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Above: Yates address on drug trafficking, below: Yates meets President Mills at Osu Castle.

THE UNITED States Military Command for Africa (AFRICOM) has pledged to strengthen military ties with Ghana’s Military High Command and the Ghana Armed Forces towards enhancing Ghana’s democratic regime and good governance.

A delegation led by Mary Carlin Yates, Deputy Commander for Civil Activities of the US Military Africa Command, called on President John Mills at the Osu Castle yesterday [Wednesday March 4] and commended Ghana for the impressive elections held recently.

Yates and President Mills exchanged a number of compliments on democracy in each others countries. I do not think Yates was strictly honest in this, as I suspect the US wanted to interfere in the recent elections in Ghana, and may have made some attempt. Luckily, the interference was nothing to the scale of the interference with Kenya’s presidential election. Jendayi Frazer, U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was in Ghana just before the December 28 runoff: Frazer meets the press. At about the same time there was talk in the Ghanaian press about “power sharing”, and I suspect that was her work. It was unpopular, and inappropriate to the circumstances.

I think the previous US government and the AFRICOM establishment were far more comfortable working with the previous NPP government, not so much for ideological reasons, but because the NPP government was reliably corruptable. And I’m sure AFRICOM, which already has a robust presence, will try to expand in Ghana. The corruption quotient remains to be seen for the new government. I am a little bit optimistic, and very worried. I think the intentions of the present government are good for now, but the drug money and the coming oil money will be powerful forces encouraging corruption. And, with special thanks to the Kufuor government, corruption is seen by many in Ghana as the way government and business “works”. Not that there was no corruption before, but in the last eight years it was encouraged, and grew exponentially.

Drugs were one of the reasons Yates visited Ghana. As I have written before, drugs are the tool AFRICOM will use to infiltrate into Ghana. It is thanks to the counter effective US “War on Drugs” that the drug trade has moved to West Africa. The primary beneficiaries of the War on Drugs have been defense and security contractors, the same folks who are looking to AFRICOM for more contracts.

As I have written before:

The US War on Drugs has been a failure for at least half a century. It started long before Nixon, as the article indicates. You can read a history of it here: How America Lost the War on Drugs.

… the catastrophe along the [Mexican] border looks like a final reckoning for overseas interdiction. ” It’s like a balloon effect – we’ve never succeeded in cutting off the traffic, we’ve just pushed it around,”

But nobody is giving up the pretense that the effort is serious and worthwhile.

“It is absolutely shocking what has happened — the increase in drugs,” Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates says. …

… West Africa has seen a dramatic increase in narcotics trafficking, with an estimated $2 billion worth of cocaine crossing the mid-Atlantic from South and Central America. A majority of the drugs passing through West Africa are headed for Europe.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates at least 50 tons of cocaine transits through West Africa each year. Local communities are increasingly disrupted because drug traffickers pay their transport costs in cocaine instead of money, increasing the amount of narcotics available to populations.

In Ghana, as part of a larger US government program, US Africom is helping to fund drug screening equipment and upgrades at Ghana’s international airport to support Ghanaian counter-narcotics and customs programs.

Africom also is helping to fund a police evidence storage and training facility to provide more capacity in storing evidence in support of counter-drug operations. The goal is to assist in achieving a greater number of lawful convictions. The facility includes a training center and computer lab, with estimated completion this summer.

Before arriving in Ghana, Yates visited Cape Verde where she talked cooperation in counter-narcotics, illegal fishing, and illegal trafficking.

Yates is meeting with a range of officials to discuss how regional militaries can cooperate in partnership with police and other security organizations to address the growing trend of illegal narcotics, illegal fishing, and other criminal maritime activities.

Cocaine is a serious problem for Ghana. AFRICOM offers hype rather than help. Please keep in mind that the AFRICOM programs to counter drug trafficking, illegal fishing, and other police and security functions were not funded. Talk is cheap.

AFRICAN COASTAL AND BORDER SECURITY PROGRAM (ACBS) – provides specialized equipment (such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipment, night vision devices, and electronic monitors and sensors) to African countries to improve their ability to patrol and defend their own coastal waters and borders from terrorist operations, smuggling, and other illicit activities … No dedicated funding was requested for FY 2008 [or for 2007]
From: AFRICOM from Bush to Obama

So the militarization of political space continues. This comes at a particularly dangerous time for Ghana. The coming expected oil revenues will create dangerous expectations, temptations, and pressures. A military strengthened beyond the control of civil institutions is a grave danger for any country. The active interference of AFRICOM, spells grave danger. Using AFRICOM, the US is already engaged in supporting and choosing sides in internal politics in African countries, most visibly in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. So far the same people are running Africa policy for Obama that ran it for Bush. This is a time to be wary.