Dramatic scenes preceded the passage of the military defence cooperation agreement between Ghana and the United States of America (USA) in Parliament last Friday.
It began with a demonstration by some concerned Ghanaians earlier in the morning, interspersed with a confrontation between security officers and political leaders over the display of placards in the public gallery which climaxed with a minority walkout.
The protesters who had wanted to enter the premises of Parliament to register their displeasure at the proposed ratification were denied access.
The police officers explained that the protesters, who wore red armbands, had no permission to enter Parliament House and that they were not given adequate notice concerning the protest.
The leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), including the party’s Chairman, Mr Kofi Portuphy; General Secretary, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia and Deputy General Secretary, Mr Koku Anyidoho, were also at the public gallery to observe proceedings.
The NDC as well as the Minority MPs were mostly dressed in black and wore red stoles around their necks.
The Chairman of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Mr Bernard Mornah, and a former flag bearer of the PNC, Mr Hassan Ayariga, were also at the public gallery.
The agreement is on defence cooperation, the status of the US forces, access to and use of agreed facilities and areas in Ghana.
Article three of the agreement accords the US military and civilian personnel the privileges, exemptions and immunities equivalent to those accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961.
Article four makes provision for the entry into and exit from Ghana of US military and civilian personnel using a U.S. Government-furnished identification.
Under Article five, the government of Ghana agrees to provide access to and use of agreed facilities and areas in Ghana to US forces, contractors and other mutually agreed persons.
There was a near confrontation between the security detail at Parliament led by the Marshall and the NDC and the other political leaders over the display of placards with the inscription “Ghana First.”
The display of the placards (plain white sheets with the inscription in black ink) was in solidarity with the Minority MPs who had also displayed similar placards.
The political leaders were seen exchanging words with the security personnel who were explaining that per the Parliamentary practice, visitors were not supposed to partake in the proceedings by way of words or display of any writing.
The Marshall and his men had to leave the public gallery since the political leaders would not budge.
Moments after, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, stepped out of the chamber.
When he returned, he said if the people in the public gallery did not comply with the rules of the House, the security personnel would be called upon to move them out.
All the while the Minority MPs were singing and banging their desks to register their opposition to the agreement.
The report of the joint Committee on Defence and Interior and the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had recommended, by a majority decision, the ratification of the agreement.
After the presentation of the report by the Chairman of the Defence and Interior Committee, Mr Seth K. Acheampong, the Vice Chairman of the committee, Mr Collins Owusu Amankwah, rose to second the motions for the adoption of the report but the Minority MPs started singing to express their opposition to that move.
He spoke but his voice could not be heard since his microphone was not audible.
The MP for Adentan, Mr Yaw Buaben Asamoa, then rose to his feet and seconded the motion for the adoption of the report.
Thereafter, the Ranking Member on the Defence and Interior Committee, Mr James Agalga, sought amendment to the concluding part of the report which indicated that the committee had recommended the ratification of the report.
His amendment to the effect that the recommendation for the ratification of the agreement was by majority decision was carried out.
Making his contribution, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said the defence cooperation agreement between Ghana and USA would undermine the sovereignty of Ghana.
Besides, he said, the presence of the US military in Ghana would expose the country to the risk of terrorist attacks.
Therefore, Mr Iddrisu said, the Minority MPs could not be part of such an agreement.
He and his members then packed their files and walked out of the chamber, leaving only the Majority MPs behind.
In his contribution, the Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, said it was the former Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Minister, Ms Hannah Tetteh, who signed the defence cooperation agreement in 2015 in secret.
He said the current agreement contained similar articles as the previous agreement.
Mr Nitiwul said the US. did not intend to establish a military base in Ghana and again stressed that “there is nothing in the agreement that we are signing the agreement because of $20 million.”
Thereafter, the Speaker moved for the adoption of the resolution for the ratification of the agreement, which the House approved.