goes into non-classified material. In the end only the most tested and best developed plans and systems REMAIN CLASSIFIED because researchers are always pushing the boundaries and compelling security chiefs to improve upon national security plans and systems. The tendency to keep *everything* out of the public gaze removes the incentive to enhance national security planning that can be caused by detailed public scrutiny and examination.
9. Captain Komsoon has opened the door for open, deep, candid, intellectually rigorous, analysis of Ghana’s national security readiness and the soundness of our national security response mechanisms. If the Emperor has no clothes it is only a matter of time before we are all the wiser. It is only a matter of time before the false notion that absolute secrecy means absolute security will fall like a broken idol upon its face.
10. Captain Koomson is a loyal patriot, and a law abiding citizen of Ghana. He is ever willing to engage constructively with the security services within the context of his research activities, and to debate with others of similar interests on ways of bolstering the national security plan. As a matter of fact, so is IMANI.
Interested readers may visit IMANI’s website for the full audio clip of Captain Budu Koomson’s original interview that led to his invitation by the security services. www.imanighana.org / www.africanliberty.org