Review of Defence Co-operation Agreement between U.S and Ghana: Access and Use of Agreed Facilities and Areas In the Republic of Ghana


Captain Jeffrey J. Draeger of the U.S Navy penned the paper, “Overseas Military Bases: Understanding Host Nation Support” in which he explains that the reason for establishing bases is about “exerting strategic influence, enable global access and project power when necessary” (Draeger, 2012). This is why the U.S. wants a base in Ghana — plain and simple. But what impact does basing have on a host nation? We will look at that later in this piece.

On 19 March 2018, there was an information breach. A confidential document was leaked to the general public from the Office of the President in Ghana dated 12 March 2018.

Joy News intercepted the document which revealed Cabinet has approved an agreement to allow the US military an unrestricted access to a host of Ghanaian facilities and wide-ranging tax exemptions. The deal will permit the U.S. military to use Ghana as a base for staging and deploying forces. The agreement is titled, “Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Ghana on Defence Co-operation, the status of the United States Forces and Access and Use of Agreed Facilities and Areas in the Republic of Ghana”. The document defined the United States Forces as the United States Department of Defence. In Ghanaian parlance, this is equivalent to the Ghana Ministry of Defence. One of the things this document is about is the establishment of a United States Military Base within Ghana. The U.S. Embassy responded by saying that the U.S. is not requesting to build a base in Ghana. However, this only borders on semantics. What is a base? The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (short title: Joint Pub 1–02 or JP 1–02), defines a base and we’ll compare their definition with the articles in the Agreement in subsequent sections of this report and see if the Agreement is truly about a base or not.

The main issue is that the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) which already has military assets and personnel in Ghana as per the leaked document, wants to expand its influence and operations within and from Ghana. This Agreement is to supersede the previous ones with the Government of Ghana. In subsequent sections, we shall examine different types of bases. AT that time, shall see if the definition of a base matches the content of the Agreement.

American National Security investigative journalist and historian Nick Turse’s book, “The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare”, sheds light of U.S. military operations within the continent of Africa. The book states that the “U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the Pentagon’s regional military headquarters that oversees operations in Africa, planned 13 such major joint training exercises in 2011 from Uganda to South Africa, Senegal to Ghana, including African Lion” (Turse, 2012). The book adds that, “According to 2011 Pentagon documents, the U.S. has personnel — some in token numbers, some in more sizeable contingents — deployed in 76 other nations sometimes counted in the arc of instability: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana…”(Turse, 2012). The books also states that, “there may, in fact, not be a single nation within the arc of instability, however defined, in which the United States is without a base or military or intelligence personnel, or where it is not running agents, sending weapons, conducting covert operations — or at war.” This is problematic when one considers that the U.S. wants Ghana to sign an agreement that allow them access and forbids Ghana from knowing what they import or do while within Ghana’s borders.

Nick Turse is a national security investigative Journalist who holds a PhD from Columbia University, the recipient of a Ridenhour Prize for Investigative Reporting at the National Press Club, James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism from Hunter College, Guggenheim fellowship as well as fellowships at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War, and Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.


  • Why this document and decision was hidden from the public until there was a leak? If the policy is good for the Ghanaian public, why hide it?
  • The Agreement seems to be one sided win-win for the USA and lose-lose for Ghana. What would Ghana gain from this exchange?
  • Is this document not the beginning of the seeding away of national sovereignty?
  • Would such a policy not put Ghana, a relatively peaceful and stable economy in the sub-region, on a collision course with Islamic extremist terrorist organizations?

The situation has also brought up greater governance issues such as the penchant of recent government administrations to cut deals on the blindside of the public either with the U.S. government or their companies — springing them up on the public at the last moment. Examples include:

  • when the former government administration cut a deal with the U.S. Government to resettle former Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) detainees in Ghana. The public found out through a leak of documents similarly to the current ongoing saga
  • when the current government administration cut a deal with ExxonMobil which gave away 85 percent of national assets to this company while retaining 15 percent for the nation

The current saga with the attempt to set up a U.S. military base is the latest. Democracy comes from the fusion of two words — “Demos or the public” and “Kratia or power”. In Kingdoms, dominion and sovereignty resides in the King but in democracies, they reside in the public or the people. In democracies, government officials are not Lords but servants of the public. This is why the preamble of nations 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana reads:

“IN THE NAME OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD, We the People of Ghana, IN EXERCISE of our natural and inalienable right to establish a framework of government…” (Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992)

This tells us that government does not exist on its own. It is established by the people and the people can dissolve it if the people deem the government unfit or treacherous. The constitution further adds in article 1(1) (Chapter one) that:

“The Sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in this Constitution” (Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992).

