The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt. Gen. Obed B. Akwa, has reiterated government’s claim that Ghana has not offered a military base to the United States under the 2018 Defence and Co-operation Agreement (DCA).
“The Defence Co-operation Agreement (DCA) between the government of the US and the Republic of Ghana is not a base agreement”. Rather, he said: “such cooperation allows US to operate and destroy potential adversary since the ability of most military in Africa is hampered by lack of logistics”.
In the view of the CDS, “any attempt to destroy terrorists’ networks is certainly a bolster to security”. “The presence of US military in Africa is not new, external actors have shaped security over a long period of time”.
“The Defence Co-operation Agreement with the US has been running since 1998 and the current one that has generated a lot of heat than light has remained on the table for two years”.
Lt. Gen. Akwa made these declarations at a roundtable organised by the Faculty of Arts on the theme “The United States of America Military Presence in Africa: Asset or Liability” at the University.
Tracing the history of foreign military presence in Africa, Lt. Gen. Akwa said it dated back to the Berlin Conference in 1884/5 that brought about the partition of the continent. He said African leaders gave further impetus to the partition by incorporating it into the then Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) (now African Union) charter.
Lt. Gen. Akwa asserted that the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 bombing in the US and the realisation of Africa as a proxy target by terrorists had changed the doctrine of the US about Africa. The CDS said US tried to sign such security co-operations in her attempt to counter Al-Qaeda and other terrorists, advance security cooperation, prevent transnational criminal threats, conflict prevention and the promotion of peace and security. He added “the greatest threat to US interests in Africa comes from violent extremists organisations that are competing over primacy other extremists’ movements in Africa”.
The CDS explained that, though it was true that the US has maintained light footprints in Africa, it was equally true that there was only one US military base in Africa situated at Djibouti at the Horn of Africa. The CDS defined a military base as a “scalable location outside the US and its territories for rotational use by operating forces. It supports rotational rather than permanently stationed forces”. He also said “it is a facility located outside the US and US territories with little or no permanent US presence. It is maintained with periodic service contractor or host nation”. He said he understood the apprehension of the citizens and said with this explanation, he hoped it would allay their fears.
“Concerned citizens are apprehensive about the agreement because it is a security matter, I hope these definitions will allay your fears”. He said such agreements have helped for example African countries to find solutions to the continent’s problems, to the, the US has over the years supported African peacekeeping operations since 1997 as part of the global peace initiative.
He recommended that, the US must find a balance between Defence and diplomacy to assuage such misconceptions about their presence in Africa. Another discussant, Prof. Peter Grant concurred that such military presence or establishment of bases outside their jurisdiction predates the pre-historic period.
Touching on the debate, he said though “those against the deal or are paranoid may exaggerate, but their concerns are genuine”. This is because, “if you have a military presence that shelters your military then, you have a base”.
Prof. Grant who is the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Arts, said the government had been dismissive about the issue, per comments of people in government and the ruling party; and described the president’s posturing during his nationwide televised address as “non-presidential”. The president told us “what is not rather what it is”. “Take it or leave it the president made it difficult for people to defend the issue”.
Turning to the opposition NDC party, Prof. Grant, said the party has been insincere about the matter, since it was stated nowhere that the deal was a culmination of the 1998 agreement.
Prof. Grant indicated that he was happy about the debate since the citizenry would know who was telling the truth at the end of it all. He wondered the benefit of the agreement to the nation since the “security concerns of the US were not the same as that of Ghana”.
“I do not see any benefit, but if people question the deal, it does not mean they are paranoid”. “The fear of Ghanaians is that, US troubles could be turned on us, by their enemies”.
He however said, he had trust in the capacity of the Ghana Armed Forces but was quick to lament their paltry budgetary allocation of 0.48% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He noted that, the agreement would help in the training and equipping of the armed forces.
A Deputy Minister for Information, Ama Dokuaa Asiamah Adjei, said in a statement that parliament did not rush through with the ratification of the agreement. “Parliament in my opinion never rushed in the process of ratifying the agreement. It was a normal way of doing business in the house”.
She said all parliamentarians had the opportunity to make input and maintained that, the current agreement was better structured and negotiated than that of 2015 because “some provisions were hidden but with this one they are brought out clearly”.