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Jun 15, 2010 | Commentary

A spate of attacks by soldiers targeting police officers has underscored the need for security sector reform to establish clear oversight mechanisms and delineate security roles for the police and armed forces in Ghana. Critics have said that the official response to the incident—in-house investigation by the military and a joint police-military meeting or “durbar”—is too shallow and a “public gimmick.”

Tensions flared between soldiers and police officers in Kumasi, Ghana in early June, when several separate assaults carried by soldiers out over two days left 12 police personnel injured and police property destroyed. The attacks began Friday after a police officer attempted to arrest a soldier riding an unlicensed motorcycle. The soldier threatened to return with reinforcements and attack the police officer, and made good on the threat later that day. Over the next two days, more than a dozen police officers across the city were assaulted by soldiers. In response, members of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service in Kumasi have stayed home since Monday, refusing to work in a dangerous environment.

Conflict between the military and police is not uncommon in Ghana, according to a Security Analyst at the Kofi Annan International Peace-Keeping Training Centre, Dr. Kwesi Ennin. Dr. Ennin stated that “there has been a longstanding split tension between them, which he partly blames on the outdated nature of the security legislation governing their operations.”

How to handle the investigation of the incident is another contentious issue. Sam Okudzeto, a former President of Ghana’s Bar Association, suggested that the President should establish an investigative committee. Security analyst Emmanuel Sowatey suggested that the committee be made up of members of the Ghana Bar Association, Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), as well as retired police and military officers.

The Defence and Interior Ministers are scheduled to meet to attempt to find a solution to the conflict, but critics say this is not enough. Mr. Okudzeto says that “I don’t know what they are going to resolve, we need to find out what the problem is because there’s been too much white-washing in the country. When something happens, we just brush it under the carpet. The two of them can sit down and talk, but it is not going to solve the problem because we don’t know what the cause or causes are. That is why we need an external agent not the two of them, an external agent to do the enquiry” he noted.