It is thus a bit disconcerting when governments take major posterity impacting decisions without recourse to the people. One may retort that, this is the essence for the existence of parliament. Parliament has evidently not always been the voice of the masses. The current president upon assuming office told both the legislature and judiciary how far they had fallen below what is required of them and asked that they reform themselves while he also championed the reform of the executive. There are MPs who seldom visit their constituents to know their thoughts on issues. The point is, the Ghanaian public would have liked to be onboard from the start and not have such sensitive decisions made on their blind side. What is the point in being a servant if the servant does not serve the interests of the majority of the sovereign i.e. the public. Strategic Management teaches that to make certain decisions without adequate stakeholder consultation will result in discontent. Is it that the government of Ghana does not care about what the public thinks or it simply made a mistake? No one can tell for sure, but it will do the government good to be reminded that their appointment is by the people and that the people can remove them if they act in a way perceived as incompetent or treacherous by their appointing authority.

Backtracking to the issue of establishing a U.S. Military base in Ghana, much of the discourse is now on sentiments. This article will attempt to introduce some facts.


  1. A locality from which operations are projected or supported.
  2. An area or locality containing installations which provide logistic or other support. See also establishment.
  3. (DOD only) Home airfield or home carrier

(Joint Publication 1–02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, As Amended Through 15 June 2015, 2015)

The third edition of the Dictionary of Military Terms defines a base as, “a secure location from which military operations can be conducted”(Bowyer, 2005).

The Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Ghana on Defence Co-operation, the status of the United States Forces and Access and Use of Agreed Facilities and Areas In the Republic of Ghana asks for facilities and areas from which the U.S. DoD and its forces and contractors can launch operations. At these locations, they will have installations which provide logistic or other support. This is the definition of a base. Let us have a closer look at the Agreement.

The leaked Agreement among other things is requesting Ghana to grant the U.S. DoD, its constituent organizations, property, equipment, personnel rights so they can undertake the following: training; transit; support and relative activities; refueling of aircraft; landing and recovery of aircraft; accommodation of personnel; communications; staging and deploying of forces and materiel; exercises; humanitarian and disaster relief; and other activities as mutually agreed. The Agreement also requires diplomatic immunity for the military and civilian personnel who will work at the base. A problem is they are not diplomatic staff in the real sense of the word. The Agreement seeks unimpeded access to facilities and areas for the civilian and military personnel as well as U.S. contractors. The U.S. forces get to make constructions on the areas and fully control access. This definitely fits the definition of a base.

All imports and exports are exempt from inspections, other restrictions, license, customs duties, taxes or any other charges. The Ghanaian side is simply to expect that the U.S. would not import or export anything that could endanger Ghanaian lives or security.

Aircrafts, vehicles and vessels used by the U.S Forces may exist, enter and move freely within the territory of Ghana — Air, Land and Waters. These shall not be subject to landing, parking or port fees, compulsory pilotage [this may be a clause for UAVs], navigation or overflight charges, or tolls or other use charges including. These aircrafts, vehicles and vessels shall be free from boarding or inspection without consent of the U.S. forces authorities. Ghana must waive all claims to damage or loss or destruction of property or death or injury to military or civilian personnel. Claims by third parties will be resolved by U.S. Government using U.S. laws and regulations.


What is a Military Base?

There are different types of bases. According to an article titled, “American Military Bases in Africa” the following types of bases exist:

Main Operating Base (MOB) is an overseas, permanently manned, well protected base, used to support permanently deployed forces, and with robust sea and/or air access.

Forward Operating Location (FOL) is a scalable, “warm” facility that can support sustained operations, but with only a small permanent presence of support or contractor personnel. A FOS will host occasional rotational forces and many contain pre-positioned equipment.

Cooperative Security Location (CSL) is a host-nation facility with little or no permanent U.S. personnel presence, which may contain pre-positioned equipment and/or logistical arrangements and serve both for security cooperation activities and contingency access (Global Security, 2017).

In 2015, Nick Turse, disclosed that there are dozens of US military installations in Africa, besides Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti (Global Security, 2017). These numerous Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs), Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) and other outposts have been built by the US in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. According to the American journalist, US military also had access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zambia and other countries.

As per the forgoing, the U.S. does already have military and intelligence presence and operations in Ghana. What they now want is an expansion and strategic unfettered access. As to whether they would like to scale up to Main Operating Base (MOB), Forward Operating Locations (FOS) or Cooperative Security Location (CSL), that is what is yet to be known. But whatever the case, the U.S. DoD already has a presence in Ghana as attested to by Nick Turse’s book, “The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare”.

