A top official at the Togolese Security and Interior Ministry has thrown some helpful light on the circumstances leading to the brief, but conspicuous presence of the former Ghanaian head of state, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, in the Togolese capital, Lome, on Tuesday August 17, this year.
The official, who spoke on the grounds of anonymity, was categorical that ex-President Rawlings was never on an official visit to Togo.
He told The Chronicle in Lomé that contrary to widely held speculation ex-President Rawlings was merely passing through Lomé on transit from Cotonou, in the neighbouring Republic of Benin, where his flight had landed from a trip abroad.
The top official explained that Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings was subsequently provided official protocol courtesies befitting the status of a former president of an African state by the government of Benin.
He said that as a result, the officials of the government of Benin provided the former Ghanaian head of state with official protocol escort to the Benin-Togo common land border at Hilla Condji from where they informed Togolese government officials about the presence of Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings.
"Naturally, we had to respond quickly by extending the same official diplomatic and protocol courtesies to the ex-Ghanaian head of state since he was already in Togolese territory," the official said.
He said that it was under those circumstances that Prime Minister Koffi Sama and the Togolese Minister for Security and Interior received Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings in Togo from where similar protocol courtesies and privileges were extended to him to facilitate his travel to Ghana through the Aflao Ghana-Togo border on that day.
He revealed that former President Rawlings never spent more than 10 minutes in Togo.
He did not even alight from his vehicle at the Aflao border where Togolese customs and immigration officials hurriedly and discreetly prepared his immigration formalities.
The official, who was reacting to The Chronicle's front-page story headlined "Rawlings spotted again in Togo?" said any other forms of interpretation given to what he called "a normal occurrence" will be unfortunate.
The official said that it would be an exaggeration for a section of the Ghanaian press to speculate that Togo was in cahoots with the former Ghanaian head of state in formulating plots to overthrow the democratically elected government of President John Agyekum Kufuor.
"Our Togolese head of state Gnassingbe Eyadema enjoys most fraternal relations with his brother John Agyekum Kufuor and the people of Ghana and will never, repeat, never allow the territory of Togo to be used to destabilise Ghana," the official assured.
Then he winced philosophically, throwing himself into an instructive diplomatic hint. "If we did not act quickly to offer ex-President Rawlings the needed diplomatic courtesies to help him cross over to Ghana and something unusual were to happen to him in Togo, people would have turned round to put the blame squarely on the doorsteps of the Togo government," he whispered.
"We meant no harm at all to the good people of Ghana and President Kufuor," he assured, adding that "Rawlings cross over transit from Benin to Ghana through Togo was a harmless political event without any fanfare."
The fleeting presence of ex-President Jerry John Rawlings in the Togolese capital last week has generated a lot of media concerns in Ghana.
But it is not known whether the Ghana government shared the same sense of disquiet over the incident, especially when President Gnassingbe Eyadema was out of Togo on a state visit to France where he took part in the 60th anniversary celebrations of the liberation of Paris by the Allied Forces from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
However, diplomatic sources said it was beyond the normal practice of diplomatic protocol for the Togolese Prime Minister to drive the former Ghanaian head of state, who was only on transit with the full regalia of official despatch riders blowing sirens along the streets of Lomé to the Aflao border.
The latest brouhaha follows alarming reports by the ANALYST newspaper of Liberia of Tuesday August 13, 2004 that the agents of the former Ghanaian head of state are globetrotting in the sub-region, hunting for arms, and recruiting mercenaries to overthrow the legitimate government of President John Agyekum Kufuor.
According to the ANALYST, former Chief Security retired Captain Kojo Tsikata was spotted with two retired Ghanaian army officers in Cote d'Ivoire, Conakry and Dakar trying to recruit mercenaries to launch a surprise attack against Ghana.
The ANALYST says that the Rawlings men have been promised support by a top Ivorian government official.
According to the reports, the Rawlings group has been spreading rumours and gossip in the corridors of power in Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Togo and Liberia that President John Agyekum Kufuor was ambitious to resurrect Nkrumah's dreams of making Ghana the most powerful nation, and the nerve center of Africa's leadership.
They claim that the only way to President Kufuor is to destroy the peace and security of Ghana by turning it into a war zone, the ANALYST said.
In the light of the alarming reports, a columnist of The Chronicle has called upon the Ecowas heads of state to scrupulously respect the Ecowas Non-Aggression Treaty, and suggested that Ecowas should call former President Rawlings to order if the reports contained in the ANALYST are found to be true.
The last time ex-President Jerry John Rawlings was spotted in Togo in an unofficial capacity was in 1981, three years after he had handed over power to the late President Limann in 1979.
Later eyebrows were raised in clusters when a few months later, Rawlings bounced back to torpedo the very man to whom he had handed over political power.
As a result, the brief presence of Rawlings in Lomé once again in an unofficial capacity after his NDC party lost power to the NPP of President Kufuor in democratic elections in the year 2000 has therefore raised the political temperature to disproportionate limits inside Ghana.