A defence agreement between Ghana and the US governments tabled before Ghana’s parliament Tuesday for ratification seeks to grant US military personnel and contractors unhindered access to use agreed facilities.
Many Ghanaians who have read the content of the controversial leaked confidential document concluded it would allow the US to set up a military base in the West African nation.
“The United States Embassy wishes to underscore that the United States has not requested, nor does it plan to establish a military base or bases in Ghana,” a statement issued by the US Embassy in Accra later Tuesday said.
It explained that the current Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two countries is 20 years old and “does not cover the current range and volume of bilateral exercises and assistance”
According to the Embassy, the US and Ghana are planning a joint security exercises in 2018 and that would require access to Ghanaian bases by US participants and those from other nations.
The Embassy said the US is spending over 20 million dollars this year in training and equipment for Ghana’s armed forces, adding “Ghana is also once again preparing to train US forces- as it did in 2017”.
Earlier, Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul denied claims that the US intends to establish a military base in Ghana but more of a camp for US military personnel and agents.
The ‘confidential’ agreement
Cabinet at its 28th meeting on March 8, 2018 approved the agreement, following which the Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul, has since March 14, 2018 asked parliament to give effect to the agreement.
Approval of the agreement would grant US military personnel, defence contractors and agents among other executive officials unrestricted access to Ghanaian facilities for military and humanitarian purposes.
A copy of the agreement reveals Ghana would grant the US military and civilian personnel a wide range of “privileges, tax exemptions, and immunities” as those granted to administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission.
“United States Contractors shall not be liable to pay tax or similar charge assess within Ghana in connection with this agreement” the document stated.
Personnel of the US military can also enter and exit Ghana using a wide range of travelling documents, including an identification card or individual travel orders.
Per the agreement, the US will use Ghana as a base to facilitate among other things, training of its military, staging and deployment of US forces, aircraft refueling and landing and recovery of aircraft.
Ghana will be mandated to provide “unimpeded access to and use of agreed facilities and areas” to US forces, contractors and other staffs.
Again, Ghana in the agreement commits to provide access to and use of its runway that meets the requirements of United States forces.
The new agreement is a renewal of the commitments of both US and Ghana to an expired agreement, the “Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement” which was entered into on April 28, 2015.
It had the aim of strengthening the defence relationship between the two countries and also to address shared security challenges’ in the African Region, including those relating to the protection of Government personnel and. facilities.
Parties to the agreement justify the approval of the document ensure access to and use of agreed facilities and areas by US forces within Ghana.
According to the two nations, it will also ensure that there is enhanced and fruitful security co-operation between them.
It will again ensure that the two countries co-operate more in the area of exchange of information and the conduct of joint operations to combat the threat of terrorism and other challenges in the West African region.
By Stephen Kwabena Effah