How Many Bases Does the U.S. Have?

He adds, “The Pentagon says that it has just sixty-four “active major installations” overseas and that most of its base sites are “small installations or locations.” But it defines “small” as having a reported value of up to $915 million. In other words, small can be not so small” (Vine, 2015).

In a separate article from Global Research titled “The US Military Is Occupying 53 of 54 African Nations” by Rachel Blevins dated October 26, 2017, Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul remarked that the U.S. is engaged in a war that includes the presence of U.S. troops in 53out of the 54 nations in Africa. “Now, when the Pentagon and the administration have had some pressure on them, you know, instead of having 100 people there, they’re admitting we have 6,000 people in Africa, and they even put a number on it. They say ‘we have some military in 53 of the 54 countries in Africa.’ That’s pretty expansive,” Paul said.” (Blevins, 2017).

Why So Many Bases?


The US is building drone bases in locales throughout Africa (Global Security, 2017). A report from the Washington Post on 20 September 2011 revealed that the United States is expanding its controversial drone program into Africa, building bases throughout the continent in order to run unmanned planes over al-Qaeda territories in the ongoing War on Terror”. It adds that, “U.S. troops are deployed in Lamu, Kenya. The US has built a military air base at Manda Bay in Kenya. Bases were also said to be either in operation or under construction in Ethiopia, and another on the island of Victoria in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles in operation since September 2008. According to the BBC, as of 2007 the US was building a naval base in Sao Tome and Principe to protect its oil interests” (Global Security, 2017).

In a chapter titled, Shadow Wars in Africa in Nick Turse’s book “The Changing Face of Empire”, Nick explains that there is what is known as the New Spice Route, connecting Europe, Africa, and Asia. The book defines it as a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa … In East African ports, huge metal shipping containers arrive with the everyday necessities for a military on the make. They’re then loaded onto trucks that set off down rutted roads toward dusty bases and distant outposts… [T]he Pentagon and the CIA have been spreading their forces across the continent. Today — official designations aside — the U.S. maintains a surprising number of bases in Africa. And “strengthening” African armies turns out to be a truly elastic rubric for what’s going on. Under President Obama, in fact, operations in Africa have accelerated far beyond the more limited interventions of the Bush years: a war in Libya; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of airports and bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, including intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, a secret prison, helicopter attacks, and U.S. commando raids; a massive influx of cash for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; tens of millions of dollars in arms for allied mercenaries and African troops…“Africa … remains a growth area for the Pentagon … Surveillance planes used for spy missions over Mali, Mauritania, and the Sahara desert are also flying missions from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and plans are reportedly in the works for a similar base in the newborn nation of South Sudan” (Turse, 2012).


  1. States are most important actors
  2. Unitary-Rational Decision-making

3. International system is anarchic and conflict-prone: often zero-sum situations

4. All States must pursue power to survive

5. States balance against threats

6. Morality has no place in international politics

7. International politics more important than domestic politics.

8. Value Relative over Absolute Gains

These ideas are at the core of the current diplomatic debacle between the USA Government, Ghana’s Government and its public. Realist thinkers include: Sun Tzu (Ancient China), Machiavelli (Medieval Italy), Thomas Hobbes (civil war-torn England), Mao Tse Tung (Communist China) and Hans J. Morgenthau (USA 1950s). Morgenthau is seen in some academic circles as the father of the international relations field. His views greatly influence the way the U.S. relates with the world. We cannot exhaust all the 8 assumptions therefore we will select one and use it to analyze the situation under review.

Let us focus on number 4 i.e. power assumption. Power is a central concept in international relations. The assumption is that the international system with main actors within this system being states is anarchic which means, not ordered. To survive states must demonstrate or use power. Level of power affects state strategies and outcomes of various contests (military conflicts, economic conflicts, and other negotiations).

Power leads to influence. Power helps a country win international contests. How does this power manifest or what are its attributes? What must the U.S. have in order to be known as a power-ful state?

Attributes of Power

  • Size of economy (GDP)
  • Sophistication of economy and technology
  • Population
  • Geography (few borders, mountains, location)
  • Internal cohesion (stability)
  • Patriotism
  • Natural resources (oil, minerals, food)
  • Reputation
  • Education, information
  • Alliances (sometimes unpredictable).

Some of these attributes are tangible, such as military capabilities and natural resources, while others are intangible such as patriotism and reputation.

By power projection we mean the ability to deploy troops around the world as well as deliver a full-scale nuclear attack.


Multiplying bases may not be the best way of winning the war on terror.

