THE ISSUE not THE INDIVIDUAL!…on deflection, distraction & the national interest

Esther A. Armah

The 2018 US military Agreement with Ghana. Ratified by this government. Source of ire, protest and party political recklessness. On Wednesday, Ghana was in a state of anger and turmoil after NDC Deputy General Secretary, Mr. Koku  Anyidoho issued threats that have landed him in jail and charged with treason.

They were made on Happy FM, a Ghana radio station. The comments have gone viral; played and replayed to the horror of thousands in Ghana and the glee of a tiny minority who seem to seek opportunity from such devastation.

They have ignited mayhem on Accra streets, scenes of angry exchanges between the police and NDC supporters, accusations targeted at the NDC and harsh critique of Ghana’s media.

Let’s explore, scrutinize and analyze this.

THE MEDIA: The Happy FM host – and the media in general – has been accused of ceding too much of their airwaves to party politicking. The Happy FM host – on whose show Mr. Anyidoho made his comments referencing the 1979 coup – is accused of failing to rein in an interviewee whose comments become dangerous. For me, this highlights bigger issues around media proficiency when it comes to the skills of conducting interviews and recognizing the power of the mic and our work as interviewers. Our airwaves are constantly the target of accusations of being politicized – which is different than a topic being political. When issues are party politicized – something that happens with alarming frequency – then focus on the issue is abandoned and discussion descends into the chaos of back and forth party political accusations.

That is what happened with Mr. Anyidoho and the Happy FM host. An interview regarding the NDC’s opposition to the US military agreement between the governments of Ghana and the US degenerated into reckless language signaling a potential coup.

Coup talk rattles Ghana. Of course it does. We are a nation that has survived bloody military coups. We rightly celebrate a democracy and peaceful exchange of political power since 1992. Anyidoho should walk the path of justice and allow his tongue to take him to the courts. The NDC should not mistake national anger for partisan support. Anger at the Agreement does not translate into usurping the authority of a government or supporting a political party that would advocate or support political violence.

My criticism of elements of our media goes beyond the Happy FM’s host treatment of Mr. Anyidoho’s comments.  We allow the airwaves to be hijacked by party political shenanigans that consistently bury an issue and elevate a political party’s stance.

Party political hypocrisy is a national sport. It is waged on any given issue. The stage is set and the invitation to the party political players issued. What ensues is the inevitable accusation and counter accusation that a government and its party is failing a people, failing in its duty and abandoning Ghana. Change the party from opposition to in power and exactly the same thing happens. The political opposition and the current government will default to a stance of: this serves Ghana; this doesn’t serve Ghana. That is to be expected.

This is not news; nor is it new. This is a poverty of journalism – not just the failure of a single interview host.

Anyidoho makes his statement, uncontrolled by a host – whose job is to control the interview. He then appears on Starr FM where their host invites him to repeat what he said. That is reckless, dangerous journalism.

Some elements of our media do not understand their power or purpose. We chase the politics and the politicians – not the issue. The politics is about party political matters. The issue is about the national interest. The Media must differentiate between the two.

Let me be clear – I am not suggesting that the issue does not have a party political element. I am saying that this is an angle, a perspective – it is not the issue. And yet that is too often the approach of elements of our media. The Media must do the challenging work of stripping away the party politics and engaging the heart, meat and bones of the issue and its impact on Ghana.

Our failure to do that makes us ill-equipped and untrustworthy in the eyes of Ghana.

THE ISSUE: The issue is this current US military agreement that has been ratified by the government.

We should be not be distracted from the issue; nor allow party politics to deflect a laser focus from this.

We have heard – unwisely – from the US Ambassador to Ghana. He held a press conference in which he told Ghanaians how they should feel about such an agreement. That smacks of diplomatic colonialism. An Ambassador represents his country’s interests in Ghana – so to hold such a press conference in the midst of the ire of Ghanaians was a major misstep.

We now know there were previous Agreements by the NDC with the US in 2015.

AFRICOM: It is a major element of this issue. It is the US African Command in Africa. It was established as an independent command in 2008.There have been denials of the existence of US bases across Africa by the US military.

