Friday, July 18, 2014

This United States Embassy faux pas is unacceptable

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Folks, President Mahama has administered the oaths of allegiance, office and secrecy to 12 new envoys, including Alhaji Abdul Rahman Haruna Atta (Ambassador to Namibia). Some commentators have quickly labelled Haruna Atta as a “traitor,” having come across all these years as a bitter opponent of anything Rawlings and NDC but turning round to join hands with the Mahama-led government and turning his back on the NPP that he has identified with.
To those people, I say “Due!” They really don’t know the man. Haruna Atta sprang up with the Rawlings phenomenon and was even appointed as the CEO of the defunct Ghana Film Industry; but he lost the position in circumstances that fuelled his bitter opposition to Rawlings and by transference, to the Mills administration. But about a year ago, he came out to say that he was more than willing to serve Ghana in the Mahama era. And his appointment as an Ambassador confirms it. Should anybody blame him? I won’t.

Doing diplomatic work entails many things; and I hope those 12 envoys will not add to the lot already at post but not doing enough to create opportunities for Ghana to profit from countries with which it has diplomatic ties. Our Ambassadors and High Commissioners need to be innovative (as President Mahama sought to imply) and ensure that the Missions vigorously pursue programmes for the good of Ghanaians in their areas of jurisdiction and others seeking to do business with Ghana. Trade promotion is one major area to consider.
They also need to work hard to collect data on Ghanaians living in their domains so accurate records on the population and others can be generated to respond more productively to the needs of Ghanaians. So far, there appears to be no database to help know how many Ghanaians are living where or what their major problems are that the Ghana Missions must address. We know how foreign missions operate in Ghana and must learn from them.
On the flip side, though, I want to raise my voice to condemn what I consider as an “undiplomatic conduct” on the part of the US Embassy in Accra. The Embassy was yesterday (Friday) compelled to render an apology to the Office of Ghana’s President, following the use of its official tweeter handle to respond to an earlier tweet posted by President John Mahama.
President Mahama had posted on the social media site to assure Ghanaians that current economic challenges would be over soon. "As a people, we have had to make sacrifices. I wish to assure you that the results of these sacrifices would begin to show very soon," the President tweeted.
The Embassy responded by tweeting: "And what sacrifices are you making? Don't tell me that pay cut".
This happening is despicable, especially, considering the fact that it occurred in the diplomatic confines of the US Embassy in Accra. That is why the explanation given by the US Embassy is not only ludicrous but wayward as well:
“‘… the Embassy in an attempt to explain the situation said one of its staff accidentally caused the blunder and apologised for that…. Our staff mixed a personal handle with that of the embassy's...We've communicated our apology to the Office of the President, the Embassy posted’.
I wonder how an individual staff member with his or her own private tweeter account can mistake the official US Embassy’s account for his/her own and use this way. And why did the US Embassy itself not detect the faux pas until it drew anger from Ghanaians before reacting this way? And to imagine that our own government didn’t immediately take up the matter to put the Embassy where it belongs is pathetic. Of course, it won’t surprise me if our Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t react as expected because….. you know why. Ghana is a small fry that cannot do without US backing and won’t want to bite the finger feeding it. If you doubt it, re-think!!
Within this context, we want to say that our government has to ensure that it is on top of affairs so that foreign missions operating in Ghana don’t abuse our leniency or hospitality to fuel the tension already rising as a result of orchestrations and manipulation of public sentiments by political opponents and the labour agitations going on.
When it comes to politically motivated problems in Ghana and the involvement of foreign missions, the US Embassy is a prime suspect. Precedent tells us that the US has been inquisitive and intrusive when it comes to Ghana’s internal political developments. Collaborating with the cowards in the security set-up and the United Party opponents of Dr. Nkrumah to overthrow his government in 1966 is known to us. So also do we recall the diplomatic and security crisis that occurred under Rawlings (I mean the Michael Soussoudis affair). We also recall the Wikileaks publications on Ghana as gathered through the US’ diplomatic cables. There are many other instances, which alert us to the fact that anything coming from the US Embassy in Ghana that muddies the waters has to be looked into seriously.
In the first place, no one compelled that Embassy worker to respond to our President’s message of assurance. Ghanaians, not citizens of the US, were the President’s audience. So, what justification could a non-Ghanaian (more so an inquisitive, trouble-making US Embassy worker) have for inserting himself/herself in the conversation that the President had sought to initiate for Ghanaians?
I entreat the government to sit up so that seemingly “harmless” comments of the sort from this US Embassy staff member doesn’t turn out to be part of the grand scheme of undermining our system. The retort from that Embassy worker is really rude, crude, and troubling, given the fact that it questions the integrity of our President and his government. It’s a retort to be punished and not glossed over. If possible, the government should ask that that particular worker be withdrawn from Ghana, having come across as unfit to relate to. Will the government act boldly?
The US won’t tolerate any impetuous or impudent conduct against its President on its own soil by any member of a foreign mission. Why should Ghana not prove that it has respect for its territorial integrity and the Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana and that no one will be allowed to undermine that office? As I have already said, it takes much “spine” to take on the US; but if our government can manage affairs properly, it should use this flippant US Embassy incident as a means to forewarn and deter any such misconduct in future from anywhere (other Embassies, High Commissions, or foreign companies operating in the country). Anybody with balls out there?
I shall return…
·         E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com
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