30.06.2003 Feature Article

The President's Foreign Trips: A Critical Overview

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The President's Foreign Trips:  A Critical Overview
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By Carl Quaye for Daily Graphi

IN recent times, the President's forays abroad seem to have created, especially in the media, a cacophony of debate.

It is extremely important at this momentous period when Ghana faces the challenge of constructing an enduring democracy underpinned by enlightened discourse that affairs involving state policy (more so foreign policy) must be approached with utmost circumspection.

The centrality of foreign policy to any modern nation, especially in an increasingly globalised international arena, cannot be underestimated. Any student of international relations knows that the foreign policy of any republic provides the key conduit by which it structures and then conducts its relations with other states, which may be friendly or antagonistic.

The architects of Ghana's 1992 Constitution clearly put great store on Ghana's foreign relations. Articles 40 (under Chapter 6, titled "The Directive Principles of State Policy"), 41 (under Duties of the Citizen), 73 (under Chapter 8, dealing with the Executive) and 84 (under functions of the National Security Council) of the Constitution unequivocably provide the legal framework for the conduct of Ghana's foreign policy.

It is pertinent to stress here that for a developing nation like Ghana, firmly ensconced at the periphery of the international system, its relations with not only her immediate neighbours but also friendly countries across the entire globe is an inescapable necessity for our progress.

Investment inflows, the dignity and image of Ghana and even the security of our republic among other vital requirements for the survival and progress of Ghana, are tied at crucial points to the foreign policy of Ghana and the conduct of same.

It is vital to recognise in this analysis that the 1992 Constitution of Ghana makes the President the numero uno diplomat. It is within this context that an attempt will be made to bring out into sharp relief whether the President's trips outside Ghana have been frivolous, self-serving or, indeed, reflect a tactical manoeuvre to position Ghana strategically in an international system full of flux. A look at some of the key trips will be utilised in this exercise.

The President's first visit after he assumed office was on January 13, 2001, which took him to Ghana's eastern neighbour, Togo.

This trip was a clear and forceful manifestation of what is increasingly becoming one of the key planks of Kufuor's foreign policy: the establishment and maintenance of good neighbourliness between Ghana and the nations bordering her. Ghana's relations with Togo, for close to two decades, had been at best frosty.

This was the time for a thaw, a much-needed rapprochement vital for Ghana's military, economic and, indeed, political security in the medium to long term. The President simply seized the initiative. Ghana's relations with Togo now are friendly. Who benefits? President Kufuor or all Ghanaians?

The President, on February 19, 2001, visited Mali for the World Bank and IMF conference. At this confab, the President, for the first time, met and interacted with the World Bank boss, James Wolfenson, and IMF Director, Horst Kohler, as Ghanaian President.

As much as $340 million was pledged to Ghana by these Bretton Woods institutions in Mali. In Mali, it was clear the President was executing the mandate given him by Ghanaians to find solutions to our economic woes by employing his premier diplomat status.

The President followed up with visits to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin and even Libya. The policy of good neighbourliness was being pursued during these trips. At Sirte, Libya, on March 1 and 2, the President made his debut at the AU Summit.

The President's trips in West Africa allowed his peers to assess him. Their vote of confidence in him as an astute statesman aided the moves towards peace in Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia. Who benefits from peace in these two countries? The President or all of West Africa?

The President has subsequently visited Europe, America and the Far East, during which long-standing ties have been reinforced and new alliances forged. The visit to Italy, for example, was key in securing for Ghana mass commuter buses which have played a crucial role in ameliorating the acute transportation crisis in Accra and other cities across Ghana.

In Germany, a pledge of financial support for the Nsawam-Apedwa section of the Kumasi Highway was secured. Germany also agreed to convert a debt of US$6,745,000.00 owed by Ghana to the former GDR into relief under the HIPC initiative.

The state visit to India from August 5 to 8, 2002 gave added impetus to the $2 million ICT Centre of Excellence in Accra which will make Ghana a hub in the sub-region for the digital revolution sweeping across the world. Right across the State House in Accra, this centre is nearing completion.

Who benefits from this? Kufuor or Ghanaians? In addition, on this Indian trip, India offered to establish six community information centres to provide Internet connectivity in rural areas.

It is clear that an objective analysis of the trips made by the President cannot produce a verdict of junketing, frivolity or mere self service as some critics would have Ghanaians believe. These critics simply refuse by a self induced amnesia, to recognise that Ghana has a rich, multi-textured and long diplomatic history.

Kwame Nkrumah, arguably Ghana's finest statesman, set the tone by placing Ghana firmly on the geo-political map of the world. The irrepressible and suave Kofi Annan won Ghana a Nobel with his impeccable diplomatic skills.

The President himself, a one-time Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs is simply following in a long tradition which has made our country a key member of the international community.

It is simply mischievous and misleading for any of our compatriots to suggest that the President's trips have been a waste of our resources. Purely on the basis of the facts, such critics miss the point totally.

The Akans say that if a bird does not fly, it simply loses out. President Kufuor must "fly" if our country is not to lose out in the international arena awash with investible funds which will go to countries which state their case both at home and abroad.

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