Opinions Tue, 24 Jun 2014

Is Ghana becoming a Banana Republic?

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!

‘Interestingly, as the Graphic reported, Mr Addai the cameraman had ‘earlier been cleared by Ghanaian security operatives when he entered the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel to cover a ceremony involving the visiting Israeli Foreign Minister.

The Graphic should have insisted in its protest that the Ghana security service is responsible for the safety of even VIP foreign visitors.

The paper should not only promote freedom of expression as it admirably does, but jealously help guard the integrity and sovereignty of the state.

And the police and security officials should know that they are primarily responsible for the safety of all including foreign dignitaries who visit Ghana.

They should as is normal practice collaborate with the security agents of the country of the visiting dignitary. But responsibility for the safety of visitors rests with them.

Foreign security officers cannot operate in the sovereign state of Ghana without specific permission and within the purview of a circumscribed assignment.

Of course in a client state or a Banana Republic foreign agents can do as they please as the state authorities look out for hand-outs.

Very soon we shall have to convince foreign agents that what we have in a plastic bag is ‘pure water’ before we are allowed to carry the bag to a public place being visited by their Minister.

According to the Daily Graphic report ‘not even an explanation and a demonstration by the photographer that the contents of the bottles he carried were consumables could convince the hard-headed Israeli security operative to allow him to perform his official duties in his own country.

‘The situation created a misunderstanding between the Israeli security team as the second security detail criticised his colleagues for allowing Mr. Addai to cover the first assignment’!!

‘The ensuing confusion resulted in the Israeli security team handing over the Daily Graphic photographer to the Special Weapon and Tactical (SWAT) Unit of the Ghana Police Service for further investigation’.

The team which looked on helplessly as events unfolded subsequently handed over Mr. Addai to the Ministries Police without asking any questions.

‘Mr. Addai was released after being made to write a statement and sign a caution statement. He was also asked to report himself at the police station today for further investigations’.

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!

It appears the police service has in some areas suffered deterioration similar to that of the civil service. I can testify that the police knew their duty in the early days when so many dignitaries visited Ghana and when President Nkrumah paid visits outside the country.

Mr. A.K. Deku the veteran CID expert and I travelled to the country President Nkrumah was to visit and discussed and agreed on administrative and security arrangements. With regard to foreign VIP visits to Ghana the police and Foreign Ministry worked closely on security and similar arrangements.

I suggest the IGP should seriously take up this matter of VIP visits and arrange appropriate training for all senior officers especially those involved in security. Such training should also involve police security duties concerning visits of the President abroad.

Ignorance and absence of training can lead to serious consequences. Suppose the Israeli agent found Mr. Addai fiddling with his bulging pocket and believed that Mr. Addai was taking a gun to shoot the foreign minister.

And suppose he then shoots Mr. Addai dead. Is the Israeli agent guilty of murder? And why should the foreign security agent be allowed to enter the country with a gun in the first place?

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.

Meanwhile there is something we can do immediately on such visits. On such visits as in all dealings with foreign governments the police should consult and liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. International practices are not static and are greatly influenced by the nature of relations.

Reciprocity plays a major part and even small countries like Ghana can use this weapon to secure normal respectable treatment.

For example, 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.

Columnist: KB Asante