Updates on my journey into the professionalism of the Ghana Armed Forces and peacekeeping

by tuftsigl
Feb 05

With generous funding from the Institute of Global Leadership, I was able to travel to Ghana to research the professionalism of the Ghana Armed Forces and international peace support operations—which is for my capstone thesis and a requirement for my graduation from the Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy program at The Fletcher School-Tufts University. I arrived in Ghana on a warm night on the 27th December 2015. It had been over one and half years since I was in the country. As a Ghanaian, and having been away for graduate studies in the United States, it was a joyful moment to be back to the homeland. It was a moment when all the nostalgic pangs began to dissipate. The next day, I found myself at my favorite spot in Accra (the 37 Military Hospital bus terminal) reliving my favorite past habit and routine: drinking coconut water instead of just water.

Of course, being home, I took a few days before my research to visit families and reconnect with my networks. So many things had changed within the past several months in Ghana. Politics was intense; infrastructure grew; but constant was the bustle of the city of Accra-Ghana’s capital. The hopping onto the ’trotros’ (Ghanaian term for privately-owned public transportation), the catching up with friends, and the reconnection with my former professors at the University of Ghana proved as a side benefit to my research trip. In fact, the latter was very helpful in shaping my research with their invaluable insights and also connecting me with some high ranking military officers to talk to.

My first assignment was to get in touch with my former research and International Relations professors at the University of Ghana who have expertise on my research area for their comments and also to finalize the ethics review of my research. They supported my research and mentioned how unique it was in terms of focus and the fact that I am a civilian researching into the military—something not very common in the case of Ghana. One stated that it will be a herculean task to get to research into the military if you do not belong to the GAF or affiliated with any of their institutions, and that if I succeeded I would be one of the few to have done so, and also represent a mark of progress. This motivation served to be the energy that kept me going when I was literally ‘chasing’ military officers to talk to. The University of Ghana Balme Library also was helpful as I was able to go through some of its holdings on the GAF.

My next round of assignments was meeting staff at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College and also had the opportunity to use the Peacekeepers Library—reserved for only military officers. Meeting military officers was more difficult than I had expected. It took several schedules, schedule cancellations and rescheduling to finally get to talk to those I had arranged to meet. All of them were at least of the rank of colonels, and they were very professional in their interaction with me. I gained a lot of insight from them on Ghana’s role in international peacekeeping and the general nature and philosophies that guide the conduct of the GAF. They all had several international peacekeeping experiences and have all been commanders of missions in the past. Their personal experiences on peace missions across the globe which they shared with me were particularly invaluable.

A major part of my time was spent at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center (KAIPTC), a regional center of excellence in peace operations research and training. The KAIPTC is an integral part of the ministry of defense, and houses both academics and officers of the Ghana Armed Forces and Police.

At the KAIPTC, I got to interview both senior researchers at the center and military officers who I learnt a great deal from. Diving deeper into the literature at the center’s library, I found out one interesting revelation. Not so much has been written about the GAF by its officers. Most of the literature are memoires of retired officers. However there are few within the GAF who are making great strides into contributing to knowledge about its history and participation in peacekeeping. I was honored to get to interview one of such colonels whose recent book is published under the title Ghana Armed Forces in Lebanon and Liberia Peace Operations (Conflict and Security in the Developing World). The wealth of information from talking to these officers will in no doubt enrich my research.

This was overall a worthwhile research trip, and thanks to the IGL for making it possible. For the next several weeks, I will be completing deliverables of the research and translating this wealth of information into a complete capstone thesis.

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