Wikileaks has enthralled Ghanaian pundits with yet another stash.
Here is IMANI’s initial stance on the revelations:
1. We accept that for the proper functioning of government and diplomacy a degree of confidentiality is important.
2. However, in a society where transparency is an issue, wikileaks when employed carefully can improve democratic outcomes.
3. Where the information released through wikileaks is gratuitous, global governments have a right to be concerned about the risks to bilateral and multilateral relations, and the potential damage such information may cause when released.
4. Diplomats reporting back to their home government may embellish accounts to boost their own stature in the eyes of their superiors; it is therefore wise to read every cable in context.
5. However, where a diplomat reports a direct encounter with a public figure, they are unlikely to embellish such reports, because: a) US State Department officials may follow up b) diplomats remain at post for a short time while diplomatic transcripts on the other hand stay on record for a much longer time c) and lastly visiting dignitaries may base their knowledge of local actors on such cables and drop hints during conversations with such actors.
6. There are therefore major risks in a diplomat falsifying conversations they have had with public figures in order to misrepresent their relationship with the subject. In fact, they take much care to ensure accuracy so that such reports can be used to inform US policy with limited diplomatic risk. In that sense, many of these one-on-one exchanges with significant local actors can be treated as useful and informative intelligence reports.
7. In the above light, we at IMANI will be studying several of the wikileaks cables to deepen our understanding of such issues as “aid dependency”, “national sovereignty”, “espionage”, “Ghana’s investment climate as perceived by influential foreigners” and the “credibility of certain political activists with influence on public opinion.” We shall be prioritising those cables that report contacts between US Government personnel and our public figures.
8. It is already clear that “development partners” in Ghana, especially through their diplomatic stations” have inordinate access to our politically significant compatriots who are heavily influenced in their political decision-making as a result of such associations. We cannot make any headway in national planning without acknowledging the role of these powerful non-Ghanaian stakeholders and brainstorming on ways to ensure that this influence is positive as far as our national development is concerned.
9. The other important insight from the wikileaks trove is that there is very little difference in the attitudes to development across the political divide. Much of the rancour is therefore hot air, with little in the way of deep convictions or ideological differences. Most politicians are busy pressing personal interests and advantages. It is about time civil society stepped up on the effort to enhance proper political competition.
10. Lastly, there is an alarming sense of chaos and confusion in the political process, with different actors, both inside and outside their particular political groupings, running helter skelter without a clear sense of direction. The only way forward is for the whole nation to step back and return to the basics about the national agenda and collective social vision.
Our leaders simply haven’t got their act together in this respect. Like all Ghanaians, IMANI staff shall also be poring over these revelations with fascination, and our positions shall be consolidated as the discussion proceeds.