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Opinions of Thursday, 16 December 2010

Columnist: Amponsah, John

Wikileaks: Democracy and Accountability in Ghana

By John Amponsah

In case you have not heard about it, the Wikileaks disclosures (dubbed "cablegate") have become the hottest news event on the internet, and indeed on the planet. Worldwide media, computer hackers, intellectual celebrities like Noam Chomsky (and others), politicians and the lay man alike have all taken great in these disclosures of global importance. On the 4th of December 2010, Mr. Fredua Dankwa wrote an article on Ghanaweb entitled "Wikileaks: Special Ghana Cables", in which he said, "As the American people scratch their collective heads to resolve the diplomatic nightmare caused by Wikileak's disclosure of secret State Department cables, I am really infuriated by the fact that there were no juicy, intimate cables on Ghana. Come on!! where are the Ghana cables? This is not right".

Well everyone knows the famous saying "be careful what you wish for". As if the internet "has ears" (in a sense, it does!) less than two weeks later Wikileaks has now made a major disclosure about corrupt elements in Ghana's drug enforcement agency. So Fredua, perhaps for better or for worse, Ghanaians may have you to thank for this! Those releasing these cables have tens of thousands of materials to sift through so perhaps your lamentation caused them “speed up the process” thrusting Ghana into the limelight, albeit in a somewhat ignominious capacity. The "sacrosanct", God-fearing image of Ghanaians has been tarnished!

This article seeks to discuss the importance of accountability in any functioning democracy. With the current disclosures resulting from Wikileaks, I deem it a good time for us to focus on why accountability is important for democracy in Ghana and indeed, in any country professing to practice the ideals of this system of government.




NOW THAT WE KNOW, WILL THERE BE ACCOUNTABILITY IN GHANA?

OK, so Wikileaks has revealed to the world the instance of corruption in Ghana's drug enforcement agency. The head of NACOB (Narcotics Control Board), Mr Yaw Akrasi Sarpong has apparently come out to say that he will not share information with western intelligence agencies as a result of this leak.

One question that must be asked is: what is being done or what is going to be done about these instances of corruption? Another question is, will the population be kept in the loop with what the government does about this, who gets into trouble and what measures are put into place to prevent future abuses by officials?

We need to have accountability on this issue! In this case it looks like the Wikileaks disclosure is acting as a catalyst for exposing complicit acts of corruption among our drug enforcement officials. This issue may otherwise not have become public knowledge. So, will real action be taken to curb this problem? Will there be accountability?

Money from drug business has been used by organizations associated with governments for a long time. Before the First World War the British dealt in Opium while in East Asia (the Opium Wars of the 1800’s). It has long been known that elements within the CIA are big on using money from drug business to fund their "black projects". Opium production has resurged in Afghanistan after its invasion by western powers. Apparently the Taliban would not have any of it. Local competitors to western intelligence agency drug business aficionados sometimes get into trouble when these local competitors act "out of line". They then get busted and their businesses get taken over.

There have traditionally been instances of corruption amongst intelligence and drug enforcement agencies of various countries.

This does not mean that because drug trafficking has been known to occur among organized bodies attached to governments, it should be allowed to happen in Ghana. Corrupt Ghanaian officials must be investigated and disciplined for their corrupt acts which have brought the entire nation into disrepute. 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". This time there is no hiding under a veil. Both Ghanaians and people of the international community now know about this particular Wikileaks cable concerning Ghana and its associated problem. Ghanaian government, over to you!



WHAT ELSE HAS WIKILEAKS DISCLOSED?

Mr Assange, the man behind Wikileaks, is now in big trouble. He has upset big government and now he is behind bars. It is still unclear whether the rape allegations levelled against him are genuine or whether they have anything to do with the CIA, since some reports have shown links between the women he has been accused of being involved with and this US intelligence organization. What is clear is that Mr. Assange, although he seems to be very popular among left-wing activists and computer hackers, is currently in the clasps of the law, the "jaws" of 'The System'. What is to become of him? We will all find out soon enough. Needless to say, he has now become famous (or infamous) for what he has done. It is no secret that Mr. Assange has strong views contrary to US government policy. The original disclosures that brought major attention to the Wikileaks website had to do with abuses US-led western forces committed particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq during the "War on Terror".


In an article entitled "Arrest must not obscure what Wikileaks has told us" (UK Independent Newspaper), Johann Hari says:

"Wikileaks has informed us they [US Government & allies] have secretly launched war on yet another Muslim country [Yemen], sanctioned torture, kidnapped innocent people from the streets of free countries and intimidated the police into hushing it up, and covered up the killing of 15,000 civilians – five times the number killed on 9/11. Each one of these acts has increased the number of jihadis."


