If our beloved Republic of Ghana were a human being, she would be making her way to heaven to seek a place with the saints, for Ghana has done so much in peacekeeping and the Bible has a soft spot for peacemakers.
Since the 1960 the Congo crisis erupted, Ghana has been one of the longest serving global nations involved in UN Peacekeeping operations. We were one of the first nations to join the UN effort in the Congo and are back there today.
Our troops and officials have served in the Congo, Lebanon, Cambodia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, and many other countries where there has been a need for UN peacekeepers. Ghana has always answered duty’s call.
Contributing troops to peacekeeping has been regularized as a constant aspect of our foreign policy and so the last General Assembly of the United Nations would not have been surprised when President John Evans Atta Mills like all his predecessors pledged Ghana’s continued support for UN Peacekeeping Operations but with a small rider that the major powers should support Ghana’s efforts.
Having had the privilege to serve as Ghana’s Envoy to two conflict zones, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire where the UN has had two major peacekeeping operations in which Ghana served, I picked up enough lessons to know that modern UN Peacekeeping Operations is not only a great service to peace, to mankind but also serious business.
Cynics may be more brunt by saying peacekeeping is also money-making and he will not be far from the truth.
In my time as Ambassador I wrote thousands of words in dispatches to show that Ghana could like other troops contributing countries serve mankind and equally make millions of dollars.
That is the reality of modern peacekeeping. Others may even say that making money through war and peace dates to antiquity.
The United Nations since 2000 operates what is termed the Wet Lease System as against the old Dry Lease System. Under the new system, troop contributing countries like Ghana sign a memorandum of understanding to supply a number of troops as well as logistics and equipment for the stated period of operations.
Under the terms of the MOU, serving troops are paid a daily stipend or allowance which is currently about USD32. Additionally, countries get monthly reimbursement for all equipment and logistics and what is more take back all their equipment at the end of the operation.
A few examples will suffice here. Vehicles, helicopters, hospital equipment such as dental chairs and ambulances, washing machines, computers and all other equipment covered under the MOU, get monthly reimbursement.
Under the previous wet lease system the UN only paid allowances to troops and supplied all logistics and equipment.
Such is the business side of modern peacekeeping that many countries reap millions of dollars every year from their participation. The records will show that some third world countries are making over USD 300 million annually from peacekeeping.
With this knowledge, I shall constantly and persistently make a case for a new approach to peacekeeping that would involve private sector participation in Ghana’s peacekeeping operations.
It was this kind of participation, a USD40 million loan facility from Barclays Bank under the Kufuor regime that enabled the Ghana Air Force to acquire helicopters for its first ever operation as a unit in the UN Mission in Cote d’Ivoire.
The monthly reimbursement is paying for the loan and as an added bonus, the helicopters and other equipment will boost the Ghana Air Force fleet once the operation is over.
I know for a fact that Ghana has since 2001 not been able to derive full benefits from peacekeeping as other countries are doing because there are always deficits and shortfalls in our equipment and logistics.
Let it be a supply of riot control equipment; vehicles, ambulances, washing machines, tents, very basic items that will earn us dollars and we are found shortcoming.
The deficit is not only bad for troop morale and efficiency but also bad for our balance sheets.
The solution lies in getting the private sector interested and involved in the supply side of peacekeeping, assisting the Government through financial packages and logistical assistance to help Ghanaian battalions on peacekeeping.
As I used to say peacekeeping without anybody trumpeting it, has become big business beyond the imagination of Kwame Nkrumah who sent Ghanaian troops to the Congo literally as missionaries to save the newly-independent nation.
Today it is a combination of altruism and self-interest. It is serious business for which reason Ghanaian business must be attracted into the act.
Participation by the private sector will be one sure way of reducing our perennial dependency on foreign donors.