WHEN A GOVERNMENT FAILS TO DO ITS HOME-WORK
By CAMERON DUODU
There are certain clichés that never seem to lose their evocative power, no matter how often they are pressed into service. `
One is that “nations have no permanent friends or allies, only permanent interests.”
Actually, what the man credited with being the originator of the quotation, the then British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, said, in a speech in the House of Commons in 1848, was that: “… it is a narrow policy to suppose that ‘this’ country or ‘that’ is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow…”
Ghana’s foreign policy since its independence in 1957 has largely followed this line. Within one year of our independence, we acquired a “friend and ally”, in the shape of Guinea and its leader, Ahmed Sekou Toure. Ghana formed an association with Guinea, known as the “Ghana-Guinea-Union” – whose provisions were published on 1 May 1959. To cement the union, and to demonstrate that African countries did not need to be the permanent vassals of colonial countries like France, Guinea was given a loan worth 10 million pounds sterling (now valued at about 210 million pounds).
Mali joined this “Union” on 1 July 1961, and also got a loan of 5 million pounds from Ghana. But within two years, the Union was all but dead! By then, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana had become so disenchanted with President Sekou Toure of Guinea that Flagstaff House (Nkrumah’s office) instructed the Ghana Broadcasting System to refrain from broadcasting news about Sekou Toure. and Guinea. Friendship with Mali staggered on for a bit, but also eventually faltered.
Why did the Union fail? It failed because the real interests of the three countries did not coincide adequately to keep the Union alive. Guinea and Mali both had immediate, French-speaking neighbours whose attitude towards them needed to be friendly, for internal political reasons. Political disaffection with the regimes of both Guinea and Mali was rife, with political exiles having fled to neighbouring countries, from where they constituted a constant threat to the internal security of both Guinea and Mali..
Moreover, the long-time institutional association of both countries with Metropolitan France could not be easily ruptured in practice, irrespective of what they said publicly. Indeed, France was able to persuade them, through a clever and very secret disinformation campaign mounted by President Charles de Gaulle’s cloak-and-dagger man in Africa, Jacques Foccart, that Dr Kwame Nkrumah needed to be treated with caution because he was an ambitious man whose objective was to subvert the independence of Guinea and Mali to satisfy his egotistical desire to become the “Emperor” of Africa!
This was why, by the time of the Addis Ababa conference of May 1963, meant to unite the two rival factions preaching unity in Africa – the Casablanca and the Monrovia Groups – many of the leaders who gathered in the Ethiopian capital to discuss the formation of what finally became known as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) did not favour President Nkrumah’s proposal for the immediate formation of an organic continental government, which had proper teeth, and was equipped with effective instruments of action, such as an African continental army.
But it was the US that carried the policy of “no permanent friends” to its fullest extent during the Cold War. It never got itself entangled with “permanent friends” and jettisoned – with abandon – many regimes which believed themselves to be “friends” of the US. “Permanent interests” always ruled, but few regimes were clear-headed enough to realise what the game was.
Id we examine US relations with South Vietnam, for instance, we find in Wikipedia that:
QUOTE: The arrest and assassination of Ngo Đình Diem, the president of South Vietnam, marked the culmination of a successful CIA-backed coup d’état, led by General Dương Van Minh in November 1963. UNQUOTE
Yet this Ngo Dinh Diem was himself what has been described as an “American-supported, anti-communist Catholic” ruler! General Van Minh, having been used to get rid of Diem, could not become a permanent friend of the US, either, but eventually considered himself “betrayed” by his erstwhile friends in Washington.
Other US “friends” who eventually became “dispensable” are General Musharraf (Pakistan) General Noriega (Panama) and General Mobutu Seseseko (Zaire).
In a host of other cases, the United States has waged war on the side of “allies” whom it has had to abandon later, because continuing the war had been found later to be not in America’s interest. Iraq, which America fully invaded in 2003, is a particularly good example. After getting rid of Saddam Hussein, the US was somehow unable to install a government in Baghdad that could prevent the country falling apart, through the revival of traditional religious divisions within the country that Saddam Hussein had managed to repress. These sectarian divisions have now, of course, become an almost permanent feature of Iraqi life, with bomb explosions and other murderous attacks being carried out almost on a day-to–day basis.
