• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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A VITAL APPROVAL STAMP: As Obama meets Mills



Last week, the president of the United States of America , President Barrack Hussein Obama, the first African-American president of that great nation, was in Ghana , 10th to 11th July 2009, for his first official visit to sub-Saharan Africa . Most definitely, it would not be the first time that an American president would be visiting Ghana but it would be the most unique. An African leading the most powerful nation in the world would be meeting another African leading the most democratic nation in Africa .
After Vice President Richard Nixon, President Bill Clinton and President George Bush, President Barack Obama would be the fourth American president visiting Ghana , which is coming to underscore the growing importance of Ghana in contemporary American political agenda, especially considering the consistent close proximity of the visits in recent years.
Make no mistake about it; the import of this visit is as significant as it is beneficial to both Ghana and the USA . America has desired the opportunity of this visit, especially since the failure of President Bush’s; while Ghana is in dire need of it at this time of its existential struggle. Hence, the bilateral spread or distribution of the inherent diplomatic value of the visit puts both countries at par in appropriating the right to straight-talk. Therefore, Ghana should not be expected to assume a beggarly position in exploiting the offerings of the visit.

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A gamut of reasons has been attributed to Obama’s choice of Ghana as his first port of call on his first sub-Saharan trip. But the only one that makes sense is the one that suggests that Ghana is, more than ever before, considered strategic in America’s economic and power agenda in Africa, especially with Ghana’s growing democratic profile.
America’s interest in Ghana is quite a handful, but only two appear to be of more importance than the rest. Not necessarily in the order of importance, these two interests can be found in, also, three main domains of sovereign aspirations – military, economic and political powers.
A late comer in the scramble for Africa, but not in the least the less potent, America has been looking for a chunk (as opposed to a piece) of Africa since the era that ushered in the independence of Ghana . With the political life of the likes of the late Kwame Nkrumah, the grand patriarch of Ghana’s independence, who illuminated the vista to the strategic importance of Ghana in Africa’s politics, America was able to discern the value of the then Gold Coast in the scheme of its burning quest for power in Africa and had made scores of overt and covert attempts at cultivating Ghana’s friendship and even attempting to coerce loyalty out of her which eventually led to the overthrowing of the government of the visionary and independent-minded Kwame Nkrumah who was bent on charting a non-aligned political course for the young nation of Ghana contrary to America’s desire.
Speaking to CitiFM in Accra on the subject of the impending visit of President Obama, a veteran diplomat with a sharp and deep sense of history, James Victor Gbeho, recalled that Ghana has had a checkered history with the US , which dates as far back as the independence era. According to the radio station’s report on the interview, Gbeho, who is currently the adviser to President John E. A. Mills on Foreign Policy, said that Ghana’s relationship with the United States saw the US supporting Ghana’s construction of the Akosombo Hydroelectric Project, and later fell out because, while the US wanted Ghana on her side of the Cold War, President Kwame Nkrumah chose socialism and aligned with the East, and followed up later by joining the Non-Aligned Movement.
After the series of instability that followed the overthrowing of Kwame Nkrumah had settled, and Ghana had Jerry Rawlings at the helm of affairs as the president, the country’s independent-mindedness re-emerged once more. Gbeho recalled that at a time, the US government protested against the Rawlings-led Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) government’s ties with Libya and its leader, Muamar Al-Qathafi, CitiFM reported. AfRICOM
However, this entrenched independent stance was to be softened by the Kuffour-led administration which led to America, under President George W. Bush, believing that Ghana could be convinced to agree to collaborate in America’s bold, if not presumptuous, military adventurism in Africa in the nature of the proposed creation of a new military command for Africa to be known as African Command (alias AFRICOM), after being unequivocally rejected by Nigeria. After all, Ghana had allowed America to construct one of the most audaciously expanse and technologically equipped embassy in Africa which is believed to have a tunnel leading directly to the airport!
Of course, the Ghanaian people themselves, led by the media, vociferously rejected the AfRICOM base overture which had been a major part of the objective of Bush’s 2008 state visit; and this saw Bush eventually touring Ghana with a sagged presidential smile and a bouquet of denials.
Again Gbeho recalled: There (was) a genuine fear; a fear that came to the forefront just before the visit of President Bush to this country recently; a fear that was articulated, not by government, but by the Ghanaian people through the media and so on; and which forced President Bush to deny a few things.
But America is not done yet. With the increase in funding by the Obama administration for the AfRICOM project this year, and Obamas qualmless offer to his Kenyan people on the matter, it makes every sense to conclude that America is still pushing that agenda.
Examining the US government’s plans for its military operations on the African continent in the 2009 financial year, Daniel Volman, the director of the African Security Research Project based in Washington, DC, wrote that: The Obama administration’s budget for the 2010 financial year (proposed) significant increases in US security assistance programmes for African countries and for the operations of the new US Africa Command (AfRICOM). This shows that – at least initially – the administration is following the course laid down for AfRICOM by the Bush administration…
Despite the suspicion and skepticism of African leaders about AfRICOM, the American government is not ready to give up on the project that has already gulped more than $500 million. From a budget of $50 million in 2007, the project has, for this year, a budget of $390 million.
Daniel Volman’s findings also showed that the Obama administration’s FY 2010 budget for the Department of Defense requested additional $601 million, primarily to pay for emergency training and equipment, the services of personnel from the State Department and humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi and Afghani armed forces, and will be made available for the use of AfRICOM as well.
Ghana should know that Barrack Obama is coming to continue from the point where Bush failed because America is still convinced that Ghana is the Achilles heel of West Africa . Seemingly forgetting the recurring Rawlings factor, their calculation would be that Obama is one of their own; the son of the soil, whose celebrated ascension to the high throne of American presidency still has that portent euphoria that will not fail to corrupt (or is it seduce?) the sentiments of the visionary Black Star of Africa into aligning the feat of the African Obama with that hoped-for future greatness of Africa long foretold by the founder of modern Ghana. The suave, savvy, oratorical and Americanly bold Barack Hussein Obama would be convincing enough to achieve some results.
Perhaps, to further get a better understanding of where Obama really belongs, a look at an excerpt from a letter (memo) written by the African child to his people, his supporters in Kenya and published by the Kenyan Daily Nation newspaper early this year after he had become the president of America would do (emphases mine):
The USA is addicted to oil, and every American consumes about 8,000 liters a year. No other country uses as much oil. Increased oil prices thus affect every American without exception. Other than working with our key suppliers to stabilise the prices, I promised Americans during my campaigns that I would work on new and innovative sources of energy.
Kenya has always been our friend, and these ties shall now be strengthened by my heritage Our relationship could be imperilled should your foreign policy be at odds with ours. We will never dictate your foreign policy as you are a sovereign state, *but our relationship is dependent on your choices…In our annual budget, we always allocate billions of dollars to countries like Egypt and Israel for strategic reasons. Recently, we gave billions to Georgia to rebuild itself after it was invaded by Russia .
Kenya may benefit if it makes certain strategic decisions. We are looking for a base in Africa to build our AfRICOM headquarters, and Lamu is one of the likely locations.
In the event that you accept our request, we will make Lamu a deep-sea port and build a railway line from there to Ethiopia , our other strategic ally in the region. The choice again I say is yours.
If the gentleman had such a raw deal, bereft of any familial sentiments, for his own homeland, where then would Ghana be in his American heart in his bent to get what he has promised his country that he was coming to get from Ghana?
America direly needs a base for its military command in West Africa and Ghana appears to be offering the right location, for all the reasons that may be adduced; but also partly because of its relative democratic environment.

