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The Consequences of Military Intervention in Politics

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A generation ago, the term “military” was never uttered in the same breath as compared to contemporary days. Military interventions in politics are very common booth in developing democratic or totalitarian regimes. The various interventions of the military in politics were and did not occur merely for its sake. There are many forms of military intervention. Until the last decade or so ,military force was used most often to achieve a state’s geopolitical goal of protecting and or enhancing its territory, population and other critical resources .in other to really understand the pros and cons of military intervention in politics, one has to first understand what the term military is about, its existence and why it exists. Military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually use of weapons, in defending its country by combatting actual or perceived threats against the state. The need to consolidate power has opened up for the struggle for power at all levels within society even outside elections. The presence of opposition groups which do not share the same ideology with those in military has forced at times the military to intervene in political processes. The military is regarded as one of the most important institutions of every state .they are responsible for several functions which would be explained below in this write up. The military performs several vital functions in every state. Some of these include the following; maintenance of peace and public order, provision of education and public health, intervening in political processes, mark of sovereignty, provision of humanitarian needs. These and many more are the functions of the military in a state. Military intervention is an act made by active members of the military heads, outside the conventions of the military institution with the aim of disrupting the political status quo in pursuit of their political interest. The reasons for military intervention in politics are varied as they are in complexity. They range from personal grievances of civilian regimes to the political and economic sabotage of civilian government. The first aspect of this essay would deal with the five aforementioned functions of the military while the latter part would expound on reasons why the military intervenes in politics.

As mentioned earlier ,the functions of the military include; maintenance of peace, public order, provision of education and public health, intervening in political processes, mark of sovereignty, provision of humanitarian needs. These functions are further explained below.

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First and foremost is the maintenance of peace and public order. This can be done with or without arms. Promotion of peace entails several responsibilities. The military provide internal and external security in attempt to maintain peace and order. In ensuring internal security; the military plays several roles which include the following. Patrolling in and around the countryside is also another way the military support the maintenance of peace. Also they control riots if any as well as well as help in the settling of misunderstanding among groups of people. Examples include several cases when curfew had been placed in several parts of the country because of violence in such areas. They also engage in secret missions. The military also engage in counterinsurgency operations. In maintaining external security, the military ensures peace by promoting national defense thus waging offensive warfare against any intimidating agents in and around the boarders of the country. They also engage in diplomatic activities related to military security. For instance batches of military men engage in peace keeping missions as part of diplomatic responsibilities. The social history of nations is largely molded by the forms of development of their armed forces, the primary aim of national organization. “A military group feels instinctively that it is the best judge of the national security interest; it regard this prescience as part of its raison d’etre(reason for being)”.Kelly,297.(68).other things beings equal, the predominance of attack over defense promote the territorial concentration of political power(centralization),while if defense becomes the stronger form of warfare, a trend toward the territorial dispersion of political power(decentralization)is likely to ensue.

Education and provision of health service is also another function of the education, the military in states contributes to the enhancement of education of education. The military builds several of schools as part of their quota contribution towards the development of education. Also the military through its recruitment process indoctrinate the populace on measures to enhance personal and national security. As part of their education enhancement program, they provide training in basic skills (literacy) to their recruits. These skills ma include the use of modern technology, safety techniques etc. Militaries maintain public health programs by monitoring, preventing and treating infections that can reduce the operational effectiveness of their forces. To advance mission objectives or broader national goals, military forces may extend their public health capabilities to civilian populations not adequately served by civilian public health programs. For example in Ghana the 37 military hospitals is well noted for its achievement as far as top public hospitals in the country are concerned.

In the political realm, the military also performs a vital function known as intervening in political the absence of a well-organized political system; in this circumstance no force other than the army is capable of maintaining order and promoting public welfare. This is one of the very important functions of the military which may or may not be characterized by brutal action as in the case of several countries in Africa when the military take control. The military also contributes to decision making on political policy operating government, agencies and bureaus for instance the military is taking into consideration by the ministry of defense as well as the ministry of foreign affairs when making consensus on policies to be implemented.

Furthermore, the military is the mark of sovereignty in a state. The military groups have a fundamental attachment to an abstract construction which they usually call the “nation “and toleration of the “state “depends in part on their proximity to civilian thinking, in part on the states effective guardianship of what they consider as national ideals. The capacity for military establishment in new nations to intervene in domestics politics derives from its distinctive military format ,namely; its control of its instruments of violence ;the ethos of public service and, national identification, and its skill structure which combines managerial ability with heroic structure. The military also proclaim their mark of sovereignty through parades and other public ceremonies. Through this they symbolically represent and express support of the constitution.

Moreover the military aids in the provision of humanitarian needs. Disaster relief missions exhibited by military forces of other countries shows their support when it comes to matters concerning the welfare people around the world. These forces make significant contributions to multinational environment. For instance the response to the December 2004 Indian ocean earthquake and tsunami; Militaries from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan ,Sri lanka and Thailand among others contributed medical, logistical and engineering personnel, as well as airplanes ,helicopters and ships. When disasters occur in a country, the military aids in rescue mission to save victims of the incident. Several forces are dispatched with the support of technologies to help save victims of circumstances. They go beyond to provide shelter for such individuals. The military also may provide economic assistance to persons if the need arises as well as the social welfare of the populace.

