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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Columnist: Asante-Yeboah, Joseph

WikiLeaks and diplomatic cables: corruption, drugs and arrogance

WikiLeaks and diplomatic cables: corruption, drugs and arrogance stare us in the face

When I read about the diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks, my reaction was to condemn whoever was responsible. If everything governments did was put in the public domain, the world would be ungovernable. We must acknowledge that the earthly or secular world can never be perfect. Nonetheless, whether I like it or not, the information has been put on the internet and I must deal with it.
I am grateful to John Amponsah for jumping in before me and for his brilliant piece on Ghanaweb on 16th December 2010. I appreciate the information he provided that there have been reports that Israeli intelligence (MOSSAD) managed to contact those handling WikiLeaks and removed files relating to them before this major series of disclosures. Oh, Israel, the Land of David, the Land of Jacob, I salute you. My beloved country Ghana should emulate your hard work and respect for authority and tradition.

I am equally grateful to the UK Guardian for making me aware of the leak relating to Ghana. The following are excerpts:
“A British operation to stem the flow of cocaine through Ghana has been beset by corruption, with local drug police sabotaging expensive scanning equipment and tipping off smugglers to avoid detection....”
“Ghana’s President, John Atta Mills, even (was) worried that his own entourage may be smuggling drugs through his presidential lounge at Accra’s Kotoka airport, and asked a senior UK customs official in November 2009 for help to screen them ‘in the privacy of his suite to avoid any surprises if they are caught carrying drugs’....”
“The request reveals a deep crisis in the bilateral operation against wholesale drug trafficking into the UK through an airport which has become one of the main transit hubs for South American drug cartels after the authorities successfully blocked routes from the Caribbean.”
“According to the cables, Ghanaian narcotics control board (Nacob) officers working with British officials
Actively helped traffickers, even calling the criminals on their mobile phones to tell them when to travel to avoid detection
Sabotaged sensitive drug scanners provided to the Ghanaian government.....”
“Embassy contacts in the police service and the president’s office ‘have said they know the identities of the major barons,’ but ‘the government of Ghana does not have the political will to go after (them)’, a December 2007 cable said.”
“... Kim Howells, Labour foreign office minister, delivered a ‘stern message’ to the Ghanaian government in October 2007 about its lack of co-operation and responded ‘testily’ to a request from Ghana’s interior minister for more scanning equipment, saying ‘If a ‘criminal’ is operating equipment, it is worthless’....”
I have produced these extracts because I believe they are of grave importance to the nation. I see it as a tip of the iceberg showing the extent of corruption that swallows us as a nation.
I feel that these revelations should humble us as a nation. That is how the US and UK seem to have taken it, judging by comments made by British Ministers and the US Secretary of State and the statement issued by the US Embassy in Accra. None of them has denied that the information that has been put out, in relation to countries across the world, does exist, although the leak is much more injurious to them than it is to us. They are concentrating on taking steps to make their governance better.
I wished former President Kufuor had not said what he did about the leak. I do not think it was right for him to go on radio and TV to say The Guardian’s publication was misleading and say the other things he spoke about concerning that paper. I would here like to observe that gone are the Victoria Brittan and The Guardian days in the PNDC era when the paper caused a lot of injury to our cause.
On the part of the NDC Government, the Minister of Information issued a statement denying that the things that were said to have happened in the NDC time did not take place. Part of the statement read: “It will be recalled that President Mills demonstrated leadership by example as a clear signal of his commitment and emboldened security personnel by voluntarily subjecting himself for body search.” I consider this to be petty and laughable.
Then comes in the headline on Ghanaweb: “WikiLeaks: NACOB boss vows not to share intelligence again”. The news item stated that the NACOB boss was quoted to have vowed not to share intelligence with diplomats from the west since he felt they are not trustworthy. I wonder whether the NACOB boss realises that the information he complained about was part of the WikiLeaks revelations and the diplomats he referred to did not have control over the leak. So in what sense are the diplomats not trustworthy? Instead of taking this matter seriously and resolving to work hard in the national interest, Ghanaians are being treated to a spectacle of denials and arrogance.
NACOB boss must remember that it was Her Majesty’s Government that provided the equipment, very expensive items at that, in Operation Westbridge. We must show appreciation for that. I would also like to remind him that, before Her Majesty’s Government officials produced the equipment and handed it over, I would not be surprised that they would already have produced equipment that was more sophisticated to monitor the use of the machine that was handed over. He must also know that whatever intelligence information he feels he intends to keep away from officials of western governments fighting the drugs war will already be at their finger tips in the most part.
