The Ghana-U.S. Military agreement and implications for the future

Akufo Addo Easter President Nana Akufo-Addo has clarified that Ghana will not offer a military base to the US

Fri, 6 Apr 2018 Source: Moses Allor Awinsong

The Ghana-U.S. military agreement has generated unresolved controversy across policy and political lines in the country. The agreement, in its totality, provides Ghana as a staging post and permanent ground for U.S. military operations across Africa. U.S. and Ghanaian politicians have proffered supposedly cogent reasons for the stay of the agreement. But the agreement is, in its present state, one that is unfavourable to the Ghanaian people irrespective of the arguments the Ghanaian government and its advocates have put across in its defense.

During the Second World War, Allied Forces used Ghana, then the Gold Coast, as a supply and refilling station for their war efforts in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Since then, despite the changing face of warfare marked by the emergence of sophisticated military technology, Ghana remains an attractive, strategic location for any power seeking military influence and advantage across the Atlantic. For this reason, the Ghanaian leadership needs to be nuanced in its receptivity of military cooperation proposals from global powers. Also, increasing Russian, Chinese and U.S. competition on the continent call for even, greater dexterity on the part of policy makers in Accra and other African capitals in navigating the lure of these powers. That is why the present military cooperation pact between Ghana and the U.S. should be seen as a drawback for Ghana.

The most noticeable slip our Ghanaian negotiators made was to keep the agreement timeless. Indeed, this is the basis for other concerns that have emerged since the agreement went public. The U.S. forces, for example, will have unchecked access to facilities and property given them "untill no longer needed" (Article 6). The agreement failed to define "untill" thus providing little cover for decision makers to further engage Washington on the matter. Article 1 of the agreement provides for the U.S. to be able to undertake the "accommodation of personnel;...staging and deploying of forces and material" among others in and from Ghana with no defined timeline. This openness could prove detrimental to our capacity to reverse, renegotiate, or even cancel the agreement in the future. Equally worrying is the diplomatic immunity granted not just the U.S. military, but civilians working for the U.S. military in Ghana according to Article 3. The exemption subtracts from the dignity of the Ghanaian judiciary because crimes committed by the U.S. army personnel and civilians on Ghanaian soil will fall outside the jurisdiction of the courts of Ghana. Law enforcement in Ghana would also be unable to bring these foreign citizens under Ghanaian laws and statutes. These juridical give-aways deflates Ghanaian institutional capacity for action within the national boundaries and strips even, the executive organ of any meaningful exercise of sovereignty in the future. This raises pertinent questions of state judicial sovereignty and whether or not Ghanaians are mortgaging this important gem of national honour for short term resource gain.

The financial sacrifice the Ghanaian negotiators agreed to shoulder is mind boggling. Ghana conceded that it will "provide access to and use of a runaway that meets the requirements of the United States army." We also pledged to "furnish, without rental or similar costs to the United States all agreed facilities and areas" the U.S. army will use. For a country whose military still needs significant capital investment to modernize itself, Ghana's concessions here and the financial implications thereof are a cause for worry. Our airport needs improvement; improvements we are still working to achieve. Now, our assurance to improve it for an external power's use is demeaning to Ghanaian tax payers who face many social infrastructural deficits. Our health insurance scheme, for instance, is faced with significant funding limitations yet we agreed to make available our meagre resources for external entities. Ghanaian negotiators even conceded from article 9 through to 11 that contracts and imports made by the U.S. army should be tax free and duty free. We also agreed to give the U.S. a free ride on our radio spectrum. These alone could have earned us millions of dollars from the Americans. Unfortunately, Accra's team did otherwise. It is therefore not misplaced to say that the economic pledges we subscribed to will prove stressful to our national coffers going forward. Then there is the security apprehension about this deal. A permanent presence of U.S. forces in Ghana could attract prospective Islamist martyrs or terrorists to our borders. We have seen examples of those attacks in Somalia, Kenya, and Mali, where France has a strong presence.

The other issue Ghanaians are concerned about is the provision for a permanent presence of U.S. troops in our borders. There are some who have retorted that the agreement has no place for a military base. However, a reading of the document shows otherwise. For instance, in article 7, the U.S. can "preposition and store defense equipment, supplies, and material...at agreed facilities." Where will those facilities be situated? Article 6 speaks about "existing buildings, non-relocatables, structures and assemblies affixed to the land in agreed facilities and areas" for use by the U.S. government to be returned to the government of Ghana when no longer useful. If these buildings, structures and lands are not military bases then we will be obliged if the Ghanaian Defense Ministry defined or explained what those are. The physical presence, coupled with the agreement's timelessness, is potentially inimical to our democratic process because the U.S. might be encouraged to meddle in our domestic politics against candidates and parties deem staunchly nationalist and opposed to Washington's presence in Ghana. Attempts at equalizing the instant agreement with previous ones fail to acknowledge the context, content and spirit of those earlier agreements. We stand oppose to this agreement due primarily to its contents and spirit, which we find debasing and disadvantageous to our country. And let's not forget that a military presence is vastly different from a diplomatic presence. The effort to make the two look alike in the president's speech was badly misplaced. Multilateral and bilateral institutional presence such as the U.N., E.U., and World Bank in Ghana is not analogous to an external military presence.

There are also relevant diplomatic reasons why we find the agreement ill suited for Ghana. Since independence, Ghana has maintained a neutral role in global affairs with great success. We provided able leadership in the pan-African and non-align movements from independence into the twenty-first century. With this agreement, however, we have effectively made a three-sixty degree turn towards Washington. Every remaining attraction we have as a neutralist state has been effectively quashed with the presence of this powerful external military in our borders. Such a turn in foreign policy, as sudden as it is, could undermine our diplomatic standing in international political circles. A relevant point to note as well is that our action- allowing a permanent external presence in our borders- will complicate our role in sub-regional security initiatives namely, in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Given that Nigeria, our key regional partner, has remained consistently opposed to U.S. presence in the region, we could face subtle diplomatic alienation or even, demotion in West African affairs. For others still, this agreement, coming at a time when the White House has not hidden its disdain of African people, denigrates our spirit, pride and dignity as a people. Even when the U.S. had a black president, Ghanaians stood opposed to giving asylum to former Guntanmo Bay detainees who were given to the Ghanaian government for reform as part of Obama's campaign promise to close that infamous prison. That same Ghanaian opposition is now at fever pitch due to the disrespect and contempt the White House has showed to Africa people over the past one year. We stood by President Akufo-Addo in condemning the U.S. president's attacks on our dignity and now expect him to carry through with is words by rescinding this agreement.

This is a national security issue that concerns all Ghanaians. The president should therefore not discard opposing views as petty partisanship. The opposition to the deal is not partisan; it is Ghanaian. To condemn all opponents of the deal as opposition elements is making light of the views of the millions of Ghanaians who have a stake in the destiny of the country. President Akuffo Addo is our leader and we expect him to act on our present concerns rather than remind Ghanaians what his predecessors failed to do or intended to do worse. Others' failure is not an invitation to our president to do worse or little. With all due respect, many were shocked that the president questioned the patriotism of opponents of the agreement. This was unfortunate because he seemed dismissive of their pro-Ghanaian position on this matter. It was not lost on those who listened to the president that he sounded more American than Ghanaian at times. This raises serious doubt about his ability to show himself as a father figure and to rise above partisanship to serve the interest of Ghana. At this crucial time, we ask the president to show Ghanaians his patriotism by considering the thoughts and concerns of those who spoke against the deal in making a final decision on the matter. God bless our homeland Ghana, and make us bold to defend forever.

Columnist: Moses Allor Awinsong
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