Yemen has been parcelled off by the US to a coalition of countries armed by the US and led by the Saudi Arabians. There is no end to the unrest there. Similarly, Libya has been in ferment ever since Col. Muammar Gaddhafi was overthrown with the help of America and its allies. The US has so little control there that its ambassador to Libya was murdered like the envoy of some insignificant nation.
And we haven’t even got to Pakistan and Afghanistan yet! These two countries are under constant attack by the very Taliban armies and their allies that the Americans sent thousands of troops to go and dislodge from power in Afghanistan. The Americans have trained military personnel in both Afghanistan and Pakistan; they keep intelligence outposts in both countries. But it does not look as if jihadism will be driven from either country in the foreseeable future.
Finally, in Africa, we find Kenya coming under very vicious attack by Al Shabbab. A recent attack on an army barracks in Kenya was so devastating that the Kenya government has not dared to tell the populace how many soldiers were killed in the disaster. This and the other attacks Kenya has endured occurred in spite of the fact that both the US and the UK have embarked on programmes meant to beef up Kenya’s armed forces on a continuing basis, to contain Al Shabbab.
Somalia too has not yet been “pacified” as far as Al Shabbab attacks are concerned. And, nearer home, in West Africa, intensified co-operation between American forces (through AFRICOM) and the armed forces of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, have not stopped Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) from becoming the “phantom of fear” in all the named countries; a phantom who is able to launch deadly attacks without encountering effective resistance, as was seen in Ouagadougou on 16 January 2016.
To this list must be added Boko Haram, which l is alive and kicking in Nigeria and Cameroon, despite US pronouncements by the Americans that they are providing sophisticated technical assistance to seek intelligence which they intend to share with the Nigerian and Cameroon Governments.
If the geopolitical situation sketched above had been properly studied by the Ghana Government, it would at the very least, have hesitated before agreeing to insert itself into the group of countries who style themselves formally as the “friends” or “partners” of the USA in its self-styled “war on terror”.
By admitting it’s a “partner” to the US, Ghana has tacitly defined itself as the “enemy” of terrorist organisations like AQIM. Yet, it is evident that despite satellites, drones and other high-tech instruments of surveillance, the US cannot prevent AQIM from attacking any of the self-designated “’friends” of the US. Indeed, it seems like a cruel joke for the US to delude weak African governments – like that of Ghana – into believing that because the US can provide them with military hardware and personnel training, they can build up an adequate “defence” against jihadists like AQIM. However, the only prudent thing for countries like Ghana to do is to observe a “total radio silence”, as far as jihadists are concerned.
It must be pointed out that the US has determined strategically – perhaps in line with a plan known as the “Project for A New American Century” – to broaden the front of the jihadist campaign in West Africa. Perhaps Ghana has been defined as a good candidate to be enrolled into the campaign, by being dawn sleep-walking into operations embarked upon by AFRICOM.
No Ghanaian Government should accede to this entrapment. US t interests do not have to coincide with those of Ghana. In the 1960s, we were able to maintain our independence in our relations with the US, despite taking a hefty loan from the US to finance the Akosombo Dam.
What ARE Ghana’s interests today? I repeat: they are to stay off the radar screen of AQIM and all other terrorist organisation; and to continue to live in peace with all our neighbours, without getting involved in quasi-religious ideological entanglements. We have absolute religious freedom in Ghana; we should not let that freedom extend into jihadism and any other militant politico-religious societal eruptions.
Our Government must endeavour to guard against “arm-twisting” by a Great Power like the USA. Perhaps our Government has been lured by the death of the Cold War into believing that “arm-twisting” has been abandoned as a political weapon deployed by the Great Powers of the world? Maybe our Government should hold a secret seminar, at which Ghana’s ex-ambassadors who are still alive and able, would ”debrief” the Government them about their experiences of “arm-twisting” and how they resisted it – if they did.
I am sure Mr Kofi Annan would, if politely asked, agree to chair such a seminar!
Some re-education is certainly needed in Ghana Government circles, for right now, our Government is flapping about like a schoolboy who goes to write an important examination without having done his home-work.