Students of American military justice are well aware of Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which makes it an offense for officers to speak contemptuously of the President and other high officials. Comes now Colonel Bashiru Sahid Conteh, a retired officer of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, with a Facebook suggestion that African militaries show the same kind of restraint:
My dear brothers and sisters of our respective Armed Forces on our beloved Africa continent, Article 1 of the United States of America (USA) Constitutional Bill of Rights says:- “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” Within that right, the civilian may speak abusively of the President without getting into trouble, provided he does not threaten the President’s life.
Then Section 8 of the United States Constitution declares that the Congress shall “...make rules for the Government and regulation of the land and naval forces” and under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, these words restricting the rights to freedom of speech, appear:- “Any officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, Vice President.. shall be punished as a court martial may direct.”
Hmm for sure someone may ask why I am making reference to USA Constitution in dealing with issues of our beloved Continent?
My answer may be simply put this way: The US is one of the most democratic nation states on earth where everybody may be free to say anything he/she thinks, but there are still constitutional restrictions on public statements of their service personnel, especially against the political class, which I believe aims at making them to remain apolitical as long as they are in active service.
Ladies and gentlemen of our respective Armed Forces on the continent, for the respect and honour of our noble institutions, let’s have less to do with public political debates, no matter how it affects our emotions, ethnicity or region, in order to remain apolitical, a good quality of a professional Armed Force.
We are free to fully participate in our respective national politics after our retirement from active military service. May Lord God bless us all.