There is no doubt that the use of force by the military to intervene in political activities is completely ruled out in democracy. However military intervention to some extent brings serenity in a state’s political activities .Military interventions do not come about out of the blue. There are several reasons why the military intervenes in politics. Although the involvement of the military in determining who gets what, when and how is too apparent, the issue has not been studied very well enough. Students of politics up till now, focuses generally on individual cases or with regional perspectives while studying military intervention .Military interventions in the form of coup or military regimes are the most extreme forms of the military having an impact on the political processes. We can define a coup as an irregular transfer of the state’s chief executive by the regular armed forces or internal security forces through the use or threat of the use of force.(Jenkins and Kposowa,1992). By military interventions, the military wants to control the policy processes largely. Hence the military uses elite legislative powers of government but also tries to exert strict control over other interest groups or societies. Many reasons have been adduced to explain the frequency of military intervention in the politics of African states .These reasons could be internal (from within the military) and also from external reasons (arising from outside the military).Some of the causes of such interventions include corruption and bribery, incompetent leaders in the administration, inadequate remuneration or service benefits, electoral fraud by ambitious politicians, nepotism and favoritism.

As indicated above, one of the most important factors that cause the military to intervene in politics is corruption and bribery. Corruption as a cause of military intervention can be in two folds. First corruption among members of the army; members who intend to become very rich seize chance of politics to either to execute their own plans or take orders from a politician which leads to them into bagging in the political system causing unrest. Also when corruption exists within the civilian government, it can force or push the military to intervene in the political process in attempt to clear the system. Most of the coups in the third world had always been predicted on the need to rid the society of corruption. When corruption enslaves the minds of leaders they tend not to care about what happens to citizenry. Also when corruption exists there is misappropriation of funds when a state is led by leaders who are corrupted. This raises an alarm for the military to step in to put things in place. Alternatively when the corrupt army official gains power, it is used amass wealth. However it should be quick to mention that in some circumstances such military interventions have yielded positive development in some countries within a short sphere of time. For instance in Ghana during the regime of Col.I.K.Acheampong the popular phrase “operation feed yourself” brought several benefits to the nation.

Another factor of military intervention in politics is the presence of incompetent leaders in the administration of a country. When a state has incompetent leading the state,there is a lot of fall backs in the development of the country. Aside being undeveloped ,since such leaders do not have the pre-requisite skills to govern or administer the state, there is also mismanagement of funds and assets meant for prioritized developmental projects. The military intervene by accusing the civilian politicians of mismanaging such funds; this is usually due to the selfish ambition of some politicians to become millionaires within a short period of time .This results in economic stagnation because they do not have the capacities to lead the state .An example is during the administration of Dr. K.A.Busia he was accused of not handling the economy well. Hence Col.I.K.Acheampong capitalized and executed his plans of taking over the government.

Inadequate remuneration and service benefits is a also key factor which can lead to the military intervention in politics. When the military receives inadequate salaries it can cause several problems .Since the military perceives its work as life threatening they also in turn expect good and reasonable salaries. Aside the inadequate remuneration incentives or benefits for instance health benefits, insurances and other motivating incentives if not taken into consideration can lead to the military intervening in politics to get their grievances sorted out. When this happens they tend to perceive the government of the day is not concerned about their welfare hence the only solution is to get rid of that particular government. An exemple in the case of Ghana during the administration of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah .It is said the military overthrew the Nkrumah’s government because of the cutting down in military budget, creation of special unit(segregating and discriminating),as well as several benefits which were hitherto received were ignored. These and many humanitarian reasons can cause the military to intervene in political activities.

Furthermore, the occurrences of electoral fraud by ambitious politicians is one of the reasons why the military intervene in an attempt to explain this factor, we have to look at the socio-political set of factors which relates to the failure of civil institutions like the electoral commission. The electoral commission being an independent body is responsible for organizing free, fair and transparent election sometimes becomes a reason why the military intervene in political activities. In Nigeria for instance there were catalogues of socio-political events and crisis that marked the breakdown of civil political order arrangements which encourage the military to take over power. Some of these crises included the 1964 Federal Election Crisis. Some political party leaders find any means whatsoever to get election rigged. When the electoral commission also by false means announces or declares a particular party which by all standards did not win the election “winners”, it paves way for riots, violence and instability in a state. The military by virtue of its institution tasked with the maintaining of peace has to then intervene to settle issues either by taking over the administration of the country or by other means. This is because since there is dispute between who won the election, the country cannot be left without a ruler, hence the military intervenes by taking control of the state.

Nepotism and favoritism play prominent role in ushering the military into the politics of a state. In most cases, appointment and promotions under civilians are not being carried out based on political qualification and experience; rather they are based on political considerations. For instance, those who supported the party electioneering enjoy this privilege without due regards to their qualifications and experience. Civilian politicians tend to favor people from same ethnic background with them. Since most African countries are multi-ethnic, people are always in the ethnic origins of those in power and how they use state power to allocate the state’s resources. When therefore when an ethnic group feels highly marginalized by another or other ethnic group it can plan to change the status quo through a coup. Another reason why nepotism and favoritism in political administration can lead to military intervention is, since appointment of various offices is not based on meritocracy, this can lead to failure of the administration in delivering services to the citizenry. When the military also realizes or perceives that a particular government favors other workers union than the military, thus if their needs are ignored they may intervene to take up power to fulfill their needs. This is one reason why every government keeps the military as their number one companion

In conclusion, democratic regimes in the new states are fragile in developing countries for instance in African states, whether they were established at the dawn of independence or after a period of domestics authoritarianism under military domination. The governance based on this institution is unlikely to function normally. This is because these military regimes cannot cope with crises effectively. The rule by military officers continues for a short period of time but its impact continues and brings uncertainty to the expectations of people in the long run. There is no doubt that the military serves a great purpose in a state, however civil groups or societies as well as politicians need to take critical caution in matters of governance. Thus all actions taken by these bodies should not endanger humanity or cause trouble or grievances in the camp of the military to avoid them from interfering in political process, particular taking over power. This is because as government alternate from military and democratic regimes, the development of the state showed.


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