An in-depth news feature regarding Africom in The Nation, a US publication highlights a set of previously secret documents, obtained by TomDispatch via the US Freedom of Information Act. Those documents reveal evidence of an expanding network of US outposts across the Continent. It also divides US bases into three categories: forward operating sites (FOSes), cooperative security locations (CSLs), and contingency locations (CLs).

In official plans for operations in 2015 that were drafted and issued the year before, AFRICOM lists 36 US outposts scattered across 24 African countries.  In 2017, that number grew to 46.

Where does Ghana’s 2015 and 2018 Agreements fit into this?

According to this story, in 2015 when the Africom representative announced an increase in CSL – cooperative security locations – Ghana, was among that list – along with Senegal and Gabon. These are described as staging areas for the command’s rapid response forces.

So, Africom’s 2015 plan lists co-operative security locations (CSLs) in Accra, Ghana as well as Gaborone, Botswana; Dakar, Senegal; Douala, Cameroon; Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; and Mombasa, Kenya.

We see a connection between the 2015 and 2018 Agreement. What role does this most recently ratified Agreement have in this expanding network?

This story confirms an expansion of US military presence across Africa. Why is the US expanding its military presence across Africa?

Consider too the current challenges the US face with their own President. The 45th President of the United States has been protested by millions since the day after his inauguration. This is a President suggesting school teachers should carry guns to mitigate the horrific numbers of school shootings and the mass casualties. This is a president currently embroiled in a legal battle with a porn star, who uses Twitter to launch 280 character insults and wages war via social media. This is the President who called this nation – and others – a shithole. Into this mayhem, Ghana signs such an Agreement.

Consider too the mantra of this President as regards relationships with foreign governments. Our president has consistently called for a Ghana beyond aid – does that include military aid? How does a President whose mantra from Day 1 has been a Ghana beyond aid ratify such an Agreement? Under what circumstances does this happen? This should not be dismissed as the continuation of a previous agreement. That is an unacceptable response given the alleged detail within this Agreement, its implications on Ghana’s sovereignty and Constitution.

Historically, Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah warned about the specific dangers of foreign military bases on African soil. In the June 1963 Speech to the National Assembly on the ratification of the OAU Charter he said: “nothing has stood so firmly in the way of African freedom or hindered African unity as the existence of foreign bases on African soil and African involvement through military alliances and pacts outside African Continent…….in defence and protection of our established independence all such bases and all such pacts need to be annulled. “

We are a nation seeking answers.

The Agreement may be ratified, but the matter is not over.

The NDC has spoken, as has the US Ambassador, Commentators, Professors and via the Wednesday 28th March protest, whole sectors of Ghanaian society.

It is the President’s silence that is egregious.

Mr. President, my questions are to you. Many of us are neither distracted by the reckless comments of Mr. Anyidoho; nor are we persuaded by the foolishness of the US Ambassador’s press conference to deflect from the issue.

We are however enraged by your silence – or your belief that you can stay silent.

Mr. President, a nation is waiting……

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Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) campaign STOP SEX ABUSE in SCHOOLS! is in partnership with ‘Let’s Talk Consent, ‘OdodowGH’ and EAA Media Productions. CASA seeks to engage additional organizations for partnership and participation. The hash tags across social media for this campaign are:- #SilenceBreakersGH and #TimesUpGH. For more info contact casaforjustice@gmail.com.

The Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) is an action and advocacy group of concerned citizens of Ghana committed to ending sexual abuse, sexual violence and sexual harassment in the country. CASA’s focus is impactful campaigns, citizen engagement, media and policy in this work. CASA works to educate Ghanaians about sexual abuse; to advocate for victims; to push for sensible legislation and enforcement against perpetrators; to engage the media in reform, language and their power regarding sexual abuse. CASA collaborates with other groups and individuals committed to ending sexual abuse.

 

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Richard Anim
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Marcia Ashong
Nana Awere Damoah
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Mawuli Dake
Farida Bedwei
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Ama Opoku Agyeman
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Abla Dzifa Gomashie
Kathleen Addy
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