Mr. Hadi goes on to say:

"The US and British governments told us they invaded Iraq, in part, because they were appalled that the Iraqi government tortured its own citizens. Tony Blair often mentioned “Saddam’s torture chambers” in making his case for the war. Yet these leaked documents show that as soon as our governments were in charge, the policy of burning, electrocuting and raping people started again – and they consciously chose a policy of not objecting and not investigating."

Mr Hadi seems to be quite critical of both the US and the UK. Could that be because the Independent Newspaper is owned by a former Russian KGB agent, an oligarch-turned super rich business man? Perhaps not, since the criticisms appear to be valid. Nevertheless Mr Hadi also had this to say in his article:

"Wikileaks has exposed a terrifying casualness in our [i.e. US & UK] governments about ramping up the risk against us. Indeed, they show that the US government knows Saudi Arabia is “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups world-wide”, but our leaders continue to (literally) hold hands with them, because their oil pipelines run our way. They show a startling contempt for democracy too: when the Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, was kidnapped by a far right clique because he had increased the minimum wage and redistributed wealth to the poor, the US embassy confirmed privately that it was “clearly illegal”. Yet the US administration refused to say this publicly, instead urging “reconciliation” with the junta their own diplomats were calling “totally illegitimate.”

For Britain’s politicians, the documents offer a long-needed slap in the face. Successive governments, of all parties, support these destructive US policies because they believe we have influence with the Americans. But these cables show the Americans literally laugh at them and their sycophancy, describing their servility in mocking tones in cables back home, saying “it would be humorous if it were not so corrosive"


So according to Mr. Hadi, we have a case of "a startling contempt for democracy"...from two stalwarts of democracy (US and the UK). It appears that the conscientious citizens of the US and the UK will also benefit from these disclosures! These disclosures have given the common man a rare glimpse into the machinations of government, on a worldwide scale, thanks to the worldwide tentacles of US influence.

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.

Only a few hundred of the over 250,000 cables have been disclosed. Loads of countries have been mentioned and it looks like there will be more disclosures. 2010 will be remembered as the year Wikileaks created a massive ripple effect throughout the world -- the world will never be the same again, or will it?

There have however been reports that some countries will escape the "fall out" associated with Wikileaks. Indications are that Israeli intelligence (MOSSAD) managed to contact those handling Wikileaks and removed files relating to them before this major series of disclosures, so on this occasion the Israelis seem to have outfoxed their western counterparts.

Many corporations have also been exposed for their shady dealings and interference of government, case in point Shell and Pfizer both of which have been alleged to have had shady dealings in Nigeria. It should be interesting to find out what else Wikileaks will reveal.

The US government must be having a headache dealing with this massive embarrassment. What will the US government do about this? Will they allow democracy to function the way it is meant to function and be more open with their people, or will they opt for tighter controls over people and information, leading to a more totalitarian mindset? Time will tell, and not too long from now, I would imagine.



WILL THE WIKILEAKS DISCLOSURES REALLY CHANGE THE WORLD?

Mr. Assange however seems to have a secret weapon. It seems there are some cables containing explosive information that may be released into the public domain in future. Mr. Assange has hinted on cables about aliens and UFOs. Are these the explosive cables Wikileaks has been talking about? It has also been said that history will be re-written after "cablegate" is over. Whatever the result of these disclosures, and whether or not Wikileaks discloses information on aliens and UFOs, it is clear that after only a few hundred cable disclosures, the world has already changed. This story is too big for governments to control, so media bodies that are usually controlled by their governments have taken it up. Those of us who are members of the general population and who find this kind of disclosure interesting could learn a lot about the machinations of government and the behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings of politicians and powerful corporations. But don't fall asleep on this occasion! If you blink you might miss out on crucial aspects of this important current event of global scope and importance.

Let us bring the discussion back to Ghana. We are a small African country that has made a modest name for ourselves because a few elections have gone well and those results were noticed by the world. It is of great importance that we have accountability in our democracy. Once again, what is going to be done by the government of Ghana after this disclosure of corrupt Narcotics Board officials? There should not be a "next time" on this occasion.



CONCLUSION

The Wikileaks disclosures can no longer be ignored. They are arguably the biggest "public relations" headache the US has had to deal with in recent times, and at the same time the biggest ever public disclosure of behind-the-scenes government operations. Ghana has now been caught up in the web of disclosures. Now the general population of Ghana knows that we've got a corruption problem with some Narcotics Board officials. The fundamental question that remains to be answered is, what is being done and/or what is going to be done to address this problem, and will the people of Ghana be made aware of these proceedings? Will we have accountability?