Parliament on Friday ratified an agreement between the governments of Ghana and the United States of America (USA) on defence cooperation, the status of the US forces, access to and use of agreed facilities and areas in Ghana.
However, moments before the agreement was ratified, the Minority group walked out of the chamber.
The object of the agreement is to set forth a framework for enhanced partnership and security cooperation between the USA and Ghana with the aim of strengthening their defence relationship further.
It is also to address their shared security challenges in the region,while clouding those related to the protection of government personnel and facilities.
The ratification followed the adoption of the report of the joint Committee on Defence and Interior and the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which had recommended, by a majority decision, the ratification of the agreement.
Since the defence cooperation became public, it had generated disagreements between the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government and the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The NDC members said the agreement, which offered unimpeded access and use of facilities to US forces, undermined the sovereignty of Ghana and would expose the country to danger.
The General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, stated that they would review the agreement when the NDC returned to power.
But the government led by the Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nituwul, indicated that the agreement would deepen defence cooperation between Ghana and the US.
He said over the next two years, Ghana would receive a lot of aid in excess of $20 million from the USA in the areas of training and grant.
Portions of the agreement
Article three of the agreement accords the US military and civilian personnel the privileges, exemptions and immunities equivalent to those accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961.
Article four makes provision for the entry into and exit from Ghana of US military and civilian personnel using a US Government-furnished identification.
Under Article five, the government of Ghana agrees to provide access to and use of agreed facilities and areas in Ghana to US forces, contractors and other mutually agreed persons.
Article six provides that “all existing buildings, non-relocatable structures and assemblies affixed to the land in agreed facilities and areas, including ones altered or improved by United States forces, remain the property of Ghana.”
It indicates that buildings constructed by the US forces “shall become the property of Ghana once constructed, but shall be used by the United States forces until no longer needed by United States forces.”
Articles seven and eight are on prepositioning and storage of equipment, supplies and material and the responsibilities for the protection, safety and security of US forces and contractors.
Under Article nine, the US forces are empowered to conclude contracts for the acquisition of goods and services in accordance with the laws of the US, and such contracts are to be tax free.
Article 10 exempts the US forces from the payment of any tax or similar charge assessed within Ghana, while Article 12 provides for the freedom of movement in Ghana of vehicles, vessels and aircraft operated exclusively for the US forces.
Under Article 13, driving and other professional licences issued by the US government to its forces and civilian personnel are to be accepted as valid in Ghana.
Article 14 permits US forces to use necessary radio spectrum and to operate their own telecommunication system.
Joint committee’s report
Presenting the report, the Chairman of the Defence and Interior Committee, Mr Seth K. Acheampong, said the committee had thoroughly examined the agreement and found that its ratification would help provide a mutually beneficial arrangement for cooperation and readiness to combat emerging global security threats while also enhancing the already existing relationship between Ghana and the USA in the area of security cooperation.
Earlier in the day, scores of protesters who had wanted to enter the premises of Parliament to register their displeasure for the proposed ratification were denied access.
The police officers explained that the protesters, who wore red armbands, had no permission to enter Parliament House and that they were not given adequate notice concerning the protest.
Some Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) went to speak with the security officers to allow the protesters in.
The leadership of the NDC, including the party Chairman, Mr Kofi Portuphy; General Secretary, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, and Deputy General Secretary, Mr Koku Anyidoho, were also at the public gallery to observe proceedings.
The NDC and the Minority MPs were mostly dressed in black and wore red bands around their necks.
The Chairman of the People’s National Convention, Mr Bernard Mornah, and a former flag bearer of the PNC, Mr Hassan Ayariga, were also at the public gallery.
The Deputy General Secretary of the NDC, Koku Anyidoho, said the agreement would send Ghana into servitude and so the NDC would oppose it.