This is something that no one among us has the power to do with our sovereignty. It amounts to the attempted robbery of the nation by the force of arms. In a fundamental matter such as this, that has serious implications on our status as an independent nation, that could even mean life or death to Ghanaians, as we have seen in the bombs that continue to fall on marriage ceremonies in Afghanistan, the minimum expectation ought to have been an open democratic national debate and not secretive and conspiratorial manoeuvres.

TAKORADI, Ghana - A traditional fishing boat sails in the Gulf of Guinea near the fishing village of Takoradi, west of Ghana's capital, Accra, on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. Inset: Nana Ekow Akon, chief of the Takoradi fishing community, speaks with U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, on March 2, 2009. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. (Photos by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)

TAKORADI, Ghana - A traditional fishing boat sails in the Gulf of Guinea near the fishing village of Takoradi, west of Ghana's capital, Accra, on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. Inset: Nana Ekow Akon, chief of the Takoradi fishing community, speaks with U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, on March 2, 2009. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. (Photos by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)

Nana Akyea Mensah writes in US Military Base In Ghana in response to a feature article on GhanaWeb by Asare Otchere-Darko, Obama’s Visit – What’s In It For Us And U.S.? Otchere-Darko’s article describes and implies that Kufuor did a deal with Bush and General Ward, bringing the Africa Command into Ghana without informing the Ghanaian people.

… in August 2007 Major-General Ward, who was later confirmed as AFRICOM’s first commander, visited Accra. He held discussions with President Kufuor on “ways of strengthening military cooperation.” His high-powered secret meetings with the President, Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff triggered huge speculation. Much was made of Maj Gen J B Danquah’s public statement about the visit when he said Maj Gen Ward had ‘done enough to resolve’ Ghana’s concerns about AFRICOM, adding, “I have had the chance to hear [Ward] explain what is the reasoning behind the command, and it’s all about partnership.”

This passage is preceded by:

At the moment the Americans say they are happy to keep the U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Germany, to coordinate all U.S. military and security interests throughout the African continent. But any reasonable assessment must conclude that this can be nothing but a temporary address and arrangement. Ghana should welcome that it is thus the target of America’s desire – and we should make the most of this, using it for our own advantage. After all, the process has already started.

The U.S. and Ghanaian militaries have cooperated in numerous joint training exercises, including the African Crisis Response Initiative, an international activity in which the U.S. facilitates the development of an interoperable peacekeeping capacity among African nations. And the head of AFRICOM has already reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to assisting the Ghana Armed Forces “to become more robust”. There is also the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program. Beyond that, Ghana and the U.S. have an active bilateral International Military Education and Training program. In 2007, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, the Managing Editor of The Insight newspaper and the energy behind the pressure group Socialist Forum, warned Ghanaians against what he saw to be the looming danger of a U.S. military base in Ghana. He cited, inter alia, the erection of the huge American Embassy complex in Cantonments as evidence of this.

And Otchere-Darko follows it with this:

General T. Hobbins, head of the U.S. Air Forces Europe, has held discussions with his counterparts here on the possibility of establishing “lily pads”, landing and rapid airlift facilities in otherwise deserted terrain in certain strategic sites in Africa. Tamale Airport has come up as one of the “forward operating sites” targeted. That airport is said to have a runway capacity of accommodating massive U.S. C-3 cargo planes and troop transports.

Ghana is also already the site of a U.S.-European Command-funded Exercise Reception Facility that was established to facilitate troop deployments for exercises or crisis response within the region. The direct link to our oil is only too apparent: the Facility came out of Ghana’s partnership with the United States on what is termed a Fuel Hub Initiative. It may sound like a mere gas station for the troops. But the choice of stable, imminently oil-rich Ghana as a Fuel Hub reflects a greater strategic interest in the country than as merely a filling station.

The Americans have not been shy in establishing a clear economic link alongside their military cooperation.

There are already lily pads and a robust American military presence in Ghana, which I have written about previously in this blog.

Kwesi Pratt was one of the first to raise the alarm about oil and US military bases in Africa. In a 2007 interview he said:

Kwesi Pratt: I am very alarmed after reading what is called the Cheney Report. When Bush came to power, he set up a committee chaired by Dick Cheney his Vice President to assess America’s energy requirements up to the year 2015. The Cheney Report actually says that by the year 2015, twenty percent of American oil requirements will be supplied by West Africa and therefore it is important to maintain a foothold in West Africa in order to ensure that oil supplies from West Africa to the United States of America will not be interrupted.

