Growing African Frustration Towards Foreign Presence Apparent in Ghanaian Anger at U.S. Military Deal
Thousands of Ghanaian protesters took to the streets on Wednesday to oppose a deal signed last week granting the United States an increased military presence in Ghana. The demonstrations serve as an example of the growing frustration among many Africans regarding the expanding military roles of the United States and other foreign powers on the continent.
Organized by the Ghana First Patriotic Front, hundreds of opposition groups in the Ghanaian capital of Accra protested the new defense deal, arguing the agreement threatens Ghana’s sovereignty.
The deal, ratified by Ghana’s Parliament last week, allows the United States both access to Ghanaian airport runways and radio channels, as well as the freedom to deploy United States troops in the country. In exchange, the United States will deliver a $20 million contribution to Ghana’s military training and equipment.
Despite the increased military support granted to the West African nation by the agreement, many Ghanaians view the deal as yet another example of an African country conceding its sovereignty to a foreign government and ignoring domestic needs.
“Having partaken in the struggle and fight towards our independence, we can never sit unconcerned when it comes to an agreement that has the tendency of compromising our sovereignty and integrity,” said National Union of Ghana Students President Frank Amoako Hene on Wednesday.
In fact, Ghanaian frustration with the agreement can be seen as representing a larger, growing discontent held by many Africans regarding the exploitation of their countries at the hands of foreign powers, particularly in recent years with the expansion of military operations. Most notably, the United States has silently expanded its military presence across Africa by increasing its military operations against groups such as Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, and ISIL. However, many other countries including Japan, Spain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and China have all built military bases in Africa in recent years as well.
As the presence of foreign military bases often makes countries more militarily dependent on a foreign power, many Africans have grown tired of this trend of reliance on Western countries and have begun pushing the idea that African countries should take initiative and become more self-sufficient.
Indeed, many were surprised with this military agreement, given that Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo highlighted this growing sentiment at a joint press conference in Accra with French President Emmanuel Macron in December.
“We can no longer continue to make policy for ourselves, in our country, in our region, in our continent on the basis of whatever support that the western world or France, or the European Union can give us,” Akufo-Addo said.
“We need to have a mindset that says we can do it…and once we have that mindset we’ll see there’s a liberating factor for ourselves.”
This self-deterministic mentality was further shown last week when 40 African nations signed the African Continental Free Trade agreement, a deal that stresses the need for African countries to create a unified Africa in order to be able to compete economically with major powers.
Despite these frustrations regarding foreign dependency, the United States has stressed that the deal with Ghana is not intended to infringe on Ghana’s sovereignty, but instead to build Ghanaian security.
“We are not asking you to sell your sovereignty to us. We are asking you to buy and invest in yourselves…This agreement is about bringing Ghana into deeper security cooperation,” said the United States Ambassador to Ghana, Robert Jackson, on Thursday.
“It does not involve any condition that is different from the security cooperation between the U.S. and any other country in the world,” Jackson assured.
However, for many Ghanaians, and Africans in general, these security cooperation conditions with the United States that Jackson mentions are precisely what many they want to break away from. As ideas of Pan-Africanism and African self-determinism continue to gain popularity across the continent, many Africans view economic and military agreements, like this one signed in Ghana, as one of the barriers to true African progress.
Reversing remnants from Africa’s years of colonial and imperial rule and the continent’s reliance on outside countries is a mountainous task that could take decades to be completed. Nevertheless, as the demonstrations in Ghana and other developments show, a new wave of demands for African self-reliance and independence from foreign powers could be ready to sweep the continent.