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One Lisbon university professor on Social Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, Artur Victoria, strongly underscored the significance of national defence, when he postulated that “Sovereignty is closely linked to national defence, for without sovereignty there would be no independence of the State to rule over its territory, its people, to create its own laws and make its decisions in international relations independently and in accordance with the interests of population.”

He added that “even the United Nations Assembly echoed this assertion when it stated in Article 2 of the United Nations Charter respect for the sovereignty of the UN member states and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, which guarantees the peoples exclusive authority to establish rules within their country.” Artur Victoria, National Defence-New Concepts;

Artur defines defence policy as the “set of policies and strategies, based primarily on the military and diplomatic expressions of national power, aimed at neutralizing any national or external threats or attacks on national security as well contribute to national development.” He adds that national defence has the function of preserving and protecting the country’s “National interests abroad, preserving the integrity of people over its jurisdiction and contributing to peace and security.”

Furthermore, he asserts that “A Nation needs a culture of Defence” and that it is “necessary that each country should provide its internal and external security by developing military power, a diplomatic activity and an Intelligence Service.” He again postulated that “Diplomacy has a very important role to play in peaceful negotiation of conflict resolution between nations and in case the litigation cannot be solved by any means other than the use of force there is the use of the country’s armed forces.”

Artur’s definition is preferred especially because historically the armed forces of every nation has been responsible for their national defence. Embedded also in Artur’s definition is his assertion that there exists a powerful nexus between national defence and national development. Unfortunately, although the armed forces as an institution is one of the main elements of national power, most people, including the elite, academia and even the legislature do not seem to adequately appreciate the role of the military in statecraft. This is clearly exemplified with the continued habit of Legislatures in so many countries, which carelessly slash defence budgets. In fact, Artur rightly views such slashing of budgets as unfortunate and stresses that every reduction of the defence budget is an “inevitable decline of the national power ….” of that country.

One has to emphasise that it is the national defence policy, which outlines the guidelines to be followed to achieve a desired national defence system and security of the state. Out of the defence policy should flow the necessary military strategies, plans, programmes and budgets that would guide its implementation.
The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) stresses the critical

requirement for every government to exercise “continued political and bureaucratic oversight of defence policies and activities to ensure that the policy settings remain relevant and that the activities contribute to policy ends.” DCAF insists that “if specific policy implementation does not work new methods of implementation might be needed, or in the worst case the policy might need to be revised and that when “policy settings … become irrelevant to the strategic, political, economic, technological or social environment … a new policy development round is likely to be necessary.” DCAF, Security Sector Integrity: (;).

A defence policy is a public document that should not be shrouded in secrecy but be seen as dictating how things should be done in the defence sector. It is thus wrong for the military to monopolise the formulation of a national defence policy because such attitude would result in the creation of not only an incoherent document, but it would fail to realistically capture the goals, values, history and strategic interests of the nation. The views of strategic institutions like Intelligence Agencies, Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Interior, Finance, etc., as well as those of non-state actors like those from academia, civil society, etc., should be sought, discussed and possibly incorporated in the final document.

Essentially, a workable defence policy takes note of the relevant prevailing political, security, economic, domestic, etc., factors and threats, as well as the history and international relations environment of the nation and sets realistic objectives deemed necessary to attain national security goals and objectives. Its formulation follows a flexible methodology and could be produced every two to five years. Also, it has to be carefully formulated and thought through to include sufficient details to take care of both current, future and projected strategic conditions both within the nation and in the international environment.

Every defence policy draws its guidance from an overarching national security strategy. A National Security Strategy is simply defined as the “framework for a country to meet the basic needs and security concerns of citizens and address external and internal threats to the country”. (ISSAT; National Security Strategies: The difference between a defence policy and security strategy policy is that while defence policies deal primarily with military issues, national security is a lot broader and encapsulates the application of political, economic, military power and diplomacy by governments to pursue vital national interests and objectives. Simply put, a national security strategy should normally be the source document in formulating a defence policy. Nonetheless, some developing nations do not have well-articulated national security strategies but have relied on documents that detail some strategic guidance and directives from the Executive Branch to draft their Defence Policies.
Although Ghana and West Africa are generally experiencing some level of economic prosperity, non-conventional security trends in the form of asymmetrical threats and political instability

should shape the defence structure of most of her nations. West African states need to modernise their armed forces in order to address these emerging threats to ensure their sovereignty, continued prosperity and territorial integrity. A coherent defence policy is arguably the best tool or instrument that could be employed to produce comprehensive strategies which would drive this military moderinisation process to secure and protect national interests.

The Government of Ghana is arguably responsible for the defence of the state and her territorial landspace, with the President as the Commander In Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF). However, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) provides the policy framework as well as the professional capability and resources for GAF to execute this responsibility. Normal good governance practices demand that MOD obtains the relevant defence policy directions from the Government (through a Government White Paper) and ensures their implementation in coordination with Ghana’s General Headquarters and Army, Navy and Air Force Service Headquarters. In the case of Ghana, directives from the National Security Council as well as the security architecture as provided in the Security and Intelligence Agencies Act – 1996 (ACT 526), etc., could be relied on in formulating the defence policy.