In the book Unrestricted Warfare written by two Chinese Army colonels, the U.S. was warned of a possible attack on the twin towers by Islamic terrorists but the warning like others went unheeded. They explained why such an attack could happen and the unpreparedness of the U.S. Defence forces for it. The Colonels Steven Maizi and Thomas Kaiweite of the Strategic Institute of the Army War College brought forth the problem of “the frequency band width of the new military revolution” (Liang & Xiangsui, 1999). They discovered there was a gap between the American military in terms of military thought and the real threat facing national security. Upon realizing the threat after the fact, one strategy has been to shut down some bases while opening others.

Here is what the colonels had to say:

Whether it be the intrusions of hackers, a major explosion at the World Trade Center, or a bombing attack by bin Laden, all of these greatly exceed the frequency band widths understood by the American military. The American military is naturally inadequately prepared to deal with this type of enemy psychologically, in terms or measures, and especially as regards military thinking and the methods of operation derived from this. This is because they have never taken into consideration and have even refused to consider means that are contrary to tradition and to select measures of operation other than military means. This will naturally not allow them to add and combine the two into new measures and new methods of operation. In actuality, it only requires broadening one’s outlook a little and being uninhibited in thought to be able to avail oneself of the lever of the great volumes of new technology and new factors springing up from the age of integrated technology, thus prying loose the wheel of the military revolution rusted as a result of lagging behind in terms of thinking. We can here appreciate the deep significance of the old saying, “a stone from other hills may serve to polish the jade of this one.” It would be well if we were somewhat bold and completely mixed up the cards in our hand, combined them again, and saw what the result would be (Liang & Xiangsui, 1999).

Basically, the colonels are saying the U.S. sees traditional military power as the major tool to deter or combat threats. However, there are other “means that are contrary to tradition” and “measures of operation other than military means”. The combination of these with some military may be where the answer to the threats lies. The U.S. of course thinks military dominance is the key — hence the proliferation of bases.


His paper is the property of the U.S government. It states, “While basing requirements have changed in the wake of the Cold War, it is clear that a forward U.S. defense posture, including overseas bases and security partnerships, will remain essential to exert strategic influence, enable global access and project power when necessary…Therefore, understanding host nation interests and concerns when it comes to the presence of U.S. forces is critically important…The investigation shows that economics can play an influential role in host nation decision-making. Moreover, it finds that the greatest threat to establishing and maintaining overseas bases may be U.S. policies and deliberate or unsanctioned behavior as interpreted within the political context of host nations” (Draeger, 2012).

From his paper we deduce basing is about exerting strategic influence, enable global access and project power when necessary.

He concludes the paper thus, “Based on observations of globalization’s effects and takeaways from an operational experience highlighting the intricacies of basing agreements, I concluded that host nation economic considerations and political interpretation of U.S. policies and behavior have become the principal factors in determining foreign support for U.S. bases. Considering the situations analyzed here, it appears that economic interests can apply significant pressure in some cases, though not necessarily overriding influence on nations wrestling with the sovereign imposition that comes with base sponsorship. What all three cases do suggest is that the aggregate impact of U.S. presence, policies and conduct — as it resonates in the political context unique to each host nation — prevails in cases where opposition amasses to the point of threatening a previously agreeable hosting relationship tied to national security, economic or other objectives” (Draeger, 2012).

This is the exact situation Ghana has on its hands right now. Though the leaked document did not contain the economic incentive GIVEN to apply pressure on the Ghanaian government, after the public outcry the U.S. ambassador came out to state that it is 20 million dollars. The paper also cites the arguments flying around in the Ghana media space even though it was written a while back. It states the host nations will wrestle with the “sovereign imposition” that comes with base sponsorship, an argument which the likes of Mr. Kwesi Pratt have made. The paper also explains the opposition to the base sponsorship that amasses to the point of threatening a previously agreeable hosting relationship tied to national security, economic or other objectives. This is what is transpiring in Ghana now. I dare say the U.S. embassy has failed in allaying the fears and opposition of the masses.

The U.S. diplomats working on expanding the reach of its DoD in Ghana would do well to heed some of the recommendations in Captain Jeffrey J. Draeger’s paper. They include:

Seek the fullest possible contextual understanding of current and prospective host nations, suggesting that another nation’s willingness to host U.S. forces should not be taken for granted. [A new base] should a base be hastily established and built up at great expense without fully considering its ability to pay national security dividends under anticipated circumstances, especially those that may require resilient host nation support (Draeger, 2012).

The willingness does not rest in the political elite but the people. It does not appear the diplomats of the U.S. in Accra understand this. The paper made mention of situations like with Saudi Arabia and others where “intense anti-American sentiment tied to U.S. policies and behaviors fueled domestic political opposition that eclipsed the national security value of hosting U.S. forces as well as near term consequences for the relationship. The royal family’s political sense eventually required the departure of U.S. personnel”. The ambassador may not understand that he must work towards the public’s willingness.

