In one breath, the Ghana Police Service wants to enforce a law that is little known to many Ghanaians, while on the other, those found culpable just cannot understand why there is such a fuss about civilians wearing camouflage in Ghana.
More recently, all of these conversations have gained a lot of attention in the public eye after a recent case of the police invited some members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) over what they were wearing during an outdoor event.
The eight Ashanti Region executives of the opposition NDC had been campaigning with John Dramani Mahama in March 2023 when they were captured in photos wearing the military’s camouflage.
In their defence, they said what they were wearing was merely the party’s “Green Army” and that besides, they had bought them “at Kumasi Kejetia Market, which bears no military symbol of the Ghana Armed Forces to warrant this needless invitation.”
The police, however, disagreed and invited them to appear before it.
NPP National Youth Organiser invited by police for wearing military camouflage
In another very recent instance, GhanaWeb reported on Thursday, April 13, 2023, that the Upper West Regional Command of the Ghana Police Service had invited the National Youth Organiser of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), Abdul Salam Mustapha, for questioning.
According to a copy of the invitation letter sighted by GhanaWeb, Mr. Salam was to report to the Upper West Police Command on Friday, April 7, 2023, “to assist in an ongoing investigation” in which he was seen wearing a military camouflage during a radio interview contrary to the law.
But Salam Mustapha believes the invitation by the police is a result of an equalisation attempt by the opposition National Democratic Congress, which also recently had some of its executives invited by the police on similar grounds.
So, it has remained an issue for many of these civilians – mostly politicians, caught wearing these attires and disagreeing with the police. And they have not been alone.
There’s no law against wearing military camouflage in Ghana – Toobu
A former senior police officer, who is now the Member of Parliament for Wa West, Peter Lanchene Toobu, agrees that such actions should not warrant arrests by the police.
In fact, he stated that there is no existing law in Ghana barring the wearing of camouflage by civilians.
He explained further in an interview with Eyewitness News on Citi FM that although the police can question a person for wearing a military uniform, the only other way would be to ban the importation of camouflage.
“The principle is simple, if you are a police officer, you dress in a uniform to show that you are an officer and if you are a soldier, you are a soldier by training, but the uniform is symbolic of who you are and so if you are not a police officer or a soldier, and you are wearing army uniform, they [the military] have the right to question you,” he said.
Lawyer provides a clearer understanding of Ghana’s law on the matter:
A lawyer, Kofi Opare Hagan, also believes that the enforcement by the police is questionable.
In a post on his Facebook page, he detailed what he says is what the position of Ghana’s laws on the subject actually is.
“The law restricting the use of military uniforms by civilians, as cited, applies only to military uniforms actually used by ‘a’ Military. Whether they have stopped using it or not is immaterial. But that uniform must have been part of a military wear in Ghana or abroad.
“No Army anywhere in the world uses True Religion. Ghana Police Service should stop this nonsense of reacting to bogus petitions and wasting the limited police resources they have. The interpretation of military uniform can be found in the law itself,” he stated.
So, what does the law of Ghana actually say about the use of military uniforms by the citizenry?
Restriction on Use of Military Uniforms and Equipment Act, 1967 (NLCD 177)
According to the Seven Hundred and Forty-Six Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana entitled, Restriction on Use of Military Uniforms and Equipment Act, 1967 (NLCD 177), it states:
Section 1 – Military Uniforms, Etc. Not To Be Worn By Civilians
No person shall wear or use any military uniform, equipment, accoutrements or other material unless he is-
(a) a member of the Armed Forces of Ghana wearing or using the uniform, equipment, accoutrements or materiel which he is authorised to wear or use, or
(b) a member of any other Armed Forces and has the consent of the National Liberation Council, or is entitled by law or by diplomatic usage, to wear or use such uniform, equipment, accoutrements or materiel, or
(c) an ex-serviceman wearing or using such uniform, equipment, accoutrements or materiel on a ceremonial, anniversary or other special occasion approved by the National Liberation Council, or
(d) a person whom the National Liberation Council has by executive instrument authorised to wear or use such uniform, equipment, accoutrements or materiel.
Section 2 – Unauthorised Persons Not To Sell Or Buy Military Uniforms, Etc
No person shall sell or buy any military uniform, equipment, accoutrements or other material unless he is authorised in that behalf by the National Liberation Council.
Section 3 – Licences Not To Be Issued For The Importation Of Military Uniforms, Etc
Except as the National Liberation Council may in any particular case otherwise direct, no licence shall be issued under the Importers (Regulations and Imposition of Fees) Act, 1963 (Act 218) for the importation of any military uniform, equipment, accoutrements or other materiel.
Section 4 – Offence
(1) Any person who contravenes any provision of this Decree commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred new cedis or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both such fine and imprisonment.
(2) No prosecution shall be instituted under this paragraph without the consent of the Attorney-General.
Section 5 – Interpretation
In this Decree-
(a) “Armed Forces” includes the Police and Prisons Services;
(b) “military” shall be construed as relating to all or any of the Armed Forces, the Police and Prisons Services; and
(c) “military uniform, equipment, accoutrements or other materiel” does not include accommodation stores and military vehicles but shall include every manner of secondhand military uniform, equipment, accoutrements or other materiel worn or used by the Armed Forces of Ghana or of any other country notwithstanding that such uniform, equipment, accoutrements or materiel has ceased to be worn or used by any such Armed Forces.
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