Defence policies definitely differ from one another because as already alluded to, a realistic defence policy should be derived from every nation’s unique strategic environment, history and aspirations of its people. Nonetheless, all defence strategies should address as many areas as possible. This could include the following:

a. The primary agency responsible for implementing the defence policy; its mandate and governance structure/organization; its mission, vision, strategic objectives; critical appointment holders responsible for the operationalisation of the defence policy, etc.

b. A detailed analysis of the national security environment and indicate possible domestic and international threats including emerging ones. The threat analysis should not fail to include details of insurgent movements, which still pose existential threats to the state. In line with this, a Nigeria defence policy, for instance, could list the Biafran insurgency as posing a continuing threat to the nation. Ghana, on her part, could mention ‘TOLIMO’ and West Togoland activists and militants as a threat to the nation and therefore direct close monitoring of their activities.

c. Most defence policies focus on the core objectives of national self defence and national prosperity. According to the 1992 Constitution, Ghana’s defence forces are purely for self defence. This contrasts with those of Russia, UK, USA, etc., whose defence forces are definitely for both self defence and power projection. There are definitely other periphery objectives, which for Ghana coul be prioritised as including the safety and security of the major natural resources like gold, timber and oil and gas fields, assisting to ensure internal security, combating terrorism and narcotics trade, cross border crimes, as well as ensuring safety of the country’s major dams, bridges and other infrastructural facilities, disaster management, crisis management, support to the national authority (as is the case with joint military/police operations to combat illegal mining and degradation normally called ‘Galamsey’), etc.

d. Ghana’s defence policy could critically analyse available military resources to determine whether or not they are sufficient to defend the nation. If a nation is incapable of sufficiently resourcing the military, it could establish international alliances for other nations to assist during specified national emergencies. NATO is an excellent example of such an alliance. Ghana’s defence policy could therefore call for increased diplomatic efforts to deepen the alliance among ECOWAS states in the spheres of military, intelligence sharing, special forces, cyber warfare, counter insurgency, etc., capabilities. Additionally, a defence policy could request for the creation of new military service forces like marine forces in order to contain a looming national security threat that has a maritime perspective. Furthermore, a defence policy could direct the creation of a robust military reserve force, the modification of the ethnic composition of her armed forces as well as the upgrading the academic quality of human resource personnel of the military.

e. A defence policy could also emphasise conditions under which her military would undertake operations beyond her national borders. The policy could, for instance, indicate the types of power projection, international peacekeeping operations, international crisis management missions, etc., the military may participate in. It is instructive to add that utilising military forces for international diplomacy through joint/combined training programmes, military exchange programmes, international peacekeeping, etc., for example, could be highly advantageous in securing a nation’s national interests. In respect of deploying for international peacekeeping operations, a realistic defence policy should specify the maximum number of military units that may externally deploy at any particular time so that the nation’s security is not undermined.

f. Every modern and effective military force should develop a strategy for continually applying technology and research and development (R&D) in its operations. The strategic independence technology and R&D can bring to every military force and on the balance of forces in the international arena can never to over-estimated. A researcher, Alex Roland of Foreign Policy Research Institute, stated in his article, “War and Technology”, (2009), that “the most important verb describing the impact of technology on warfare is that it changes warfare” and that “technology has been the primary source of military innovation throughout history.” The impact of airplanes, ships, radars, missiles, tanks, drones, satellites, computers, GPS, etc., clearly underline the impact of technology on warfare. A nation can apply technology in its warfare if it adopts them from industry through realistic R&D. Roland explains that Dionysius I, a 14th century “tyrant of Syracuse … recruited knowers and doers from around the Mediterranean to work in his arsenal to develop new machines of war, perhaps the first instance of a research and development laboratory.” Developing nations like Ghana have not gotten to the stage to manufacture their own aircraft, ships, radars, etc., but they could start by producing uniforms, trucks, small arms, ammunition, etc., in order to create defence forces that are sufficiently independent. The creation of the Defence Industries Department by the Ghana Armed Forces is thus in the right direction and must be vigorously pursued to realise set objectives.

g. A realistic defence policy budgets for the resources required to meet set goals. For example, due to a nation’s prevailing strategic environment her defence policy could call for the

procurement of additional maritime ships and aircraft in order to protect her Economic Exclusive Zone against piracy, fish poaching, or to safeguard its contested oil and gas fields. The drafters of such a defence policy should establish the budget required for such plans and determine whether they could be actualised.

h. The defence policy could give special directives for local and external intelligence gathering, crisis management, etc., activities. This could involve recruitments, higher training standards, etc.

There is definitely a symbiotic relationship between national defence and national development because national defence facilitates a reasonable security state that guarantees security, public order, peace, prosperity, well-being, etc., of her people. A well-articulated and realistic defence policy has immense psychological and deterrent values that go a long way to ensure the nation’s sovereignty and resilience. A defence policy should be a widely discussed flexible and public document that captures realistic strategic end states and addresses national security interests.

Brig Gen Samuel Yanyi-Akofur (Rtd)
M.Sc., Strategic Studies


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