Find ways to minimize the perceived presence associated with U.S. overseas bases and convey respect for host nation sovereignty will be increasingly important in the future (Draeger, 2012)

Find ways to synchronize U.S. and host nation objectives within an evolving context reflecting both nations’ perspectives (Draeger, 2012).

The entire agreement and the process through which it is being pushed does not create a perception of respect for host nation sovereignty. The agreement is lopsided in the favor of U.S. military forward posture and interests.


The report continues:

  • In Sept. 1995, three US service members abducted and raped an elementary school girl
  • Another incident involving a minor occurred in Feb. 2008. A Marine Corps Staff Sergeant was court-martialed and convicted for sexual abuse
  • Average of 23 incidents or accidents per month, including traffic-related.
  • In addition, there are daily aircraft noise emissions (at times exceeding 100db!) and other adverse environmental impacts associated with US Forces training
  • For 66 years since the end of WWII, the excessive weight of the vast US military bases on Okinawa, and the numerous issues associated with them, continue to weigh down heavily on the shoulders of the citizens

The above are some of the negatives. Are there positives? It is possible if the U.S. was willing to transfer skills, knowledge and abilities to host nations.


Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), Department of Economics wrote a paper titled, “The Regional Economic Effects of Military Base Realignments and Closures in Germany” in which they sought to investigate the economic impact of base closures on the immediate communities. The paper states that, “econometrics-based research such as Krizan [1998], Hooker and Knetter [2001], and Poppert and Herzog Jr. [2003] for the US and Andersson, Lundberg and Sjostrom [2007] for Sweden have been quite unambiguous in their findings: that the base closures had either no significant regional impact or a small impact that quickly vanishes over time”. The Ruhr study’s own conclusion was, “We find that in Germany, base closures hardly made a dent on the local economy. Base closures that happened as part of the modernization of the German armed forces beginning in 2003 have had no significant socioeconomic impact on its surrounding community” (Lee, 2016). If closing a base had little or no impact on surrounding economy, then the base base’s contributing to that community was not anything to write home about.

What then does Ghana gain from this Agreement? The U.S. Ambassador alludes to that in the following statement: “20 million dollars being invested in the Ghanaian Armed Forces in one year is a pretty significant return”. First, it’s not for him to tell Ghana what is good or not. And giving the Ghanaian Armed Forces this sum in training, equipment or however The U.S. decides to remit it does not put the citizenry, the actual sovereign of this republic at ease.

Better stakeholder consultation and consensus building should have been done. The Government of Ghana should depart from the opaque way in which it takes decisions of major importance to the public which employ them. At present, until further facts and figures are available, this Agreement does not serve Ghana’s national interest. It does however serve the U.S.’ Going ahead with it could also potentially impact negatively on the relative peace and stability Ghana currently enjoys. All of the above notwithstanding, the Parliament of Ghana has ratified the agreement.



Bowyer, R. (2005). Dictionary of Military Terms (3rd edition) (Vol. 19). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. (1992).

Draeger, J. J. (2012). Overseas military bases : understanding host nation support. Biblioscholar.

Global Security. (2017). American Military Bases in Africa. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from

Joint Publication 1–02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, As Amended Through 15 June 2015. (2015). United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Lee, J. (2016). The Regional Economic Effects of Military Base Realignments and Closures. Defence and Peace Economics, 1–18.

Liang, Q., & Xiangsui, W. (1999). Unrestricted Warfare. Beijing: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House . Retrieved from

Lostumbo, M. J., McNerney, M. J., Peltz, E., Eaton, D., Frelinger, D. R., Greenfield, V. A., … Worman, S. M. (2013). Overseas Basing of U.S. Military Forces: An Assessment of Relative Costs and Strategic Benefits. RAND Corporation.

Okinawa Prefectural Government. (2011). US Military Base Issues Okinawa. Okinawa. Retrieved from military base issues in okinawa.pdf

Turse, N. (2012). The changing face of empire : special ops, drones, spies, proxy fighters, secret bases, and cyberwarfare. Haymarket Books.

Vine, D. (2015). Base nation : how U.S. military bases abroad harm America and the world. New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company.

Wuthnow, J. (2005). The Impact of Missile Threats on the Reliability of U.S. Overseas Bases: A Framework for Analysis. Storming Media.

Public Policy analyst, formerly consulted for organizations like the Kofi Annan chaired Africa Progress Panel in Geneva, Switzerland and the NRGI

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