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Ghana is not a “Banana Republic”, Mr. K.B. Asante!!

Ghana is not a “Banana Republic”, Mr. K.B. Asante!!

Tue, 24 Jun 2014 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Writing under the above heading, Mr. K.B. Asante (a man of many parts) made several observations that can be set down under such categories as “human rights”, “Ghanaian nationality”, “internal security”, “foreign intelligence”, “counter-intelligence”, “personal security”, “diplomacy”, and “sovereignty”. There could be others too. (Please, refer to: Mr. Asante’s opinion piece under the title “Is Ghana becoming a Banana republic?”: http://www.myjoyonline.com/world/2014/June-24th/is-ghana-becoming-a-banana-republic.php)

A careful reading of his opinion piece establishes Mr. Asante as very much alarmed at the treatment given to one employee of the Daily Graphic newspaper, cameraman Addai, who was caught up in some fracas of sorts verging on “personal security” at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel to cover a ceremony involving the visiting Israeli Foreign Minister.

Mr. Asante’s observation on this score suggests that he is unhappy at the treatment given Mr. Addai, apparently because he had already had the accreditation to be where he was and to do what he was accredited to do as a cameraman. So, what went wrong for him to be “manhandled”?

Without any further ado, Mr. Asante seemed to have found the answer: “I wondered what the Graphic cameraman was doing in Israel. To my surprise ‘the arrest’ was in Ghana! What! I exclaimed. ‘Foreign Police depriving us of our little sanctuary in Ghana?’ Is Ghana really an independent sovereign nation? I was surprised that the management of the Graphic did not angrily protest at the incident. They rather allowed their own cameraman Addai to ‘spend close to four hours at the police station for questioning’ following the ‘arrest’ by a foreign agent!” He didn’t hide his displeasure at the failure of the Graphic management to protest at what happened to cameraman Addai.

Mr. Asante then passed the buck to the management of the Graphic Corporation, saying that they should have insisted in their protest that the Ghana security service is responsible for the safety of even VIP foreign visitors.

Really? To a point, it may seem so to Mr. Asante; but in reality, the tenets guiding the provision of personal security to dignitaries (especially from a country such as Israel) in contemporary times isn’t so. Will Mr. Asante revise his notes on the history behind Israel’s presence in Africa and come out with a better understanding as to why the Israelis would want to take responsibility for protecting their own in this case in Ghana?

When Israel became the anathema for African countries at the height of its conflict with Palestine and the Arab world (especially after its successful routing of the combined force of the Arab world in the three-day war in 1967), the ex-Organization of African Unity resolutely took an antagonistic position and broke ties with Israel. They constructed Israel as a bitter enemy to be repudiated and consigned to perpetual damnation. That was why they en bloc broke diplomatic relations with Israel and sided with the Arab cause.

No need to recount any historical intricacy of this bad-blood relationship but suffice it to say that Israel has survived and done enough to prove that it is not the anathema that it has been painted all these years. That is why in our time, many African countries are eating the humble pie and renew ties with Israel. After all, they know that Israel has a lot to offer them; and the earlier they swallow their foolish pride to benefit from it, the better chances are that they will be supported to solve problems of underdevelopment (especially in sec tors that Israel has expertise in).

When Ghana decided to renew ties with Israel (thanks to the foresight and forthrightness of ex-President Mills, probably tying up with what the Kufuor government had initiated), I wrote an opinion piece, praising that initiative. After all, the Israelis had been in Ghana under Dr. Nkrumah to help Ghana in diverse ways; so, why continue to play the hypocrite in international relations?

The issue that provoked Mr. Asante into contemning the Israeli authorities for daring to shove off a Ghanaian cameraman caught up in security matters may have other ramifications, but I disagree with him in many senses.

For instance, his claim that “The paper (“Daily Graphic”) should not only promote freedom of expression as it admirably does, but jealously help guard the integrity and sovereignty of the state” seems to be blown out of reasonable proportions. Just because a cameramen got caught up in security-oriented issues doesn’t call for such high-sounding declarations. There are issues other than this kind of rabble-rousing.

He makes other claims as if he is determined to take on the entire Establishment to suggest that the mere incident involving that cameraman has reduced Ghana to the depth of a “Banana Republic”. In effect, I find Mr. Asante’s claims to be too alarmist for comfort. Here he is, saying that “Foreign security officers cannot operate in the sovereign state of Ghana without specific permission and within the purview of a circumscribed assignment.” How will such foreign security officers enter Ghana to behave that way if not already given the green light? Ghana may be facing serious problems of under-development but the truth has to be told that its security apparatus is top-notch.

