By George Egeh, Ghana

Scores of discontent Ghanaians have marched through principal streets of Accra, last Wednesday, to protest the controversial defence cooperation agreement between Ghana and the United States.

The 2018 defence cooperation agreement, which was ratified by a Majority-only Parliament last week, will permit the U.S. Military to use Ghana as a base for staging and deploying forces. The Minority legislators walked out of Parliament, refusing to approve the deal they believe will mortgage the country’s sovereignty to the superpower.

Before walking out, the House was reduced to a marketplace with Minority shouts and taunts of objection to the controversial document that was before them.

Despite the unrestricted access and tax exemptions, Ghana has also agreed to bear the cost and take primary responsibility for securing the U.S. facilities in Ghana.

Documents show that negotiation with the U.S. has been ongoing at least over the past eight months. However, Cabinet approved the deal on March 23, 2018.

Some Ghanaians protesting against the Military Defence Cooperation Deal

The deal will also allow for military training activities between the armies of the two countries. Ghana is expected to earn some $20million annually as part of the agreement.

However, many security analysts and a section of Ghanaians believe the deal threatens national security.

Demonstration Route

Protesters converged at the Obra Spot Wednesday morning and marched through the Kwame Nkrumah Avenue to Farisco Traffic Light to TUC to EOCO and end at Hearts Park.

The opposition NDC Deputy General Secretary, Koku Anyidoho, was arrested and charged with treason for declaring that there will be a civil coup to remove President Akufo-Addo following Parliament’s ratification of the controversial military agreement.

The government and the Minority in Parliament Wednesday continued to slug it out over the defence cooperation agreement between Ghana and the United States of America (USA).

While the government justified the proposed agreement with the USA, the Minority called for the immediate withdrawal of the agreement from Parliament.

The Minority said the proposed agreement would denigrate the sovereignty and autonomy of the government and the people of Ghana, as well as the laws of the country.

“In light of the above, we demand an immediate withdrawal of the agreement from Parliament, pending the holding of broad consultations and a thorough national discussion involving all relevant stakeholders,” a statement jointly signed by the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, and the Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said.

The statement said the Akufo-Addo government could not disregard genuine concerns by Ghanaians that the siting of the base in Ghana and the presence of United States Armed Forces personnel could make the nation a prime target for terrorists who had intensified their activities in the West African sub-region.

“In its current form, this agreement completely betrays the interest of Ghana,” it further added.

Government’s Explanations

At a press conference in Accra, to explain the issues surrounding the defence cooperation, the Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, said the US government was making the request based on earlier memoranda signed in February 1998 and April 2015 which were binding on the two countries.

He said the previous agreements were not known to Ghanaians because they were not taken to Parliament for ratification, even though the US military had been in the country under those agreements.

He said the hands of the government were tied because the agreements had been signed already and the best the government could do, under the current circumstances, was to renegotiate with the US government to ensure that “our relevant authorities have a say in aspects that concern them”.

Renegotiation

Nitiwul said consequently, the government of Ghana composed a 12-member team to meet an 11-member team from the US to renegotiate the defence agreement.

Mr Nitiwul, who was supported by the Minister of Information, Dr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, said the negotiation allowed the relevant authorities, such as the ministries of the Interior, Transport and Finance, to have inputs into aspects of the agreement that were related to their work.

He explained, for instance, that under the previous agreements, the US military was allowed to move around with arms, use US driving licences to drive around in the country and that “the government of Ghana accorded duty-free importation and exportation, as well as exemption from internal taxation on products, property, materials and equipment imported into or acquired in Ghana by the US government in connection with their official activities”.

Referring to the previous agreements, he said the current government took the current agreement to Parliament because it wanted the inputs of the representatives of the people before finally committing itself to it.

Secret Document

He dismissed the allegation that the proposed agreement was a secret document, wondering how a secret document could be shared with all Members of Parliament.

“So when somebody says it is a secret document, no secret document goes to Parliament. If we wanted to hide it, we would not have taken it to Parliament,” he stressed.

He explained that the only new things in the agreement were the facilities at the airport, the use of the runway and the exclusive control of the facilities at the airport.

Mr Nitiwul said aside from those, nothing in the agreement was new, explaining that the current agreement had its roots in the previous two agreements.

He said Parliament was currently considering the agreement, stressing that Ghana was not the only country with which the US military was signing the MOU, citing Kenya, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, France, Cote d’Ivoire, among others, as some of the countries.

The Defence Minister re-emphasized the fact that the MOU had nothing to do with the US establishing a base in the country and that it was based on the assurance that he constituted the team to meet the US team to renegotiate the agreement and subsequently forwarded it to the Cabinet and then to Parliament for approval.

Sanctity of Parliament

Making a statement, Dr Hamid called on parliamentarians, especially those on the Minority side, to respect the sanctity of Parliament. He accused the Minority of leaking the agreement to the media even before Parliament began to debate.