Ghana’s Chief of Defence Staff Lt. Gen. Obed B. Akwa, has said defence deals between African countries including Ghana and the United States of America, have been of help to the continent as far as strengthening Africa’s security capabilities and counterterrorism measures are concerned.
“The existing cooperation between the United States and African partner nations has led, for example, to excessive cooperative maritime security, especially in the Gulf of Aden, in the East Coast and the Gulf of Guinea on the West Coast of Africa,” he said at a roundtable organided by the Faculty of Arts of the University of Cape Coast on the topic: “U.S. Military Presence in Africa: Implication for National Security and Sovereignty”.
“The United States Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership and Partnership of Regional East African Counterterrorism, have been instrumental in increasing the capacity of African security forces and the fight against terrorism.”
His comments come on the heels of controversy surrounding the 2018 defence cooperation deal between Ghana and the U.S. which was recently ratified in parliament.
On Tuesday, 24 April, Dr. Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, Head of the Department of Research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra, Ghana, said the intentional leakage of sensitive security information by high-profile politicians concerning the various defence deals of 1998, 2015 and 2018, has exposed Ghana to new security threats.
Speaking for the first time about the political controversy that greeted the 2018 deal, Dr Aning said: “Let me say two things: The content is important, very important but the process and the mechanisms to arriving at the content and how we handle the content is what I am interested in.
“Let me explain: Very few Ghanaians knew there was a 1998 agreement and its content, much more a 2015 agreement and its content. People in high office deliberately leaked sensitive information around these agreements and by doing so without placing the interest of Ghana and Ghanaians at the centre of these discussions, have exposed all of us to new threats because Islamic State (I.S.) in the West African Province now says: ‘Oh, so, Ghana, you created a platform for the U.S. to launch attacks against us’”, Dr Aning told Francis Abban on Accra-based Starr FM.
Consequently, he is proposing that certain people in high office – both in government and in opposition – be made to swear an oath of secrecy to forestall such leakage and release of sensitive security information that portends ill consequences for the country.
“The question is: How do we create a political culture in this country so that people in opposition and in certain positions swear the official secret oath or secret act so that information that can hurt Ghana if it gets out into the wider public, stays where it ought to stay”.
In his view, “This agreement has exposed the dangerous bipartisanship in our politics; so dangerous that the stability of this country does not matter in the calculus of those who play these games insofar as they will hurt their political opponents. That is dangerous, that threatens you and [me], that exposes us as a nation to ridicule amongst our partners and I’m hoping that as things calm down, we will all be a little reflective and to say: ‘What can we put out into the public domain, under what condition, what time and for what purpose?’”
As part of the agreement, which was ratified by a one-sided parliament following a walk-out by Ghana’s Minority, the U.S. government will be spending $20 million in training and supplying equipment to the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF).
Ghana agreed to bear the cost and take primary responsibility for securing U.S. military facilities in the country, per the agreement.
According to the contract, Ghana has granted U.S. contractors tax exemption and the U.S. forces will also enjoy exclusive unimpeded access to certain key installations and facilities while being backed by diplomatic immunity.
Asked if Ghana negotiated well with the Americans, Dr Aning said: “What is your position when you negotiate? And when did this negotiation start? And what were the indications that we, as Ghana, gave prior to the negotiations?
“If you look at the history of this particular process, it started more than two years ago. What culminated in the 2018 agreement started more than two years ago? When you negotiate with a super power, and more often than not, for people like us or for small nations like us, on gross resource constraints, you negotiate from a position of weakness. The best you can do is to get as favourable terms as possible based on your own perceptions of the threat that you face and the kinds of things that you hope this agreement will bring”.
He continued: “I’ve only read what’s on paper, I’ve not been privy to the negotiations and those who negotiated it but I can assure you that for me, the content, the noise about the $20million, all those things are interesting but it is this partisanship that says: ‘I will bring out what somebody else has done or I will use some information that I have to destroy you because I need to score points, for me that is where the worry is.
“Had we even gotten $100million, and the U.S. said we will now train and equip the Ghana Armed Forces to be the best army in Ghana but in the process we had exposed some of our security dealings with our partners, exposing what we’ve allowed our territories to be used for against some of our closest international partners. I doubt very much even if the Nigerians knew that we have given a logistic base here for the Americans to use against Boko Haram, so, I’m trying to do a piece that disentangles all these aspects. How will the Nigerians see us, are we a credible partner [for them] to have heard that we have provided a space for somebody to help them fight Boko Haram but they themselves didn’t know? So, there are critical, ethical issues that, as a nation, we need to discuss: How do we handle sensitive security matters? We should ask ourselves who should be made to swear the official secret act or oath so that even in opposition, when they come into government or they go into opposition, these things are not released to score political points”.
On whether the agreement is a good or bad one, Dr Aning said: “It’s a mutual agreement, the military will get something”. “Look”, he added, “There is nothing new in this agreement, if you compare the 2015 and the 1998 agreements, actually there are a couple of cut-out points, yes it could have been done better but in terms of the resource constraints by our uniform forces, being given something to improve their capacity within the context of where we are located, is [useful]”.