A few days after the above news item, I read another headline on Ghanaweb as follows: “Osei Prempeh: NACOB boss is advocate for drug dealers”. When I saw it, I thought it related to the WikiLeaks revelations. No, it was about NACOB chief’s consent to bail granted to two drug barons. According to NACOB boss, the bail was to allow NACOB to conduct thorough investigations. But I thought one of the reasons for not granting bail was that suspects would tamper with evidence that was being gathered. Does the conduct of NACOB boss not corroborate the information contained in the WikiLeaks revelations? I say “well done” to the former Deputy Attorney General for speaking out on this.
The NACOB chief is also reported to have said in the leak that “.... low salaries make law enforcement personnel highly vulnerable to drug traffickers. To me, this does not demonstrate resolve to fight the war on drugs.
John Amponsah helpfully wrote in his article referred to above that “Ghana’s image has been tarnished by this disclosure, however in my view it is better to be tarnished, know the truth and do something about it than to live under a false sense of “all-is-well”. I fully agree with this and want to add that we should stop boasting that there is good governance in Ghana compared to other African countries and we are an example to them. We are nowhere near where we delude ourselves to be. The WikiLeakes revelations have confirmed the emptiness of that boast.
John further writes that “Accountability is a fundamental requirement in all functioning democracies. It is up to the people who live under such democratic governments to ensure that government is accountable to the people who voted these governments into power.” This is what I have sought to do in this article and will continue to do. I hope President Atta Mills and former President Kufuor will see it in that spirit.
I would like to conclude by commenting on the present state of affairs in the country in relation to foreign governments. Her Majesty’s Government in UK has passed bribery and corruption law to catch and prosecute UK companies that engage in bribery and corruption abroad. In addition, there has been the Mabey and Johnson case in which Mabey and Johnson company was heavily fined for engaging in bribery and corruption in Ghana. What else do we want Her Majesty’s Government to do? Other western governments have similar laws. Thus, the NDC Government has had to turn to Asian countries – China, South Korea, etc – and awarded them big contracts. Members of the Government know that, with western governments, they probably would not have got anywhere with the STX housing deal and using oil still stuck in the ground as collateral for loans. On top of that, the Ambassador of South Korea had the audacity to castigate the Leader of the Minority in Parliament on TV and radio. It is sad.
Nana Akufo Addo has said that he believes in Ghana. What he means is that he knows the Ghanaian to hate cheating, bribery, corruption. He knows the Ghanaian to be hard working and be his brother’s keeper. It is the system that has made the Ghanaian lazy and corrupt. Ghanaians look up to him to lead the fight to change the system, come 2012. He is a brave, intelligent and patriotic person and can do it. He did it in UNIGOV days. He did it in Kume Preko days. He was part of the team that put the “Stolen Verdict” together in the early 1990s. He was a key part of the team that secured victory for NPP in 2000. He can do it come 2012.
I assure Nana Akufo Addo that there are many Ghanaians of integrity who are crying for change and are looking up to him. He will have their full support in that unenviable task. When he puts his team together in 2012, God willing, he should not surround himself with sycophants and family members. He should look farther afield. He should make it clear to members of his campaign team that, if they are throwing money and other resources into the campaign, they should do so in the knowledge that they are not to expect anything in return. They do so for the love of their dear country.
We continue to work hard that NPP will be returned to power. Then, from the very first day, there must be a radical change in peoples’ attitude, particularly public servants. It should not be business as usual. It should be a revolution, a spontaneous revolution that is not carried out with guns and weaponry. I assure him that he would have the active support of a very great part of the nation. Hopefully, NPP would also secure an adequate number of parliamentary seats to support him.
I have already touched on bribery and corruption laws that govern UK companies. I have no doubt that Her Majesty’s Government wants Africa, and for that matter, Ghana, to succeed. I can well imagine the situation where NPP works hard and Nana Akufo Addo is elected President. President Obama gets re-elected, which is not impossible, and he gives much attention to his ancestral home. Africa. In Britain, bribery and corruption laws to control companies working abroad would be in place. It would then be an axis of Accra, Washington and London, and a great opportunity for our motherland. To get there, we need to deal resolutely with bribery, corruption and arrogance staring us in the face. Ghana shall succeed.

I dedicate this article to Dr Justice P K Owusu Ansah who died on 11th November 2010.


Joseph Asante-Yeboah
jasanteyeboah@yahoo.co.uk