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Feature Article of Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Columnist: Ghanaian Times

THE PUBLIC AND SECRET FACES OF DIPLOMACY

I am pretty sure that President John Atta Mills enjoyed his visit to the USA tremendously. President Barack Obama is a very cultivated person and even a few minutes in his company – especially on his own patch -- must be enviable, to say the least.

In being accorded that privilege, President Mills was reaping the harvest of what Ghana as a nation was able to offer Mt Obama and his family when they visited our shores in 2009. Whatever anyone can say about Ghana, it is undeniable that we can make our visitors really feel the warmth of our welcome, and that the displays we can put on, especially as regards the natural use of rhythm and colour, can charm the scales off eve a crocodile's back.

President Obama and his family would have remembered all this when they saw President Mills again. And they, for their part, would have pulled all the stops to show their guest that they cherished good memories of their visit to Ghana.

What worries me is the briefing that President Obama would have received from the Department of State before President Mills arrived. We know from the Wikileaks cables that American diplomats widely consult the informed sections of the local populations amongst whom they live before sending their extremely candid reports back home to brief their bosses.

Which means that President Obama would have had the never-expiring Woyomegate scandal at the back of his mind, even as he cracked jokes to put President Mills at ease.

“A guy just got up, mentioned the names of some companies, issued some writs in court and was able to walk away with several million dollars?” Obama 2 (the secret one) would have said, even as Obama 1 (the public face) was slapping President Mills on the back and practising how to say “Akwaaba!”

OBAMA 1: I trust you had a pleasant journey, Mr President?”

MILLS: Yes, Mr President. It was very nice indeed.

OBAMA 2: So what's with you guys and judgement debts? Didn't you learn from the British legal system you inherited that since the smartest lawyers often decline to work in the public sector, the UK Attorney-General is empowered to constitute a panel of counsel from whose ranks he can pick renowned lawyers with particular areas of competence, to handle cases for the Crown that fall within their purview? From time to time? How can Ghana lose as much as six hundred million dollars by negotiating uncontested settlements of judgement debts, when it could have, if necessary, imported not just attorneys but corporate expertise in commercial law, to help it fight writs issued against it?

MILLS: Mr President, we were so happy to hear that the conversations between my Ministry of Transport and its US counterpart have gone so well. I am sure you had something to do with it personally. My gratitude is unbounded.

OBAMA 1: Well, to be frank, we've had our difficulties with the US Congress – hahaha-- but Ghana has such a fund of goodwill with everyone that unlike some African countries, as soon as your name comes up, everyone becomes relaxed. Even those in the Congress who don't like to listen to me seem disarmed when they see programmes earmarked for Ghana. Your strong democracy is a very good advertisement for you! MILLS: We have pledged to make it even stronger, Mr President...

OBAMA 2: I wish you'd delve a little more into political economy, my good friend. A formal democracy is as weak as a house built on sand if all it does is to give people the freedom to insult those in government and be insulted in their turn by those in government. I am spending sleepless nights trying to create jobs without setting up new bodies to do it because I know asking Congress for money to set up any new thing would be an exercise in futility. And I'm talking about a democracy that's a good 236 years old. Did you not see the riots in the United Kingdom, which is supposed to be the mother of democracy, recently? Unemployment amongst the youth is fatal.

MILLS: Regional security is something that's been occupying our attention recently, Mr President. This Al Qaeda business in Nigeria and Niger and Mauritania is worrying us, for we now have oil --- something to envy.

OBAMA 1: Don't worry about that, Mr President. The United States will, if asked, assist you in every aspect of security that you need assistance with. I believe discussions have already been taking place between your security people and our people in Africom. We stand with you.

MILLS: It is reassuring to hear that, Mr President. I knew we could rely on you and that you would be with us.

OBAMA 2: But you too, why did you go and flex your muscles, showing off your 'special force' at your independence day parade like that? Some Ghanaians are saying that you are setting up a force like our Marines; or our Seals; or our feared Rangers. Some think we're already helping you with that force, and that you will use it to rig the forthcoming elections. I wish I could show you the latest classified cables from Accra. Disquiet all over the political spectrum in Ghana, the cables say. Quite unnecessary, really. We don't want the human rights people locking onto it and coming after us to disrupt the useful agreements we've just signed with you. The Ambassador will be seeing you about all that when you get back and you'd better listen real good..

OBAMA 1: I must alert you to this, Mr President...

MILLS: What is it, Mr President? Is anything wrong?

OBAMA 1: No, no; there's nothing wrong! I hope I didn't startle you. It's just that I wanted to signal to you that our Senate Foreign Relations Committee has some very experienced members who have a way of ferreting out secret information from every country, and who can therefore ask very awkward questions. Any time foreign co-operation programmes come up, they do this, even if the programmes themselves don't include direct foreign aid from the United States Government. In order for there not to be awkward questions about Ghana, please listen carefully to what our Ambassador tells you.

MILLS: Thanks for the advice, Mr President. I wish we could see you again in Ghana before November. Our people haven't forgotten the honour you did us by choosing to make us the first African country you visited.

OBAMA 1: My family and I often talk about our visit to Ghana, and I am sure we shall be back there again one day, in whatever capacity we can. When we meet the Clintons, they talk about Ghana. When we meet the Bush family, ha ha, not often, they also tell us a bit about what they saw in Ghana.

MILLS: That's very nice to hear. OBAMA 2: Go back and get your act together, man. Set up a commission of enquiry to look into how you came to pay so much of your meagre revenue to individuals and companies, in judgement debt settlements. Do you realise that any hint of corruption that is raised against you affects me indirectly? Imagine if Romney wins the Republican nomination and some kind soul briefs him about what he will no doubt call “Wyoming-gate” and he begins to talk about it on nationwide television? And Rush Limbaugh takes it up and begins to talk about corruption in countries run by black people? Huh?

MILLS: Thanks, Mr President.

OBAMA 1 : You bet!

OBAMA 2: You just don't know, do you? Wish protocol were killed as dead as a stone!

By Cameron Duodu

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