Consequently, the United States is planning to establish military bases across West Africa including Ghana. And I am very worried that at a time when we are celebrating our national independence we are going to tolerate the establishment of foreign military bases, especially American military bases on our soil. The great Osageyfo Dr. Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Kwame Ture, and all of them emphasized that Africa ought to be free from foreign military bases and weapons of mass destruction. We cannot allow that dream to die.

That is why, it is important for us to resist all attempts to establish foreign military bases on African soil especially forces of the United States, must be prevented from establishing on African soil. Clearly because they are not on African soil to protect our interests, they are on African soil to facilitate the exploitation of our resources for the benefit of the tiny minority that controls the wealth of the American people and who are sitting on top of this world exploiting the Chicanos, exploiting the African Americans and exploiting all of the other independent and healthy forces in the United States on America. We have to resist all attempts to build U.S. military bases in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa.

Nana Akyea Mensah writes:

I feel greatly incensed by the casual manner Mr. Ochere-Darko breaks this news as though it is simply a matter of business, and not even making any attempt to explain the basis of the conspiracy that he confesses in the article. What does this mean? According to Asare Ochere Darko, even though the NPP government did not allow Ghanaians to have a say in whether or not they want a US military base on our soil, it is too late for the Atta-Mills government to say “No”! In other words, without any national debate, whether we like it or not the process has already been started and they cannot be reversed, so we are as good as being already occupied by a foreign power!

Is this supposed to mean that the NPP government was simply throwing dust into our eyes whilst plotting secretly to undermine our national independence and sell us to the Americans? Fortunately for Ghana and Africa, the elections did not go their way. From the article under discussion, it seems to me that with Obama and Atta-Mills in power, the same special interests behind the establishment of the military base in Ghana, the military industrial complex of the USA, are acting as ventriloquists, using their local stooges, to revive their diabolic plot, and rope the two newcomers into the deal. Who else could fit better in the role of selling Ghana to the imperialists more than the very right hand man of Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo, the great Asare Ochere-Darko, himself? If you should ask me what it was that worried me most in the article, I believe I would put my finger on the following seven words written by Mr. Ochere-Darko: “After all, the process has already started.” Most of us are still dazed by the question. What this man is virtually telling Ghanaians is that for months, the NPP has been secretly plotting with foreign powers to establish military bases on our lands without letting out a word about it to the Ghanaian public.

The picture above is of Mary Carlin Yates, AFRICOM’s top civilian employee, promising that AFRICOM can help protect Ghana’s fishing rights, and help protect against drugs. But money for these programs was cut from the Pentagon’s budget. As Daniel Volman informs us in AFRICOM from Bush to Obama:

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 in 2007]

With this in mind, I cannot help thinking that Ms. Yates is, in the very best interpretation, being misleading.

Ms. Yates said in Washington on May 12th:

She disclosed that of the four major target areas of its mission-statement, which explicitly are, reducing conflict, improving security, defeating violent extremism and supporting crisis response. The three words that highlight the Command’s activities are “sustained security engagement”.

“When I was U.S. Ambassador in Ghana, we had a robust military-to-military program. We started the State Partnership Program. What we want to do is to find the African partners who are looking to build peace and stability in their nations and in their regions – partnering with those African standby forces as they build their goal is to come online with battalions for each of the five geographic areas by 2010”.

Five battalions do not mean more peace. Just like lots of police in a neighborhood are an indication of crime and violence, lots of soldiers in a country or region are a sign of war and conflict. If it is not there already, they will bring it.

Open and democratic debate is the currency of democracy. It is sadly lacking in many places that call themselves democracies, including being far too lacking in the United States. Mr. Ochere-Darko says:

But we must not ignore America’s interest. After all, whatever his connection to the African continent, Obama is President of America – and acts in the interest of its people at home above all else.

And so far, in terms of policies, Obama has shown himself to be a willing and enthusiastic supporter of the entrenced elites, what Kwesi Pratt calls the tiny minority that controls the wealth of the American people. Obama has allowed a certain amount of democracy theater in his political manueverings so far. But he has carefully closed off any areas of debate he does not wish to entertain. And President Obama seems to be continuing all the same military imperialist programs initiated by Mr. Bush.

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama. I made my own small contributions to his campaign. He is wildly and justifiably popular in Ghana and Africa. This should not blind us to what is going on. And it should not stop us from exercising our democratic responsibility to speak out and say what we see.

ADDED June 8th:
For a broader sampling of Ghanaian opinion, read the comment threads on these three posts, listed below, from GhanaWeb. As Nana Akyea Mensah says:

We had an interesting discussion on Ghanaweb yesterday, and as usual an overwhelming consensus was a clear and mighty “NO TO AFRICOM!”

US Military Base In Ghana

Obama’s Visit – What’s In It For Us And U.S.?

Ghanaians Discuss AFRICOM & Obama’s Visit

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