SOMETIMES, institutions in Ghana behave in such a strange manner that I am left scratching my head.
Take the National Security Council, one of the most august institutions in the country. Under the Security and Intelligence Agencies Act 1996 (ACT 526), the Council consists of: the president; the vice-president; the ministers of foreign affairs, defence, interior, and finance and such other ministers as the president may determine; the chief of defence staff and two other members of the Armed Forces; the Inspector-General of Police and two other members of the Police Service, one of whom shall be the Commissioner of Police responsible for Criminal Investigations Department; the Director-General of the Prisons Service; and the Directors of External Intelligence; Internal Intelligence; and Military Intelligence; the Commissioner of Customs, Excise and Preventive Service; and three persons appointed by the President.
It can be seen from its composition that the National Security Council was meant to bring enormous professional expertise to bear on all issues concerning the national security of Ghana. And yet, one wonders whether it was ever asked for its view on the single most dangerous act ever taken by a government of Ghana, in relation to what constitutes an external threat to the security of the country. Undoubtedly, this is the acceptance into Ghana of the two Gitmo ex-detainees sent to us by the United States government. We do not know whether the Council was formally consulted about this action by the Ghana government. If it was, and it acquiesced to the action, then we must conclude that this hugely prestigious institution that boasts of such experienced security professionals on its ranks is yet another body in our political system that rubber-stamps the decisions of the president.
We do know that the Cabinet is as toothless as a dog that has tried to catch one porcupine too many. And that Parliament, by allowing itself to be bullied into sitting in secret on the Gitmo-2 matter, did noble its own ability to protest against the government’s action. But have the claws of the security professionals also been broken?
The question lends itself to examination because of the sequence in which the events that concern Ghanaian citizens about the security of their country, has occurred.
Strangely, we were not given any guidance, whatsoever, by the National Security Council, on why in its professional view, the acceptance of the Gitmo-2 in early January 2016, posed no security threat to Ghana. Despite the past deeds of the two fugitives. But no sooner had what might be termed an ancillary development, that is, the attack on Grand Bassam, in the Ivory Coast, by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), occurred than the National Security Council found its voice. It issued a statement urging the Ghanaian populace to be on the lookout for people who might perpetrate a similar attack on Ghana.
The National Security Council now called for public vigilance, and observed that in the Council’s view, Ghana faces “a credible terrorist threat.” It then advised the general public to be “cautious and curious”, and to report any suspicious activities to law enforcement agencies. This conclusion, the Council said, was reached after the Council “reviewed the security situation in the country in the wake of an upsurge of terrorist attacks in the West Africa sub-region – Mali, Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire, and current intelligence on extremist activities in the region.” The statement added that the meeting also “reviewed Ghana's anti-terrorism preparedness, joint services operations and other measures to ensure the safety of the citizenry.”
Ei, so the Council can speak? Plenty like that? Ahah!
But I am afraid the Council’s statement swerves Ghanaians regarding its views on the Gitmo-2. You see, an attack on the Ivory Coast should, normally, not cause much concern to the government of Ghana. Why? Because the Ivory Coast endured periods of actual civil war between 2000 and 2011, without any of it ever spilling into Ghana, despite our proximity to that country. Why should the Grand Bassam attack then be viewed differently?
The elephant in the room which the National Security Council failed to say anything about, is the Gitmo-2 issue. By accepting them, Ghana has definitely put itself on the list of AQIM’s potential targets. For AQIM is primarily interested in alliances struck to combat it at the global level.
In that reasoning, it was because of the Ivory Coast’s alliance with France that Grand Bassam was hit, not because of its internal politics – although that is messy enough. And if the analysis of the Ghana National Security Council is to carry verisimilitude, then that fact should concern the Council, inasmuch as its main function is to consider appropriate measures to safeguard the internal and external security of Ghana.
The “threat” to security in Ghana that led the Council to issue its statement, does have a causative factor, it is, in other words, the consequence of the acceptance of the Gitmo-2 into Ghana.
Anyone who thinks that the above analysis is over-stretching the point should ask himself: why has the United States army publicly advised its officials not to travel, except on official duty, to five West African countries, INCLUDING GHANA?
The four other countries are Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast – all countries that have suffered AQIM attacks in recent months.
Why is Ghana on the list? The significance lies in the fact that Ghana is not the only country in West Africa that has borders with the other four that have experienced AQIM attacks: both Benin and Togo also have borders with some of them. But Benin and Togo were not included in the American travel advisory. Which means that factors other than the merely geographical were taken into account by the American military in drawing up their list.
It is Ghana’s newly-acquired status as a country in which AQIM has reason to be interested that earned it a place on the American list.
Which is diabolically ironical.
For it is “the unkindest cut of all”, if ever there was one. Without the presence of the Gitmo-2, Ghana would no doubt have retained its placid, unremarkable stance – along with Togo and Benin – as a country that “dey bi keke” [of no particular relevance to anything happening elsewhere].The Americans, having brought us the Gitmo-2, now say their military personnel may not visit Ghana except on official duty. Their lives are precious, right? What about the lives of the Ghanaians on whom they’ve imposed the Gitmo-2?
In traditional Ghanaian society, if someone to whom you’ve done a favour repays you with an action that is harmful to you, you give him thanks. Do I see President John Dramani Mahama, trailed by his Cabinet and members of the National Security Council, trooping to the American embassy to render thanks unto Uncle Sam?
By CAMERON DUODU