John Atta Mills was quoted in Wikileaked cables to be concerned about corruption even among his personal entourage.
Since that post in December, 2010, a great deal has happened.
First, President Mills passed away in office on July 24, 2012. His Vice President, John Dramani Mahama, then ascended to the Presidency, and was retained as President as a result of the regularly-scheduled general elections on December 7, 2012. The elections went off fairly smoothly, as they generally have in Ghana since 1992, when a new constitution was written restoring multi-party politics. The next year, as the new constitution took effect, the Fourth Republic was proclaimed, and President Mahama is the fourth President of the Fourth Republic.
However, this has not altered the close relationship between Ghana and the United States - neither has a change in Presidential administrations in Washington. From Ghana: Background and U.S. Relations by Nicolas Cook of the Library of Congress Congressional Research Service (link in sidebar), July 8, 2009:
U.S.-Ghanaian relations are close ― as discussed in the Overview and Current Developments of this report ― and a small population of Americans, many of African-American descent, has settled permanently in Ghana. The Obama Administration regards Ghana as "a stable and democratic country" and as among the "most trusted partners" of the United States in Africa, a sentiment that reflects broad continuity with the Bush Administration's view of Ghana.30 In part, this strong partnership is due to the Obama Administration's view of Ghana’s status as "a leader in promoting peaceful conflict resolution in Africa" and as a major troop contributor to international peacekeeping missions.31
Considering the unrest across North Africa and into the Middle East in the past couple of years, U.S. Africa Command commissioned a project to assess the stability of some of the countries in Africe. In response, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., wrote a series of reports on the projected stability of several key African nations over the next several years. Ghana was one of the countries analyzed.
According to Ghana: Assessing Risks to Stability, by David W. Throup, June, 2011, the foundation of Ghana's economy has been production of cocoa. Mining, in particular gold, has provided additional income to Ghana. In recent years, oil was discovered, and Ghana has been transitioning to become more of an oil exporting country. In general, Ghana's economy has been productive and stable, due in part to good management of the economy by both of the major political parties, regardless of which one has been in power.
However, there are problems. Soil fertility is declining, there have been few innovations in the production of cocoa, and the country has failed to develop its agricultural sector beyond cocoa; though much of Ghana is fertile and could produce a wide variety of lucrative crops, including for export, Ghana remains a net importer of food. Additionally, exports of oil are expected to peak in 2014, but are then anticipated to fall off sharply beyond 2016; this in the face of unrealistic expectations about what the development of oil production would mean to the country. Finally, the manufacturing industry is not growing, with a major weakness being power supplies.
Overall, after reading Throup's analysis, my impression is that in the next 5-10 years, Ghana could begin to experience significant economic difficulties.
It is in this overall context that we return to the consideration of the trafficking of illegal drugs through Ghana, usually on its way from Latin America to Europe, but sometimes to the United States, as well.
Drug money corrupts government officials, even in stable countries. Ghana, is described by USAID as "a stable, democratic country with a free press, independent judiciary, apolitical military, and active civil society." That notwithstanding, corruption is generally acknowledged as a significant problem; in Ghana, a key node in the corruption is with the judiciary.
First, we have some excerpts from Ghana sits on drug time bomb, May 7, 2008:
THE HEAD of Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution Department (CPMRD) at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Dr. Kwesi Aning, says Ghana is sitting on a time bomb. He said this in regard to the increasing spate of drug menace in the country.
He wondered why government officials are not prepared to face the fact and adopt methods to reverse the situation. "We need to call a spade a spade. The nation is actually in a deep crisis and people are afraid to speak about it," he said.
Dr. Aning contended among others that the fear factor that has gripped many officials who are fighting against some of these vices must be condemned. He cited the case of the late Chief Justice, Justice Kingsley Acquah, who reportedly told him that his life was in danger because he was fighting against corruption in the judiciary.
Despite the shortcomings of the security agencies in curbing the menace, he noted that the judiciary has in no small way thwarted the zeal and ability of the security agencies to combat this particular type of crime.