Ghana’s Oil
Ghana’s Jubilee oil field has proven reserves of more than 600 million barrels of oil and, come what may, the oil is going to start flowing, whether in 2010 or 2011, it will flow, and America is not ready to stand by and watch China get its insatiable nozzles to it. Obama promised his people (Americans, of course) that he is going to find new sources of energy. Ghana, definitely, is one of these new sources.
It makes sense to seek new sources of supply to feed America’s ever growing consumption as the current sources are becoming more unreliable because of political instability Venezuela, Angola, Nigeria erstwhile dependable sources of America’s supply, are enmeshed in one form of disturbances or the other which is affecting output. Already America gets about 18 percent of its oil from Africa and it is estimated that this volume will increase to 25 percent in 2015 according to African Oil Policy Initiative Group report.

No doubt, in choosing Ghana as his first port of call in his first official visit to sub-Saharan Africa, America has endorsed Ghana as a democratic state worthy of America’s respect and trust. Beneath that also, is the illuminated fact that Ghana’s value to America has increased and that Ghana has attained a more powerful bargaining position to talk business with America .
What Ghana needs now more than anything is infrastructural and developmental funds inflow in investment terms, not charity. Ghana needs penetration into the American market, now is the time to bargain for that. With the now universally acknowledged coming of age of the Ghana State , it means that the erstwhile infantile beggarly attitude must be discarded in
accordance with the new age. Ghana’s economy that has been highly dependent
on hand-outs must now be given a chance to break out into a solid and
enduring growth ensuring from productiveness.
While remaining faithful to the collective interests of its African allies, Ghana must use this opportunity of world attention to showcase its competitive investment environment rather than emitting that old African refrain of  Help us… which, unfortunately, has been quite ubiquitous here since the announcement of Obama’s visit.