When a British Diplomat runs riot in Ghana…

Mon, 20 Sep 2010 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

September 18, 2010

Britain’s former Deputy High Commissioner in Ghana, Craig Murray, seems to be acting like a fool who is pairing an ox with an elephant.

In a 219-page book (The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I have Known), he has made claims whose implications for individual Ghanaians (politicians and business people alike) are profound and reveal the extent to which he (mis)conducted himself as a threat to Ghana’s democracy. No wonder that those mentioned in connection with these claims have quickly risen up in protest and distanced themselves from him.

It is, however, clear that just like operatives of other foreign missions in Ghana, Murray made several incursions into spheres of Ghanaian politics and national life that he shouldn’t have if he had not been given unfettered access by our authorities. From Murray’s accounts, we can tell the extent to which the staff of foreign missions in Ghana undermine our national integrity right in front of our eyes. They do so because they enjoy the backing of our leaders. Sadly, though, our own foreign missions are treated with so much contempt as to render them ineffectual. Can they claim the kind of freedom of action and movement as these foreign ones have in Ghana? Yet, we expect them to sell Ghana abroad and rake in benefits! Murray’s revelations are puzzling enough to turn my crank.

Here are four of his disturbing claims, which indicate the extent to which he went in dabbling in Ghana’s national affairs and returning home to make a mockery of us (even if discounted by the principal figures he cites):

• The British government conspired to push then President Jerry John Rawlings and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) government out of power through the 2000 elections by helping the opposition NPP tacitly.

• He had meetings with NPP big-shots like Dan Botwe and others to persuade them not to declare Kufuor a winner as that would have proven an excellent excuse for the then President Rawlings to stage a coup.

• He impressed upon the Member of Parliament for New Juaben North, Hackman Owusu Agyemang, to urge the then Presidential Candidate, Kufuor, not to declare victory after the second round of voting in December 2000.

• Jerry Rawlings’ NDC government had “kidnapped” the Electoral Commissioner, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, and taken his family hostage in the attempt to turn the table of the 2000 elections in its favour.

• The NDC government, under ex President Jerry John Rawlings attempted to close down Joy FM on the eve of the 2000 general elections.

As quickly as Murray’s claims emerged, so were they denounced, especially by those in the NPP. Hackman Owusu Agyeman described Craig Murray as “mad,” adding that the allegations were completely bogus.

“I don’t know what is wrong with that man, I don’t understand his intentions. It is not true,” screamed Owusu Agyeman.

Dan Botwe also rubbished the allegations of Craig Murray, although he conceded that Murray came to the strong room of the Electoral Commission on the voting day but did not play any major role in the collation of the results. And this is how the NDC’s Dr. Tony Aidoo put it: “Craig Murray stormed the strong room of the Electoral Commission on voting day in 2000 when he did not represent any political party.”

We are left with some big questions: Should a foreign diplomat have even been allowed into the premises of the Electoral Commission let alone into its “strong room” at that time? How many times has the British Electoral Commission allowed any diplomat from Ghana (or any other country) to do such a thing in London during elections? What justification did this British diplomat have to do what he did in Ghana? Why only he, anyway?

Another denial of Murray’s claim came from Samuel Attah- Mensah, a former General Manager in charge of programmes at Multi Media Group (owners of Joy FM in Accra); and it suggests that the former British deputy Commissioner had too much latitude in Ghana’s spheres. His penetration into these spheres and the circumstances under which he did so (with other British citizens) raises serious issues.

Then, the shameless audacity with which he has recounted his encounters suggests that he took advantage of serious lapses in our system to cause harm. Although his claims have been discounted, the negative impressions still linger on and will take a long time to abate. I am yet to be persuaded that he did not gather more than he is willing to reveal in his book. It appears Murray was in the good books of the NPP although functioning at the time of the NDC government. In every sense, the unholy alliance between him and the NPP must be condemned and the NDC government’s inability to rein him in (must also be) deplored. Thus, blinded by their vested political interests that were at stake then, both the NPP and NDC failed to tackle the threat posed by Murray. There are several Murrays always lurking around!!

The NDC’s response to Murray’s accounts suggests something else. Condemning Murray, the former Deputy Defence Minister, Dr. Tony Aidoo, recounted part of events in which Murray had been involved. According to him, at a point when his actions became “too much,” the then Foreign Affairs Minister, Victor Gbeho, cautioned him to restrict himself to his diplomatic duties.

