General News of Thursday, 22 November 2012
At the second Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Presidential Debate held on Wednesday night, the four participating presidential candidates dwelt heavily on their foreign policy directions in the event that they ascend to the high office of the presidency.
As expected, President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) locked horns on this subject as in the case of a number of the issues on the night.
Nana Akufo-Addo was of the view that Ghana's once exceptional reputation as a strong sub-regional leader had faded under the current administration due to the manner the late President Mills handled the Ivorian crisis.
The NPP flagbearer said: "Unfortunately, the one contribution of the Mills-Mahama administration in foreign policy making was perhaps the most disastrous invention so far – the dzi wo fie asem policy. Your neighbour's house is on fire and you will turn your back and concentrate on your own affairs while you watch your neighbours home go up in flames."
He said Ghana's rich history of being there for neighbours was completely sullied by the Mills-Mahama administration and in the process damaged Ghana's reputation in the international arena.
"That is why today, a major blot on our international reputation is that our country is being seen as a haven for people to act against a neighbouring country," Nana Akufo-Addo averred.
He noted a report by the UN that cited Ghana as providing a base for dissidents in Ivory Coast and other places who are attempting to topple the Allasane Ouattara-led administration. He said this has stigmatized Ghana as providing a place where disgruntled militia can plot to subvert the governments.
"This is the course of conduct that an Akufo-Addo government is going to bring to an immediate end and restore the traditional Ghanaian foreign policy position of cooperation and good neighbourliness."
Nana Akufo-Addo indicated that Ghana is going to cooperate with all friendly nations under the next NPP regime and provide the needed support to all who need it.
I talk to Ouattara regularly - John Dramani Mahama
But President John Dramani Mahama rebutted the onslaught saying "Ghana is not being used to distabilise Cote D'Ivoire. We are doing everything possible. I declared on the UN stage that we are not going to allow our country to be used to destabilize any of our neighbours."
The president said he is backing his promise of taking the needed action against any such attempts by people to establish militia bases in Ghana with concrete steps. He further revealed that there is no frosty relationship between his administration and the Ivorian leader as suggested by his NPP opponent.
"I talk to President Ouattara regularly. We share information and recently we arrested two people who were attempting to run arms to Cote D'Ivoire. We interrogated them and handed them over to the Ivorian authority," he said adding "relations between us are great. There is confidence between us and President Ouattara."
He said the centre piece of his government's foreign policy will be to help in the global effort to make the world a better place for all. He expressed his commitment at ensuring that the regional bodies are able to operate within the needed framework so as to continue working for the good of all.
According to President John Dramani Mahama there will be a need to harmonise the cross border tariffs and his government will push to ensure that the inter-border trade is fine-tuned to benefit Ghanaians and West African at large.
He further indicated that his government is going to push for the common currency for the sub-region.
"We'll continue to play our global role in the world body.
We'll speak our mind boldly like I did recently when I represented Ghana at the United Nations General assembly.
We'll not be cowed by anybody and we'll be friends with everybody." President John Dramani Mahama stressed.
Dr. Abu Sakara of the Convention People's Party (CPP);and Mr Hassan Ayariga of the People's National Convention (PNC) were not left behind in this regard.
Dr. Abu Sakara also indicated that the government failed to handle the Ivorian crisis well; a situation which could have caused rift between the two countries. He stated that currently Ghana has lost its glimmer as a Pan-African champion because the then President failed to take the Ivorian crisis seriously.
"We did not take our good neighbourly role in Ivory Coast seriously and that resulted in a conflict that is still going on and we are harbouring the refugees," he added.
Dr. Abu Sakara said "a CPP government will not align itself with any unilateral action by any country no matter how powerful it is… This is based on the principle of maintaining sovereignty, dignity for everybody everywhere in a world where increasingly other powerful nations want to take unilateral actions, we must stand firm."
He said his government will expand the South-South cooperation to improve the technological transfer and improve trade between the countries of the south. He added that Ghana must look at the ECOWAS pact and step up to the plate to take the lead in resolving the conflicts that have plagued the sub-region.
He stated that Ghana must begin to work with its neighbours before the Boko Haram threats reach the shores of Ghana to offer mediation to the book Haram crisis to bring the hidden issues to the fore and deal with them.
Mr Hassan Ayariga on the other hand said like Nkrumah, the PNC is going to pursue further the complete liberation of the continent. He said the voice of Ghana is very low on the international stage and that the PNC will return the country to its level as a powerful voice in the international stage.
He said "the PNC government will continue to advocate closer economic ties with neighbouring states and objective of Ghana's foreign policy which includes maintaining and cooperation with all countries... on the basis of mutual respect."