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Opinions of Sunday, 25 March 2018

Columnist: Samwin John Banienuba

The military defence deal with the US is betrayal of trust

A spade is not a shovel, it is a spade! Call it a US military base or military cooperation with the US, the deal Defence Minister Nitiwul and his NPP government just foisted on Ghanaians serves to advance US permanent interests mainly and hence indicts representative governance in Ghana. It is a betrayal of trust and using parliamentary majority as voting cattle in very sensitive national security concerns is worrying for our burgeoning democracy, bad for our integrity as a people, very bad for the very security it is meant to enhance, and particularly bad for a country that recently celebrated its 61st independence anniversary with a gaze set on development beyond aid.

It is made worse by the inapposite and lame argument that it is not the initiative of the government of today, but that of previous governments from which we cannot withdraw. This smacks of self-pity and denial, both of which are unbecoming of a government elected in the name of change by the people and for the defence of the people, not least when same government rightly served notice it can and will review contracts entered into by the previous regime and abrogate them at the peril of judgement debts if need be. I subscribe to it absolutely! When there are clear gains to be made from bad business deals agreed by precursor governments any incumbency should be emboldened to revoke them. It is exactly what we expect to also apply to political MOUs and agreements without exception, especially when they are not ratified by parliament.

Certainly, greatness is not marked by blame games, but by stepping up and taking responsibility in governance. What Nitiwul and his government should have been telling and clarifying to the good people of Ghana is why we should trust the goodwill of a foreign country aka US with free use of our radio spectrum, provision of and free use of a special runway, and unfettered access to our international airport plus exclusive use of other unnamed premises with no liability for damages whatsoever. In effect, the US army will be operating a mini-state within a state with the US Ambassador as President, not the President that Ghanaians trooped to the polls to elect under the sweltering sun less than two years ago. Why?

The angst and outrage of Ghanaians should have accordingly been the focus of government attempts to reassure the nation. Sadly, and granted there is any good in this current deal, communication of it has been clearly and appallingly poor. Nobody up there had the temerity and language to spell out, highlight and clarify how the national interest of Ghana is served by the deal or how vulnerable we could all be as a nation if we defied or renegotiated the sexy terms granted the US. Instead, the Defence Minister defensively elected to wave in the air some 1998 and 2015 antecedents entered into by previous governments as his raison d'être even when it is evident that those specific issues of concern are not captured anywhere therein in either documents.

With Nitiwul busy waving archives, no other person in representative or official capacity took up the responsibility of allaying the fears of fellow Ghanaians with clarity and brevity. On the contrary, that duty seems to have been ceded to the US Ambassador to point out our army would receive an injection of 20million USD, which in his opinion is significant, and should make all Ghanaians very excited and better off by courtesy of his government’s charity. I do not know if it is insulting, but I am in no doubt he is hitting below the belt of our kwashiorkor bellies which is tantamount to subtle mockery of our poverty, and palpable sarcasm of our recent mantra of Ghana beyond aid!
One does not have to study International Relations to know US foreign policy is informed and driven by realism. They boastfully admit even to themselves that they have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. What they do have is national interest and that national interest is permanent. They also have a clear definition of what that permanent national interest is; it is creation and expansion of empire. Empire, not for the sake of what the sentimental value of empire connotes, but empire for the supreme benefit of access to the resources that outposts grant. And history is consistent that the US is willing to pursue this interest by all the means necessary, often beginning with the decoy of aid including military aid and the cunning of smart diplomacy. The current US President could not parade this unabashed policy better than in his ‘America first’ daily hymn.

It therefore does not surprise even the cursory observer that this deal has the hallmarks of American interests written all over it from preamble to appendix. And for the avoidance of doubt, they made sure the language is very clear and instructive where it matters to them and abstruse where it matters to Ghana. Paltry as it certainly is, the question why the US would want to pay 20million USD to Ghana and obscure the potential benefits to our country in same deal remains troubling and problematic. Remember we knew of the 20million USD not from the text of the deal but from oral submissions of the Ambassador, corroborated by Nitiwul only.

The Ambassador has been the most vocal pros of the deal and I fault him not. He is in Ghana precisely to represent and pursue the permanent interests of his country after all. The very day he came on air waxing his lyrical best about our President being very visionary it was not lost on those of us who read in-between lines of what representatives of the powers that be in international actorness dare to declare publicly. It was not unclear that the top level diplomat was softening grounds for the realisation of American interests in Kofi Annan’s Ghana. Ghanaians would not have booted out an incumbency and got this President in for a change had they not adjudged him the best of his pack. Why then the sudden diplomatic endorsement and praise singing or did Ghanaians need reminding?

I appreciate the International Relations concept of bandwagoning where smaller or vulnerable nations align their security interests to those of more powerful countries in the face of visible or immediate threats next door. Such nations exchange parts of their sovereignty for protection in almost the same way as diminutive students donated gari and other provisions to giant bullies for protection in boarding schools. If this is the case of the US military base or military cooperation with the US as it seems, the agreement woefully fails to evidence what almighty US will be protecting in the interest of Ghana and Ghanaians, or how 20 million USD evenly compensates for the right to run a mini-state within Ghana.

As it stands, this deal opens us up our entire security infrastructure to manipulation of a predatory world power whose lust for expansive outposts is well documented. It rattles my knowledge of history and reminds me of David Rubadiri’s poem, Stanley meets Mutesa. Only in this instance it is not King Mutesa welcoming Stanley into his Buganda kingdom and therefore the West into colonising Uganda in the 19th century, but Defence Minister Nitiwul or President Akufo-Addo for that matter who has rolled out the red carpet in the 21st century to President Trump and let in the US in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana of all places.

With the hindsight of Rubadiri’s poem, replicated in our own history of the bond of 1844, I fear for homeland Ghana in today’s context of the known knowns of US appetite for empire and access to resources. And let this be clear, it does not matter whether NDC initiated this so-called military agreement or NPP embraced it, ‘Ghana first’ is what is conspicuously missing and that is the query. Whoever runs homeland Ghana needs remain vigilant and mindful in much the same way the US is eternally guided by their permanent interests irrespective of whether Republicans or Democrats govern their union.


By: Samwin John Banienuba

The Writer is Freelance International Relations Analyst and Political Commentator on African affairs

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