But did he? No! Yet, the government didn’t take any firm action to restrain him either. They saw the problem but didn’t do anything to solve it. Today, they are out condemning Murray. Pitiful souls, indeed.

Dr Aidoo said he was therefore not surprised Craig Murray was reported as partly owning ARTOL, an oil company, saying “After, all he was paid for the work he did for the NPP.”

Question: What has the Mills (NDC) government done to confirm this allegation so as to bring Murray to book? Nothing!! As usual, it is part of the litany of flim-flammery. Too much of this laziness already!

It seems the only truth in Murray’s book concerning the issue is his allegation that Dan Botwe was nervous, which the Okere MP has admitted.

Murray may be creating credibility problems for himself, though. In February 2010, he accused the erstwhile NPP government of corruption in a deal between the government of Ghana and Zhakem to install at Kpone, some power turbines VRA bought from manufacturer Alsthom for 70 Million dollars. This allegation was denied by both the NPP government and the management of Zhakem; but Murray has not yet come out to clear the air. Instead, he is muddying the waters and adding more infamy to his name. But it doesn’t negate the horrendous meta-diplomatic work that he did in Ghana. He broke bounds and went away scot free because of our own laxity.

His account of events in Ghana reveal that he did more than a foreign diplomat should have done and that our own people opened the doors too wide for him to pass through. It is only God who knows the quantum of secrets that he gathered and what he did with them without revealing them in his book. Of course, he was working to satisfy the interests of his handlers (the British Establishment) and succeeded in worming his way into the favour of those who were well-positioned to facilitate his clandestine activities. Intriguingly, these are the same people who turn round to blame the “colonial master” for our woes!

This impudent manner of dealing with our country is what irks me. Any careful observer can tell that members of foreign missions in Ghana have too much latitude and conduct themselves in such a repugnant a manner that raises eyebrows. On the contrary, the officials of Ghanaian missions abroad have little elbow room to do as they wish, especially in penetrating sectors from which Ghana can benefit. Take, for instance, access to important installations and establishments with which they could establish ties to boost economic activities to Ghana’s advantage. They appear to be shackled and cannot claim to be enjoying the kind of “blessing” that our authorities back home shower on these staff of foreign missions operating in Ghana. Or is it because our foreign mission staff are lazy or shortsighted not to know how to do aggressive diplomatic work? I won’t be surprised because of the manner in which appointments to such missions have been politicized to the disadvantage of career diplomats. In a country where partisan politics and ethnic loyalties have taken the better part of officialdom, that’s what happens.

It appears that our authorities are weak and can’t take any action to control this kind of wanton interference and nuisance from the foreign mission staff, apparently because they are either in an unholy alliance with them (hoping to be in the good books of leaders of the countries they represent in Ghana) or because they just don’t know how to deal with the situation.

More disturbingly, the situation is so because the government of the day fears any negative backlash if reported to the powers-that-be that it’s constraining the work of those foreign diplomats. The problem is that having reduced our country to its knees as a beggar-state that cannot manage its own affairs without the involvement of the external donor community, any complaint against Ghana will force the donors to pull the purse strings and deny the country the push it needs. To play it safe, therefore, our authorities turn a blind eye to the clearly subversive activities of these foreign diplomats, thinking that non-interference in their manouevres in the country will earn some high marks of cordiality for them in the estimation of the powers-that-be. This situation is appalling and must not be countenanced at all.

Many people often speculate that our Ghanaian big-shots are friends with operatives of those foreign missions with whom they commiserate, especially when given some kind of treatment that they consider to be bringing them close to the former colonial master’s heart. Over wine and dinner, they blow their hearts open and the secrets gush out of their “okro-mouths.” I am saying so, drawing inferences from the accounts given by Murray himself, which indicate that much of the interactions that he had had with the Ghanaians mentioned in his book took place during some kind of conviviality (either drinking tea or topping it up with something more stimulating). These are the so-called gatekeepers selling our country’s birthright for a mere pottage!

Murray has revealed what he thinks is the reality of the circumstances under which he operated in the tense period of our fragile democracy. Those mentioned in the accounts have raised their denunciation of him to the sky. And the fool that he may be, Murray has spoken and we, the wise and discerning Ghanaians, must listen carefully. We caution our leaders to be very careful about their dealings with such characters so that they don’t become unwitting participants in the subtle but dangerous game of sabotage. Our democracy cannot survive if we allow shady characters like this Craig Murray to run riot in our national affairs.

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.