Rev. Godwin Nii Noi Odonkor (right), Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church of Ghana, speaking to Mary Anane (left), our reporter. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA
Rev. Godwin Nii Noi Odonkor (right), Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church of Ghana, speaking to Mary Anane (left), our reporter. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA

Don’t send troops to Niger - Presby Church

There is a growing public disapproval of Ghana’s involvement in contributing troops to the West African Standing Force to fight the military junta in Niger.

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Various civil society groups, academicians, politicians and security analysts have condemned the move, calling rather for diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation.

The latest group to add its voice to the call is the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, which has indicated that it would be wrong for the government to take a unilateral decision on the matter without broad consultation.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic, the Clerk of the General Assembly of the church, Rev. Dr Godwin Nii Noi Odonkor, said coups d’état, which were becoming a rampant phenomenon in West Africa, should be a concern for all, stressing that it pointed to an urgent demand for African leaders to provide quality leadership for their citizens.

“Coup is not a good thing, and for it to happen in three countries coming from West Africa is an unfortunate thing,” Rev. Dr Odonkor said.

The sub-region, he added, could prevent coups if the leaders offered leadership of hope with citizen-centred policies and programmes, protection of human rights, promotion of the welfare of the people and ensuring justice.

“ECOWAS’ decision to send troops to Niger would only escalate matters and not bring the peace we want in our part of the world,” Rev. Dr Odonkor said.

We should consider the vulnerable, especially children and women, who are going to suffer immensely because of such a decision,” he added.

The right way to handle the issue, he said, was for ECOWAS leaders to engage the leadership of the junta to hand over power to a civilian government without resorting to any form of violence which would affect the very people they sought to protect.

For the country to support any move to send troops to Niger, Rev. Dr Odonkor said, the government must consult the people, stressing that “it should be a decision from Parliament”.

 “If the government decides to send troops, I think Parliament should be involved.

It should give the right to government to do so.

The Executive cannot take such decision alone.

The decision must come from the people, and Parliament represents the people.

I am sure that if Parliament is consulted, the answer will be no,” he said.

A former President

A former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, speaking at the opening of the African Youth and Governance Convergence (AYGC) conference at Mankessim last Monday, said the leadership in African countries who failed to ensure peaceful democratic changes in leadership and good governance must be ready for more violent takeovers.

He said if African governments did not work harder to improve governance and transitions they must be ready for possibly more violent takeover of governments.

"Those who prevent peaceful change to be enthroned must be prepared for violent change to ensue," he stated.

Mr Obasanjo said in such instances "when you drive people to the wall, they develop a desperate feeling that they would rather die than continue.

And when you have that situation, then anything can happen and you must be prepared for whatever happens”.

It was disturbing that bad leadership and governance had been Africa's problem over the years, leading most parts of the continent down the path of under development, he added.

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Okudzeto’s take

The Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu and Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, earlier called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to stop all preparatory mobilisation towards deploying Ghanaian soldiers for an ECOWAS military intervention in Niger.

He said the President’s refusal to submit his Niger Policy to Parliament for thorough scrutiny by the people’s elected representatives was most undemocratic and awfully reckless.

“West African leaders who purport to be lecturing Niger on democracy must be seen leading by example at home.

“Ghana’s gallant soldiers must be kept far away from the looming bloodbath and escalating geopolitical confrontation which is bound to explode with far-reaching consequences for stability in an already volatile region,” Mr Ablakwa said in a Facebook post.

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The MP said ECOWAS leaders ought to stop the warmongering and give diplomacy and constructive dialogue a chance, and that the Niger crisis could be resolved without violence and bloodshed.

“But more fundamentally, African leaders must reflect on the causes of these coups and begin to take urgent concrete steps to prevent more military takeovers.

Six coups in three years can only mean that Africa appears to be making a return to the coup era of the 1960s to 1980s,” Mr Ablakwa said.

Lecturer’s position

A lecturer of Governance Studies at the Evangelical Presbyterian University College (EPUC) in Ho, Dr Harrison Kofi Belley, also called on ECOWAS to use proactive preventive diplomacy to address the prevailing political situation in Niger.

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He told the Daily Graphic in Ho that the proposed military intervention by ECOWAS was likely to fuel the crisis in that country.

Dr Belley cited the growing support the military junta in Niger was enjoying from the masses, and said neutral and sustained results-oriented strategic conflict management measures were required to deal with the state of affairs in Niger, and not a military intervention.

He also called for the strengthening of the capacity of African states to settle electoral disputes at national, regional and continental levels through the enactment of laws and setting up of mechanisms for the independent adjudication of such disputes to ensure political stability.

“ECOWAS must muster the political will to hold member states accountable to their treaty obligations in addition to combating corruption in public life, to build confidence in state institutions and create the conditions for instability,” Dr Belley added.

GUM not in favour

Similarly, the Ghana Union Movement (GUM) called on President Akufo-Addo not to contribute troops to the ECOWAS efforts to reinstate Niger’s deposed President, Mohammed Bazoum.

The Founder and Leader of the party, Rev. Christian Kwabena Andrews, popularly known as Osofo Kyire Abosom, told a news conference in Accra last Monday that instead of sending troops, the President should rather deploy his energies towards solving the litany of challenges Ghanaians were facing.

The 2020 presidential candidate of GUM further advised Nigeria to also concentrate its energies to solving challenges posed by the outlawed group, Boko Haram, in the northern enclave of the country instead of venturing into war in Niger.

"Africa needs to unite but not to fight among themselves, no matter what," he said.

Defence chiefs

Meanwhile, the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of the Defence Staff will hold an extraordinary two-day meeting from tomorrow at Burma Camp in Accra to deliberate on the charge of the Authority of Heads of State and Government to prepare a plan for a possible military intervention to topple the military junta and restore democratic rule in Niger.

At its Extraordinary Meeting last Thursday in Abuja on the Niger situation, the Authority of Heads of State and Government directed the Committee of Chiefs of the Defence Staff to immediately activate the ECOWAS Standby Force with all its elements.

The meeting, at the instance of the ECOWAS Chairman, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is also the President of Nigeria, was attended by nine Heads of State, including President Akufo-Addo.

The authority also gave the order for the committee of army chiefs to deploy the ECOWAS Standby Force to restore constitutional order in Niger.

It further directed the President of the ECOWAS Commission to monitor the implementation of sanctions on Niger, which included closing all borders to Niger and freezing the assets of all persons connected to the activities of the military junta.

The authority warned “member states who, by their action directly or indirectly, hinder the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Niger about the consequences for their action before the community”.

A communique issued at the end of the Abuja meeting called on the African Union to endorse all the decisions taken by ECOWAS on the situation in Niger.

It further urged all partner countries and institutions, including the United Nations, to support ECOWAS in its efforts to ensure a quick restoration of constitutional order in Niger in conformity with its normative instrument.

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