Ghana-US Defence Cooperation controversy: a personal perspective

BY: Ajoa Yeboah Afari
Ajoa Yeboah  Afari

In the midst of the heat triggered by controversies such as the Ghana-US Defence Cooperation Agreement, ratified by Parliament on March 23, it is sometimes difficult to discern the truth from the distortions.

That is why it was so welcome to get a clearly informed, personal perspective via an audio recording posted online by someone who describes himself as a former senior police officer of the Ghana Police Service. The retired police officer, who now lives in London, identified himself as NANA NIMAKO.

A summary of his message in Akan, which someone forwarded to me and which I have translated, follows:

Greetings to all Ghanaians; a Happy Easter! I want to contribute to the current discussion in Ghana on the US – Ghana military Agreement which has generated so much needless controversy.

With the ruling NPP appointees, I can’t tell if they’re asleep. Why can’t they come out to explain to Ghanaians exactly what the deal is about? And so the NDC have taken the opportunity to misinform Ghanaians, especially through the information given to Joy FM, which also put it online, and deepened the misinformation.

I just want to give a little clarification, from my experience, but let me make it clear that I don’t belong to any political party.

First of all, the Agreement doesn’t mean that American soldiers will be coming to displace Ghanaian soldiers.

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Secondly, the deal dates back to 1998, under President Rawlings. He accepted the Agreement. And because he accepted it, it’s become an Agreement between Ghana and America; and it’s been in operation. During President Kufuor’s time, it was there. Yet no American base was established here; there were no American soldiers around, taking over the job of Ghanaian soldiers.

In 2015, Hannah Tetteh, then Foreign Minister signed a similar Agreement on behalf of Ghana. She didn’t take it to Parliament for approval.

Rather, under the Agreement, the Americans come to Ghana to undertake joint military exercises with the Ghanaian soldiers. They go to Achiase (Jungle Warfare School, Achiase Military base) and do the military exercises there.

When I was with the Ghana Police, I went on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia. As police and soldiers on such a mission in another country we were granted immunity. The immunity means that if you commit an offence, you shouldn’t be tried under that country’s laws, but rather your own country’s laws should apply.

It will be the same for the US soldiers coming to Ghana. If they commit an offence, they will be tried under US law.

When I was going to Bosnia I was given a Diplomatic Passport, I didn’t use my own passport. And because I had a Diplomatic Passport, I had immunity. The same applies to foreign soldiers who come on a mission to Ghana.

Regarding the radio frequency, the Americans need it so that they can transmit information to their country, in the same way that Ghanaian soldiers or police on mission abroad are given that facility. When we went to Bosnia, the people there had no right to interfere with our communication system. It’s like that everywhere.

And they shouldn’t pay tax on the supplies they bring, or take back. It’s like when Ghanaian soldiers or police go on peacekeeping, when returning home they pay no taxes, no duty.

As for the NDC allegation that Ghana has been sold for twenty million US dollars, there’s not a shred of truth in it! No physical cash is involved in the Agreement.

Rather, the training the US is going to give Ghana and the military supplies involved, have been estimated to cost twenty million dollars.

The Agreement is nothing new; in fact, it’s twenty years old. Ghanaians should pay no attention to the NDC propaganda. Propaganda means telling a lie that resembles very much the truth to make people believe it. They themselves originated the Agreement.

If any President is doing well for Ghana, he has my support. And I believe that Nana Akufo-Addo can lift Ghana up.

Initially there will be hardship because, the NDC collapsed the economy. As former President Mahama told us, they have eaten all the meat, what is left are the bare bones.

President Akufo-Addo has even done well, going by what he’s done so far, by keeping his promises, so we should give him our support.

Candidly, I think that the furore is a deliberate ploy by the NDC, a distraction, a smokescreen because of the looming prosecutions of some NDC appointees suspected to have been involved in corruption.

NPP, get up and get to work to challenge and discredit the NDC propaganda!

Information Minister, Communications Minister; NPP communicators! What are you doing? What are you doing to counter the NDC lies? Mr Nimako asked.
* * *

Given the uproar over the Agreement, Mr Nimako’s evident frustration with the NPP’s communicators is understandable, hence his admonition.

But, by the same measure, because of the extent of misunderstanding, genuine or feigned by those leading the ‘against’ offensive, can the NPP communicators alone educate the populace, clarify things adequately?

It seems to me that, in such sensitive matters, the NPP Members of Parliament, too, have a role. Every MP should be required to go back home and brief their constituents on the issues. Fortunately for them, these days it’s a certainty that every constituency has at least one FM station, so they can use the radio and also have phone-ins.

However, personally what I find particularly hard to understand is the muted response of the one person who could have stopped all the NDC commotion, former President Jerry Rawlings. What is one to make of his perplexing tweet, as reported by Atinkaonline on March 21?

Mr. Rawlings wrote: Ghanaians may love Americans but not to the extent of living with foreign troops on such a scale. Ghanaians have enough foreigners dominating their economic and social life. Adding foreign troops to the discomfort would be a bit too much. Ghanaians have felt stateless before in my lifetime. Let’s not go there again.

In my view, a clear explanation from Mr. Rawlings, especially to his party members, as to the rationale for the original Agreement in 1998, would have spared the nation all the ‘palaver’.

So why hasn’t he given one?

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