The role of the military and its desirability in the maintenance of law and order in Ghana

The writer, Kojo Asiamah Addo is a Social Policy and Communications Campaign person with over a decade of experience in social advocacy campaigns, community development strategies, and corporate communications.


According to the classical theory of the state, the fundamental role of the state is the maintenance of law and order. This is because the presence of law and order in society promotes higher levels of economic and social development. Law and order mean ensuring the peace that an ordinary person requires to follow the land’s rule. All governments and all states are deeply accountable and responsible. The order does exist without law meaning that there is no need for one state. If the law exists without order, then a State’s existence is just an idea, not reality. The two terms stand for ‘right’ and ‘powers’ and when the two converge and coexist side by side, an ideal situation is established.

The establishment of full-spectrum operations as the operational concept of the Army and the shift to a doctrine where simultaneous and equal emphasis is placed on offense, defense, and stability or civil support was the catalyst in a major shift in military planners’ and commanders’ thinking. Current doctrine and policy affirm that the ultimate measure of any major operation’s success is usually not realized by operations where the dominant types are attack and defense (traditional military operations). Law and order operations include police activities and associated law enforcement activities to monitor and protect communities and services to promote the development of a lawful and orderly environment. Maintaining law and order is one of the Government’s most important tasks, as a change in society is impossible without peace and security. Maintaining law and order requires two aspects: the general identification and prevention of violence, and the prevention and quelling of protests and other significant disturbances.

Law enforcement involves all operations conducted by personnel approved by the legal authority to compel and prosecute infringements, rules, instructions, and punitive regulations. Law enforcement takes place in direct support of justice and the rule of law; moreover, there must be a regulatory framework in place for law enforcement to occur. 

Rule of law has been described in various terms, but in this context, a comprehensive definition like the one used by the United Nations is quite useful. The UN defines the rule of law as, “The principle of governance in which all persons, institutions, and entities, public or private including the state itself are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards”. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency. 

When legal systems are weak and law enforcement is unpredictable and arbitrary, they continue to distort economic transactions, promote rent-seeking practices, and hinder national growth. Where adherence to the rule of law is poor, privacy oversight is poor. Related law and order components include property rights, the judiciary, police, internal security, and shadow economies. 

The military and police are to a greater or lesser extent the oppressive instrument that underpins all systems of law. The military also functions to provide domestic order guarantee that specifically includes domestic civil disturbance or dispute law enforcement. In the aftermath of the violent ethnic conflicts between the Dagombas, Gonjas, and Konkombas in 1994, the GAF engaged in local peacekeeping in the Dagbon / Konkomba / Nanumba areas of the Northern Region and the upper fringes of the Volta Region, and also still maintaining peace in Bawku to assist the Kusasis and Mamprusis in finding peace. Joint military/police patrols covering all major cities and towns to combat armed robbery; there are also operations in support of the land and forestry ministries to search for illegal logging. 

The rule of law is the basis on which the legal system is built so that it is equitable and fair treatment, investigation, adjudication, and punishment of criminal offenses. Military police carry out and support activities in the full range of legal systems, from established and mature legal structures to quasi-anarchical systems (such as those present in Iraq immediately after the collapse of the Ba’athist regime). A criminal justice system based on the rule of law provides the rules and the legal structure needed for law and order operations, primarily law enforcement.

A functioning criminal justice system includes three separate but related and complementary legal functions — judicial, regulatory, and correctional — to operate effectively; these functions are essential to sustaining the integrity of the rule of law and civil authority. The roles of the criminal justice system are strongly intertwined and interrelated. Military police perform all three roles, but they provide the identifying strategic elements in law enforcement, correction, and detention activities. Military police support the government’s rule of law and legitimacy through law enforcement, correction and detention activities, and the professional and ethical methods that characterize their behavior. The professional and ethical execution of all domains within the rule of law is critical to establishing and assuring government legitimacy in the eyes of the people. For example, military police work closely with local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement organizations within the country and its territories during normal operations and defense support of the events of civilian authorities (such as during natural disasters or large-scale disruptions to the social order) within the limits of established laws.

For instance, section 217(2) (c) of the 1999 Constitutions of Nigeria empowers the military to operate in support of the civil government. In disaster management, danger, and other emergencies, the military plays a contemporary role in various ways to alleviate socio-economic stress. The unique essence of military preparation, discipline, and efficient coordination blends all to illustrate the value of national armed disaster prevention, risk reduction, and management. Each time it calls the Nigerian nation has stepped up to challenges. The Nigerian Amy Engineers were called upon to build bailey bridges during the recent flood in Sokoto to facilitate the movement of internally displaced persons into the safety zones. Similarly, when a state apart from Taraba was virtually cut off, military engineers helped restore the people’s socio-economic life. Nigeria’s armed forces have also played some roles in the search and rescue area. For example, the Nigeria air force was involved in the search and rescue and identification of crash sites during the tragic air crashes of the past like the Ejigbo, Lisa, and Abuja air disasters.

