Parliament ratifies Ghana/US defence agreement

Parliament, by a majority decision, has ratified the controversial defence corporation between the Republic of Ghana and the United States of America (USA).

The ratification which went deep into the night on Friday, moments before the House adjourned sine dine to bring the first meeting of the second session to an end, was characterised by drama, confusion and chaos.

As characteristic of the legislature, finding a common ground on the deal which would give the world super power’s military unfettered access to some facilities in Ghana was not going to be an option.

Clad in red to register their disapproval of the deal since the matter came into the public domain, the Minority were ready for a ‘fight’ they knew they were not going to win though they received support from the top echelon of the opposition National Democratic Congress including Kofi Poturphy and Johnson Asiedu Nketia, Chairman and General Secretary respectively and other opposition parties.

The Majority, determined to see the deal sail through on the other hand, registered a very impressive attendance in readiness to thwart any arsenal that may be thrown at them by their fired up colleagues.

Earlier on in the day when the report of the joint Committees on Defence and Interior and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the agreement was laid, both sides had agreed that the position on the matter reflected.

But at about 8:30 pm when the motion for the report to be debated was moved after other resolutions and motions were moved at the marathon sitting, the Minority position did not reflect.

The Minority wanted the recommendation s of the joint committee to note that it was by a majority decision.

Infuriated by the failure of the report to reflect their disapproval, the stage was set for confusion after attempts by the Ranking on Defence and Interior was denied the opportunity on the floor.

Amidst banging on their tables, the Minority loudly sang patriotic and ‘jama’ songs requesting that Mr Agalga, the Builsa North MP, be allowed to effect the changes.

But the Majority argued the procedure their opposite colleagues wanted to use was flawed because the alteration could only be done after the motion was moved and seconded.

Frustrated and unable to control the disorganised chamber, Speaker of the House, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, walked out without notice as required by Parliamentary convention after more than half an hour of stalemate after the Majority side joined their colleagues in the singing and shouts.

The confusion thickened when the Marshall of the House tried to restrain the NDC executives who displayed “Ghana First” on a paper as did their lawmakers.

In an attempt to find a solution to the impasse, the Clerk of Parliament summoned the Majority and Minority Leaders to join the Speaker in his lobby but interestingly in their absence, the MPs who were moments earlier shouting at each other crossed carpets to have chit-chats.

Calm returned to the chamber after the Speaker returned with the leaders for the debate to continue and after the motion was seconded, the Minority made the corrections to the report to reflect their position.

Opening  the Majority’s side on debate, the Adenta MP, Yaw Boaben Asamoa, said the NDC could not run away from the deal because the current deal is the offspring of what the Jerry John Rawlings administration signed in 1998 and further reviewed in 2015.

According to him, “just as it was then, so it is today” accusing the NDC governments of hiding the deal from Ghanaians but the Akufo-Addo-led administration decided to bring it to the people’s representatives for approval.

He said all the terms and conditions in the previous deals are unchanged adding that no responsible country can opt out of security cooperation especially at a time when threats of terrorism have become rife.

In a surprising move, the Minority Leader opened the debate on behalf of his caucus and said the previous deals were temporal and for logistic support and training and not to hand over facilities of the military to the Americans.

In Haruna Iddrisu’s view, the current deal amounts to nothing but ceding Ghana’s sovereignty to the USA for the country to be decolonised.

He urged the government to suspend the deal and seek the expert advise of all retired Chiefs of Defence Staff as the deal in its current form would expose Ghana to terror attacks.

“Time will vindicate us” he told his colleagues in the Majority as they washed their hands off the deal and bade the Speaker ‘bye bye’ in a choreographed manner and left the chamber as their Majority side waved them symbolically in return.

Unperturbed by the exit of the Minority, the Defence and Interior Ministers, Dominic Nitiwul and Ambrose Dery, continued with the debate, punched holes in the submission of Haruna Iddrisu and finally approved the deal which now becomes binding on future governments.

The joint Committee report said in part that granting “unfettered access” to American military aircrafts, vessels and cars “may appear to undermine the sovereignty and security of Ghana.”

It also expressed concern about the lack of “explicit termination point in the agreement” though clause 10(1) states that “it shall remain in full force unless terminated by either party on one year’s written notice to the other party through diplomatic channels.”

 

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