A retired army officer has dissected the nature and scope of a government press conference that followed the successful rescue of two Canadian ladies kidnapped in Kumasi.
Col. Festus Aboagye (Rtd) said Saturday that the presser by Information minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, failed the test of comprehensiveness.
The respected security and conflict resolution expert said it was particularly wrong for the minister to have insisted that there was no foreign asset, particularly Canadian assistance, in the rescue operation.
“That is a bit too much,” he said on popular Joy FM/MultiTV news analysis programme, Newsfile.
“The operation [to rescue the Canadian ladies] didn’t start and end with the assault on the house [where the kidnapped ladies were being kept]. The operation started with the collection of data intelligence and processing; the preparations, the movements and so on and so forth,” he explained.
“We need to answer the question, was there foreign involvement at any juncture of this process? And on the basis of the evidence that we all have, yes there was – per the Canadians that were flown in into the country,” he said.
Following the rescue of Lauren Patricia Catherine Tilley, 19, and Bailey Jordan Chitty, 20, at an abandoned apartment in Sawaba, a suburb of Kumasi, there were rumours that some Canadians experts that arrived in the country assisted in their rescue on June 10, 2019.
The ladies had been kidnapped since June 4.
However, during a press conference on the rescue operation, the Minister sought to reject the claims government rescued the two Canadians with external assistance.
Kojo Oppong Nkrumah was categorical at the press conference that the entire operation was executed by a team of local professional security officials drawn from the Bureau for National Investigations and the counter-terrorism squad.
Col Festus Aboagye finds the Minister’s declaration troubling.
“What I have been trying to explain is that the term operation is not only the tactical aspect of the operation. The operation starts with the moment when the girls were kidnapped, all the efforts that government, with or without cooperation or collaboration with the international partners.
“That process included intelligence gathering, intelligence processing; it included monitoring certain activities. It might have included interrogating certain individuals remotely suspected to have been connected,” he said.
He added, “When the Canadians came in, obviously they had consultations. They might have had some views; some recommendations to make.”
Col Festus Aboagye (Rtd), who is currently engaged as a teaching consultant at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Peacekeeping, and for the review of Peacekeeping and International Conflict Resolution (PICR), said it was also bad for the minister to have failed to mention that the kidnappers made a ransom demand.
It emerged on Friday in court that the kidnappers demanded $800,000 ransom for the release of the ladies.
Col Aboagye (Rtd) said because it has become public knowledge that, contrary to what the Minister said, there was an aspect of ransom – not paid, but demanded – Ghana’s image internationally has been blotted.
“It doesn’t cast us in a good light,” he puts it.
Government also breached diplomatic courtesy when it failed to appreciate the Canadian government’s effort the security analyst said, however, limited it might be after the ladies were rescued.
“Yes, the Minister said [the Canadians] were not involved in the operations; indeed, even to leave this aside, diplomatically, it would have been better to have pronounced [Ghana’s] appreciation to the concern that the Canadians showed; and in diplomatic terms, to thank them for the contribution without going into details.
“Now, not to have done that and to try to suggest that they played no role, with a little diplomacy that I know, I think it is not very correct,” he said.
The retired army Colonel wants government to understand that rescuing the girls was not a favour Ghana did to Canada.
“We have an obligation under international law to protect every human being within our boundaries and so what we did was a duty under international law,” he stressed.
Finally, Col Aboagye (Rtd) also faulted the failure of the government to allow police chiefs present at the presser to speak.
He said he found it revealing that the Minister chose to use the prerogative of the government to recount the rescue mission, while notable persons like the head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Maame Addo Danquah Tiwaa, although present, “had nothing to say.”
“Yes, we may choose in this country to do things our own way, but anytime similar incidents happen elsewhere, especially in the U.S. you will see behind the microphone…the Mayor, the police chief and all of them are given the opportunity to explain a bit of their angle to the operation. That I think going forward, we should do,” he counselled.