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Opinions of Thursday, 29 March 2018

Columnist: Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta

Rectify or ratify?

In 2015, the Governments of Ghana and the United States entered into an Acquisition and Cross-Serving Agreement covering training, intelligence gathering and disaster management. That Agreement to enhance security has lapsed. It required and has now been renewed with details shared on use of agreed facilities and areas in Ghana. Amidst drama.

It is also Not news that faced with long-established convention, the folly of their tried and tired ways induced the members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), firmly in the Minority, once again to walk out of Parliament. In matters, Ghana/US military arrangements, the NDC in and out of Parliament seeks to loudly and sanctimoniously Rectify in public, after the fact, that which they Ratified on the quiet.

After all, it was in 1998, when the NDC was in office, that in an exchange of notes dated 19th January and 24th February, the Embassy of the United States of America presented its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Ghana, they referenced discussions held in 1997. The US embassy provided also a correction and a proposal.

Get a Grip with Context

The embassy's Note cited the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, - April 18, 1961 - on the basis of which, they requested that their personnel accorded the status equivalent to administrative and technical staff, be permitted leave to enter and exit Ghana. They stated in that Note, that said personnel whilst on official duty, be authorized to wear their uniform and carry arms. Further, they required that the Government of this independent Republic of Ghana accord duty-free imports, exports as well as exemptions from internal tax on any and all property, material and equipment imported into or even acquired in Ghana by the US Government for their official duties.

In addition, the Note stated that vehicles, vessels and aircraft owned and operated by the US Armed Forces should not be subject to any landing, port, pilotage, navigation, overflight or harbor dues, except those the US Armed Forces deems reasonable. Finally, the Note proposed that both governments waive any and all claims other that contractual claims against each other for damage, loss or destruction of property including injury or death suffered by military personnel whilst on official duties.

The President under whose tenure this Agreement was signed sealed and delivered was Jerry John Rawlings, Founder in Chief of the NDC. Our longest serving Foreign Minister then, who also served as Attorney General was Dr. Obed Yao Asamoah, an eminent lawyer, graduate of Kings College and Columbia University. As a lecturer of law at the University of Ghana, his students who have gone on to eclipse him in public office include former President John Evans Atta Mills and current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. If there was something wrong with the US approach and request then, surely, Dr. Asamoah or our former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Victor Gbeho at the time would have noticed, called it and stopped it. They did not.

Fast Forward

On March 20, 2015, when former President John Dramani Mahama was in Office, our Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration was was Hanna S. Tetteh. Our government referenced a Diplomatic Note of 5th February 2015, and approved the deployment of US Marines and military aircraft, personnel could carry weapons restricted to their duty posts and training areas only, in Ghana for 5 weeks.

A month later, then Foreign Minister Tetteh, she was also a Member of Parliament, signed an Acquisition and Cross-Serving Agreement between the Governments of Ghana and the US that included an Article VI waiver of identifiable duties, taxes and similar charges for Logistics Supplies, Support and Services. The Agreement and its Implementing Arrangements were unclassified unless otherwise stipulated. This unclassified Agreement did not make it to Parliament, representatives of the sovereign will of the people of Ghana. Or to the media.



The Supreme Court has clarified

We are reaping today, the import of the Executive decision taken in 2015 by former President Mahama and defended by former Minister Tetteh to accept into Ghana, 2 rejects from the US detention center Guantanamo Bay, (GITMO duo). The alleged Daesh terrorists are now bona fide refugees in Ghana whether you and I like it or not. It was only after the Minority, then, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) now in Office, protested and active citizens proceeded to the Supreme Court that we were engaged.

That NDC Executive pillow chat without reference to Parliament has put Ghana in a handcuff. We are apparently stuck with the GITMO duo. Fortunately, the Court's ruling was definitive. The Executive must seek ratification from Parliament for such international agreements that have far-reaching implications.



Between Rectify and Ratify is our current Sandwich

So it is that in the last week of the first meeting of the Second Session of the Seventh Parliament of the Fourth Republic, the business timetable was busy. Sandwiched between urgent questions on what steps the government is taking to maintain the pledged price of cocoa for our farmers even as neighbouring countries are responding to global downward swings by slashing farm gate prices. There was a request for when Government will bring to Parliament the agreement covering the lifting of highly enriched uranium from Ghana to China. Also in the mix was a presentation of an agreement between Ghana and the US on Defence Cooperation. Access to and use of agreed facilities in Ghana was up for discussion.

On Tuesday, March 20, 2018, further to the Supreme Court ruling that requires the Executive to seek ratification by Parliament, a joint meeting between the Members who sit on the Select Committees of Defence and Interior as well as the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was held. The agenda centered on how and when US forces can access and use facilities and areas in Ghana referenced Articles 75 and 103 of our Constitution, Orders 158 and 179 of the Standing Orders of the House and the Armed Force Act, 1962 (act 105).



If it is, that post their GITMO duo side deal and our/their long-standing acquiescence on military agreements between Ghana and the US, the Minority now wants to closely mark current and future cooperation, good for Ghana. The engineered walkout was as planned, dramatic. The substance remains.

We have cooperated with the US on the African/Crises Response Initiative (1998) and Humanitarian Relief Operations in Southern Africa (2000). We have several of such agreements with the Swiss and other countries to train and equip our police and armed forces, they distinguish themselves on international duties.

I will be generous. In the fullness of time, the Minority now has objections to military agreements between Ghana and the US, or any other country. That evidence-based conversation should have been held in the quiet discussions with the joint Select Committees and/or live in our national parliament. Not via walkouts and impotent press conferences. Does the Minority, sandwiched between their past and uncomfortable present seek now to rectify that which is we/they have always ratified?