Anybody entering Ghana knows that our system is not as porous as others are. That is why I find it difficult to agree with Mr. Asante that the mere incident involving that cameraman is an indication that Ghana has become a “Banana Republic” where clients or foreign agents can do as they please as the state authorities look out for hand-outs.

In truth, I don’t see what Mr. Asante’s qualms are. He seems to be living in the days of yore and perceiving security-oriented issues as such. In contemporary times when the dynamics of the security and intelligence environment cannot be easily contained—because they are no more formulaic—one has to know that nothing but sophisticated approaches can help pre-empt any eventuality.

Mr. Asante hyped issues and sought to create the impression that a mere misunderstanding between that cameraman and those Israeli security agents is symptomatic of a general breakdown of Ghana’s own security and intelligence apparatus—or that Ghana had succumbed to the influence of foreign security and intelligence agencies, which spelt doom for the country. That is a wrong impression to create.

I don’t think that the Israeli security officials should be blamed for taking steps to ensure the security of their “person of high value”, regardless of where such steps are taken. Knowing the Israeli Establishment for what it is, I won’t be surprised at all by the day’s happening. I will rather be surprised that Mr. Asante, who basks in the glory of being a seasoned diplomat (also as Secretary to Dr. Nkrumah) and joining the Rawlings-led PNDC to rule Ghana would so easily equalize happenings to create the unfortunate impression that Ghana is a “Banana Republic”.

On this score, we can weigh this aspect of his vituperation: “I was incensed by the story. Surely it was not sufficient for top security officials who were later informed about the case to be simply upset about the arrest of an innocent Ghanaian by foreign agents on Ghanaian soil. There is certainly something seriously wrong with security and sovereignty in the state of Ghana!”

His visit down the memory lane to recall what happened under Nkrumah—especially his reference to Mr. A.K. Deku (“the veteran CID expert”) even annoys me all the more. Was this Deku not one of the cowards who masterminded the overthrow of Nkrumah? Fie on such characters!!

Mr. Asante may still have fond memories of what he did in the diplomatic service in those days; but he has to be told the truth: that times have changed and what he sees today as an anomaly or diplomatic faux pas may not necessarily be so.

In our time, the situation is more dynamic and challenging than what he had to grapple with more than 50 years ago. He will definitely be out-of-step if he insists on using the yardstick of the days gone by to measure what is happening today. On that score, then, I will advise him not to assume that the seemingly insignificant event involving the cameraman of the Daily Graphic newspaper is a true reflection of any really lapse in our security set-up. As an outsider far removed from the hub of activity, he should not rush to use a mere incident to condemn the entire set-up.

Indeed, if the security apparatus were up-and-doing in 1962 (when Mr. Asante was in his hey-days as he would have us believe), there would have been no Kulungugu bomb attack on the Great Osagyefo. There would have been no home-grown terrorist activities such as bomb-throwing at the Accra Stadium to kill innocent civilians and maim several others. The Action Troopers in the AshTown area (in the palm tree-forested ravine near the Manhyia Palace) wouldn’t have cause so much mayhem. The people of Kumawu supporting the CPP wouldn’t have been so tyrannized.

Mr. Asante’s suggestions may be worth considering, but they are moot already. So also is his claim that “The incident raises serious issues about our sovereignty and capacity to protect citizens. It calls for serious investigation of our security arrangements for visitors and the rights of Ghanaians.” He is simply blowing issues out of reasonable proportions.

I have the strong need to suspect that he is forcing to situate himself in contemporary happenings, having realized that the contemporary global situation is too complicated for easy breakdown and compartmentalization on the basis of formula. That is why I can’t accept his suggestion that “if Ghanaian Ministers are made to queue for passport formalities to enter a foreign country, then, a Minister from that country should be made to queue at the airport to complete passport formalities to enter Ghana. This is the only language even ‘big countries’ understand. We should be courteous and protect our visitors. But we should also be guaranteed our self-respect as citizens of a sovereign country. In this regard, Emmanuel Asamoah deserves an apology from the police.”

Since when have monkeys ceased playing by sizes? Mr. Asante cannot persuade me that the playing field is even and that a do-me-I-do-you relationship can be est6ablished between Ghana and other countries. No need to expatiate. The truth, though, is that Mr. Asante may have a genuine complaint to let out, but he has chosen to situate it in too broad and too sensitive an arena that someone like me cannot accept without question. To end it all, I want to assure Mr. Asante that Ghana is not a “Banana Republic” and will not be so just because something has happened that piqued his curiosity and incensed him.

Contemporary politics calls for sophistication, not what Mr. Asante has observed and suggested as a means to make Ghana come into its own in the community of nations. Therein lies my beef with his opinion piece.

I shall return, if need be.

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.