General News of Friday, 6 April 2018
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has indicated that he was well aware of the furore that was going to greet the Ghana-US defence cooperation pact, when he decided that it should be sent to Parliament for ratification.
“Last week, at the height of the furore triggered by the US-Ghana Military Co-operation Agreement, a good friend of mine came to caution me on what he called the “hazards of this democracy thing”.
In his opening remarks in a televised address on Thursday night, which happened to the President’s first pronouncement on the Ghana-US defence cooperation pact, President Akufo-Addo said his friend reminded him that his predecessor as President [John Dramani Mahama], who had also been democratically elected, had chosen to avoid any possible controversy by signing and keeping secret some agreements.
“So, why did I not follow this precedent, instead of exposing the nation to all the hazards of the past few days?, the President asked.
“My friend, no doubt, had a point. Indeed, I acknowledge that there are many very well-meaning citizens who would have preferred the peaceful process of agreements reached behind closed doors, to the furore of the past few days.
“Yet, far from being daunted, I take what has happened not to be symptomatic of the hazards of democracy, but a show of the strength of democracy in action.
“We are seeing being displayed before our very eyes, not the triumph of disorder, but the value of openness in governance, and of the need, the crucial need, for the people to be fully and accurately informed.
“You cannot claim to believe in democracy unless you have faith in the people, faith in their inherent goodness, faith in their capacity to make the right decisions, given the right information. It is this faith in the people that has shaped my entire political career, and it is this faith that propels me to lead an open and transparent government.
“I was fully aware of how such agreements had been handled in earlier administrations, but I decided that, under my watch, any such agreements should be subject to the appropriate scrutiny of the people’s representatives in Parliament, in consonance with the requirements of accountable governance and the teachings of the Constitution.
“After all, you, the Ghanaian people, had voted massively for change; therefore, there was simply no way my government would ever keep hidden from you, the people, agreements of such a nature. I believe that the fall-out from this decision only shows the growing maturation of our democracy.
“But for this decision to be open about this agreement, how else would we, the people of Ghana, have ever known that, for several decades, Ghana has had defence and security co-operation collaborations with the United States of America?
“How else would we have known that, in some instances, we have provided them with facilities for the movement of personnel and equipment to help some of our neighbours who were facing security and health challenges?, President Akufo-Addo said.
On March 23, 2018, Parliament ratified an agreement between the governments of Ghana and the USA on defence cooperation, the status of US forces, access to and use of agreed facilities and areas in Ghana.
The object of the agreement is to set forth a framework for enhanced partnership and security cooperation between the US and Ghana, with the aim of strengthening the defence relationship further.
It is also to address shared security challenges in the region, while clouding those related to the protection of government personnel and facilities.
Since the defence cooperation became public, it has generated disagreements between the government and the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The NDC members said the agreement, which offered unimpeded access to and use of facilities to US forces, undermined the sovereignty of Ghana and would expose the country to danger.
On Wednesday, March 28, 2018, hundreds of Ghanaians led by the “Ghana First Movement” took to the streets in Accra to register their dissatisfaction with the pact.
The protestors, clad mostly in red and black attire, with red bands around their necks, wrists and heads, called on the government to withdraw the defence agreement which they considered inimical to the national interest.
They carried placards, some of which read: “Build factories, not military base”, “Why would we betray Ghana for money?”, “Ghana is bigger than $20 million”, “Insensitive government, bad deal, our lives are in danger” and “Military base attracts terrorist attacks”
Addressing the nation on the issue on Thursday night, President Akufo-Addo said government deemed it prudent to continue an already existing defence cooperation with the US considering the realities of circumstances and challenges to peace in the West African region.
“It is our firm belief that the Agreement will help enhance our defence capability, and offer an important layer of support in our common effort to protect the peace in our region,” the President added.