Furthermore, the conduct of military police and law enforcement directs their roles and desirability in maintaining law and order. Such values reflect dominant aspects of the policing practices commonly found in Western culture-influenced societies. Soldiers and members of the military police use these concepts to direct the use of policing operations as they form their operating climate. 

Prevention emphasizes the military police’s proactive actions to prevent and deter crime and stop the disruption of civil order. The goal is to be proactive and prevent criminal activity and potential disruptions to military operations that threaten lines of effort. The key to prevention programs is an aggressive integrated police intelligence capability to document and analyze criminals, criminal activity, and conditions conducive to crime leading to trends, patterns, or associations being identified. This ability can lead to the development of policy strategies to prevent or mitigate criminal activities and disruptive activities. If preventive systems fail, the military police are equipped with rapid response functions and problems that arise from accidents will be resolved. Public support requires a time of preventive action commensurate with the danger, the risk to public safety, and the conditions for mission success. For example, violent crimes have gone up sharply in South Africa. As a result, military personnel was required to support police services. High rates of crime pose a significant danger to the developing South African democracy. Violent crime also results in the tragic loss of life or death, and the loss of property and livelihoods due to crime is incalculable.  Although the Constitution1 provides for the South African Police Service (SAPS) to be the institution responsible for combating crime, the Constitution does not place the entire burden on the police to combat crime in the same breath. For this particular case, the job of the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) was included in the fight to promote and keep order and to improve informal controls

Police operations and initiatives are usually improved when police are assisted by the actions of the concerned people. Military police carry out operations of law and order in a way that encourages the building of public trust through regular and consistent contact with a community. Military police can attain public support through efforts of police involvement to educate and inform the community. Police engagement provides a connection to the public and other police entities and is conducted in all environments, whether during traditional law enforcement activities or in support of full-spectrum operations by police and protection activities. 

Military police and other forces are engaged in policing operations within local communities to demonstrate discretion in their use of force to induce people and others to comply. Military police are specifically trained to involve the public and the community within the rules for the use of force and rules of engagement, applying only the level of force required to fulfill their mission. The responsible and calculated use of force is also crucial to winning and retaining public support. Excessive force will alienate the public, weaken police efforts, and challenge friendly forces. Police operations also complement other methods of graded response designed to reduce terrorism and disorder within an environment by minimizing the unnecessary escalation of force. Criminal activity, assault, residential burglary, industrial burglary, car theft, and cash-in-transit assault can be assessed monthly for each district of the police station. This encourages the Police to follow the rule of law. Hotspot policing is a type of police work that focuses on identifying locations where crime is concentrated and implementing problem-solving responses. In this case, crime information systems such as global positioning systems (GIS) are used to locate areas that include large clusters of events (hotspots). The SANDF executes these tasks effectively in coordination with the SAPS. This strategy is used to deploy SANDF personnel in areas like shopping malls, taxi ranks, and townships where crime rates are high.


The military police and security forces build trust within a population through professional behavior. Police authority is generally accepted as legitimate when it is sanctioned by the competent authority and when it fairly and impartially applies laws or mandates. These actions include consistency in applying policing activities within a community. Military police and other policing elements always avoid any appearance of ethnicity, religious or political affiliation, and personal bias. Failure to do so can result in a loss of public support and may lead to confrontation or reprisal. Military police and other police staff maintain a professional look and demeanor. They deal with the public in a strong and unbiased way that leads to an effective problem, situation, or incident resolution. In the view of the public and other policing agencies, maintaining a professional police picture is key to credibility. For example, Senegal too, through a common civil-military partnership known as the Armée-Nation, has engaged its military in some public works projects. The Senegalese Armed Forces through Armée-Nation support the development of infrastructure, national service, and environmental protection. Working with civilians to improve their lives while staying apolitical and professional has created a process of goodwill, respect, trust, and confidence between the Senegalese people and the military that has strengthened itself.

Military Police are responsible for ensuring that they carry out policing and security operations that function in a way that can withstand public scrutiny. To the greatest extent possible, policies, established principles, leadership intentions, and corrective actions affecting police operations should be open and accessible to the community. Such acts allow for public knowledge, oversight, and transparency of the leadership of the military police and other security personnel performing police activities.

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