Dr. Aning said "it became apparent that particular judges give particular judgements in drug cases that are beginning to show a pattern. While previously, this was explained as due to the technicalities of the law, it is now clear that judgements by some members of the judiciary are more than suspicious, especially in cases where judges grant bail to drug traffickers with sureties which are far less than the value of the drugs seized."
It is interesting that allegations of corruption seem to focus on the judiciary.
In one instance, in April, 2006, the MV Benjamin was trafficking 77 parcels of cocaine - each parcel with 30 kilos in it. There were arrests, with one suspect eluding police until February, 2012. Ultimately, each of five suspects who were convicted received 25 years in prison.
However, a major scandal broke when the cocaine went missing.
Mrs. Justice Georgina Wood, was named to head a commission to look into the disappearance of the cocaine.
The key finding fthe commission's report was that one detective sergeant took a bribe to allow one of the perpetrators to escape:
4.7. The Committee finds that DETECTIVE SERGEANT NO27294 who from his own account had the opportunity of meeting ASEM DARKEI SHERIFF at KPONE almost immediately after the discharge, and who then confided in him that the COCAINE had already been discharged, acted corruptly by accompanying ASEM DARKEI SHERIFF to his house, receiving $3,000 from him, and allowing him to make good his escape without reporting him to his superiors.
It seems no one could figure out what happened to 76 of the sacks of cocaine.
Fast forward to 2008: a woman is discovered with a white substance in her possession. The substance tests positive as cocaine; over a kilo is confiscated as evidence, and the woman is held for trial. In 2011, at trial, the defense asks that the evidence be tested again; this time, though, it tests negative for cocaine. It seems the police have over a kilo of baking soda. The defense submitted that the prosecution had no case.
So, Mrs. Justice Wood, now Chief Justice of Ghana, was named to head another commission to investigate this scandal.
From Ghana's corrupt Chief Justice in cocaine scandal again, January 12, 2012:
In effect the Chief Justice is arguing that that the police who arrested the suspect, brought her before a court of competence, followed up on her bail, and brought her back to court to face charges for her crimes swap their most important evidence in the case in order to free her. The question is, for what purpose would the police do that? It does not make sense. If the police wanted the suspect to be free they would not have forced the person or persons who signed off her bail before it was the granted to produce her for further action. The report as released by Chief Justice simply will not pass the litmus test. And the police are already disputing the report.
This is the kind of stuff we have come to expect from the Obama regime.
So, corruption is endemic in Ghana, and it prevents effective prosecution of drug trafficking. Who exactly is responsible depends on the party being asked, as fingers are pointed in different directions: officials and journalists point their fingers at the judiciary, while the judiciary blame corrupt police.
Returning now to Ghana sits on drug time bomb, May 7, 2008, Dr. Aning expressed further concerns during his keynote address, including the following:
He also mentioned the activities of land guards, chieftaincy disputes, land litigations, the concentration of youth unemployment, ethnic tension as being contributory factors to the heightening tension in the country.
"Corruption has become a way of life, abuse of authority and position is now a menace, robbery with violence resulting in the loss of precious lives continue to plague our society more seriously than ever before", he noted.
In Ghana: Assessing Risks to Stability, Throup in 2011 indicated that ethnic tensions were not a significant problem in Ghana, and that militant Islamic extremism was not getting much traction among the 15 percent of the population that are Muslim, mostly in the north of the country, though he did point out that Iran is spreading Shi'ite teachings among the Sunni Muslims there. One thing Throup mentions about ethnicity is that the patronage-style politics does tend to politicize ethnicity.
I wonder to what extent economic difficulties, should they develop significantly, would generate ethnic issues. Also, I wonder about the possibilities of militant Islam spreading down into Ghana. A combination of factors, insignificant individually, could generate instability.
Also, as Ghana's banking industry develops, I wonder about the potential for money laundering. And, of course, with money laundering and drug trafficking, one has to wonder about terrorism: it seems Ghana would make a useful base to support terrorist operations in Latin America, targeting U.S. interests.
We will look at these topics as the series continues.